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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Authority versus humble reasoning

This quote comes from my A.Word.A.Day e-mail from wordsmith.org.

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.

- Galileo Galilei, physicist and astronomer (1564-1642)

It got me thinking about the processes that have shaped modern mainstream thinking about diet, especially as the 2010 USDA dietary guidelines are being formulated. The fifth meeting of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will take place Feb. 9-10. You can attend via Webinar.

Not a single researcher or other representative of a reduced carbohydrate, raised fat point of view was included on the panel, despite several excellent candidacies, which I think included such important figures as Dr. Jeff Volek, Dr. Mary C. Vernon and Dr. Eric Westman, among others.

Instead we have the sorts of people who say that there's no real difference between the impact of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose on the body.

No difference? One is processed directly by the liver, while the other isn't. The liver. That thing people are getting transplants for. That sounds important to me. We have people who say that it's not a problem if up to 25% of our total caloric impact comes from HFCS -- a substance unknown to the human body until a few brief decades ago.

We have people saying that total fat intake should be reduced still further, down perhaps as low as 7.5%.

Authoritative bodies such as the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the Centers for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, the United States Department of Agriculture and on and on have been proclaiming for decades that dietary fat is our enemy. They say that our modern woes come from to the saturated fats and animal foods on which our species has flourished since time immemorial.

They say that refined vegetable oils are the answer to our troubles. They propose the preposterous idea that our bodies not only can use, but require, substances impossible to come by previous to 20th century industrial technology.

They leave implicit the notion that the proper human diet is mostly made up of grains, and center on a tangent: whether the grains can be refined or must be left whole.

They assert most of our energy should be taken in as carbohydrate, and as little as possible from fat, despite the record of human history and despite the inability of countless researchers working for scores of years to find any evidence for this recommendation.

And they selectively, consistently, ignore scientific results from colleagues who follow the data towards the support of an alternative hypothesis.

It matters not how weighty and ponderous are these authoritative bodies. What matters is the humble reasoning of individuals.

A developing site dedicated to just such research-based reasoning can be found at Innovative Metabolic Solutions, a project of Drs. Vernon and Westman and science journalist Gary Taubes. I learned about it through Dr. Vernon's recent appearance on Jimmy Moore's podcast. Check it out for some actual information about the interplay of diet, health and the chronic conditions debilitating so many members of our society today.

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