that articleI had been planning to post today about the myth and legend of the healthfulness of vegetable oils (I know – how much more compelling a subject could there possibly be?!? I figure if you’re reading these Food Friday posts, though, you might have some interest in understanding food/health myths, too). However, when I write about things like this, I want my points to actually have a basis in fact. I therefore began doing additional research, and I ended up going off on a fascinating, if sometimes blood-boiling tangent.
My vegetable oil research last weekend led me to a book I’m now reading that was published a few years ago, with a title I utterly love: “The Big Fat Surprise.” It’s written by Nina Teicholz, an investigative journalist whose credits include reporting for National Public Radio and writing for numerous publications including Gourmet magazine and The Economist. If you’re interested in the links between food and health, this book is a must-read, and despite the fact that she’s sifting through a virtual mountain of research and historical records, it’s written in such a way that it’s hard to put down – rare, in my experience, for non-fiction. It’s screwed up my entire sleep pattern this week, and this post is later than usual today because I spent far more time lost in reading over the past several days than in writing!
The author, who is decidedly not someone with any proverbial skin in the game of either the food or the healthcare industry, spent 9 years meticulously researching the nutrition science and research behind the “known” links between saturated fat and poor health (cholesterol, heart disease, obesity, cancer), which was prompted by an article on trans fats her editor at Gourmet asked her to write (that article was published in June of 2004). The article was written about a year after the FDA announced that, starting in 2006, food manufacturers would be required to print information about trans fats on their labels. The book was published in 2014.
As she was researching and writing the Gourmet article, the question she was attempting to answer was “why.” Why, when research for more than 30 years had been indicating that trans fats were possibly far worse for health than saturated fats (which were the demon-children of the diet and nutrition world from the 1960s onward, and still are, according to many doctors), was further study not aggressively pursued? She was able to scratch the surface of an answer in the article, but the matter required a lot more digging – in essence, meta-research (research on the research – especially about the methods that were followed in the various studies that were supposedly the foundation of what became incontrovertible dietary recommendations for the U.S. for several decades). It’s that meta-research which underlies The Big Fat Surprise.
I’m only about 1/3 of the way through the book as I’m writing this post, but what I’m reading certainly has my hackles up so far, as one might expect upon becoming enlightened about being lied to for most of one’s life, regarding genuinely life-altering things. I’m going to try to finish reading it before next Friday, by which point I should have enough rant-worthy material to keep us all going for quite some time.
Happy Food Friday!