Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Food Fads: Make Mine Gluten-Full ; Food Science Is as Settled as the Latest Health Trend

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Food Fads: Make Mine Gluten-Full ; Food Science Is as Settled as the Latest Health Trend

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON When the federal governments 1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans warned about the baleful effects of saturated fats, public interest activists joined the fight and managed to persuade major food companies to switch to the shiny new alternative: trans fats. Thirty-five years later, the Food and Drug Administration finally determined that trans fats are not just useless but unsafe, and ordered them removed from all foods. Oops.

So much for settled science. To tell the truth, I never paid much attention to the fat fights in the first place. From my days as a medical student (and prodigious consumer of junk food), Ive seen so many solemnly proclaimed findings come and go that I decided long ago to ignore and outlive them all.

So far, Im ahead. Never had an egg substitute in my life. I figured trans fats were just another fad waiting to be revoked and renounced. Moreover, if I was wrong, the green eggs and ham would take so long to kill me anyway that I was more likely to be hit by a bus first. Either way, win-win.

Dont get me wrong. I dont advocate this kind of jaunty fatalism for everyone. This is a private affair. I do, however, preach skepticism.

Remember that most venerable piece of received medical wisdom 98.6 degrees as the average adult human temperature? In 1992, three researchers bothered to measure and found that the conventional wisdom (based on an 1878 German study) was wrong. Normal is 98.2.

After that 114 years of error one is inclined to embrace Woody Allens Sleeper theory that in 200 years well discover that smoking is good for you, fruits are not. I still love peaches, but I eat them for the taste and the memories not because they might add a month to my life (in the ICU when Im 90).

I dont mean to be cynical, just realistic. Take fish oil. For at least 10 years the National Institutes of Health has strongly recommended omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

I held out, trusting both my gastronomic prejudices (more turf than surf) and my faith that time ultimately undoes all of lifes verities. I waited. My orneriness has not been fully vindicated NIH still recommends dietary fish oil but it does find omega-3 supplements to be useless. …

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