Fat Chance: Do Fats Cause Cancer or Cardiac Disease?
Based on the posts “$415
Million Study Says Fat Won't Cause Cancer or Heart Disease,” “Three Answers to the
Low-Fat Futility Study” and “Low-Fat People May Have Less Cancer” on the website
Edited (with Introduction)
by Dr. Don Rose, Writer, Life
half a billion dollars (yes, billion with a “b”) is spent on a study, people listen.
Especially when the results seem to go against current medical thinking; in this
case, a $415 million study concluded that low fat diets do not help against cancer
or heart disease. However, rebuttals soon followed. Read all about both sides in
the article below. --Don Rose
Cancer/Heart Study Says Low Fat Has No Effect
In early 2006, the New York
Times reported on a $415 million study claiming that a low-fat diet has no effect
on cancer or heart disease. Such a claim was bound to generate a great deal of attention,
and many reactions. The NYTimes report detailed how, in the federal study, nearly
49,000 women ages 50 to 79 were followed for eight years, and those assigned to
a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks
and strokes as those who ate whatever they wanted. The study, which can be found
in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was so large and expensive that
many might consider it to be the final word on the matter.
Reaction to the Controversial Fat Study
When it appeared,
the $415 million study suggesting that a low-fat diet does virtually nothing to
reduce cancer and heart disease was immediately acclaimed as definitive and authoritative.
(When you spend that kind of money, you might be inclined to believe you've got
things right, right?) However, those in the “low-fat diets are healthy” camp were
bound to put up a fight. Rebuttals soon surfaced in response to the study, with
many health and dietary experts stepping up to take shots at the findings.
Three publications that put
out clarifications, counterarguments or counterexamples to the “low fat = no effect”
the Los Angeles
Times, which pointed out that, among other things, women who ate the most fat
when the study began, and therefore reduced their fat intake by a higher percentage,
showed greater reductions in breast cancer risk — up to 20 percent;
BU Today, which reminded people that
the women in the low-fat diet group were originally supposed to cut back to eating
20 percent of their calories from fat [from 38 percent], yet they couldn’t do it
-- they ended up between 24 and 29 percent, which means a much smaller difference
between them and the control; and
Post, which reported that the study's findings
do show that eating more fruit and vegetables as well as less saturated
and trans fats cuts the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Low-Fat People May Have Less Cancer
It may or may
not be true that low-fat
diets have an effect on cancer, but apparently
low-fat people do. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is
persuaded by recent research showing that fat cells release small amounts of hormones
and other growth factors that can spur healthy cells to grow and divide at an accelerated
rate. That, as the Washington Post reported, may increase the risk of cancer.
the AICR is promoting the concept of "energy balance” -- where one’s caloric intake is roughly equal to one’s caloric expenditure.
In other words, we should try to ensure that calories
consumed equals calories burned.
How to achieve this? AICR
recommends these three steps:
the proportion of vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your diet;
size of your meals; and
your physical activity.
All three steps sound sensible.
For more thoughts on energy balance from the AICR, click
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Dr. Don Rose writes books, papers and articles
on computers, the Internet, AI, science and technology, and issues related to seniors.
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