Rush Limbaugh

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RUSH: How many of you, over the years, have bought into the notion that fat, eating fat, is bad for you? Snerdley raises his hand. Dawn’s raising both hands. I touched on this briefly yesterday. Eating fat will lead to heart disease, coronary artery disease; it will increase your cholesterol, all those sorts of things. We have just accepted this, and why did we accept it? We accepted it because there was a consensus of scientists, like 92%, said this was the case. Well, John Tierney wrote a column in the New York Times yesterday, and describes how the whole fat-is-bad legend became incorporated into the American psyche with possible serious implications for our health. People who don’t eat enough fat are running a true health risk. Now, the reason I mention this to you, it’s another in a long line of examples of how science tells us one thing and it turns out to be dead wrong. It was never any science in the first place. It was just people’s personal ideas and thoughts. Tierney describes it in the piece — the way this works is, if you put, like in global warming, they said there’s a consensus of scientists. But these scientists have never been in the same room with one another. You put ’em all in the same room, and it’s going to be much different to get the same number of people voting on the science as they do when they’re not in the same room.

What happens is a keep up with the Joneses thing. The more people sign onto a theory, the more scientists say, ‘Well, everybody else believes it, I guess I must, too,’ in order to look good and smart and so forth and so on. It just spreads, just like you tell a story, and by the time it’s told to the tenth person, it resembles not at all the original that was told to the first person. It’s the same thing here. He documents it exceedingly well with names of scientists and all of that. But in this case, 92% of all scientists, the number quoted in this story believing that fat caused heart disease, is wrong. A consensus of 92% were wrong, and the science is now demonstrated they were wrong. So if 92% of scientists could be wrong about something like this, you have to take into account that 92% of scientists could be wrong about anything, including global warming. Speaking of global warming, I’m saying fat is not bad for you, and I’m saying that fat is needed as part of a daily dose or regimen for health. It’s not bad. It’s natural out there, and it’s found in many foods that we eat. Do you like peanuts? They’re loaded with fat, every nut is. Macadamias have a little bit less than some others, but they’re loaded with fat. Yet the health food freaks recommend nuts and berries and twigs, you know, all this stuff you pick up out in the rain forest that you are supposed to eat.

Anyway, I’ll give you some details here, since you seem so curious. ‘In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office’s famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of ‘comparable’ magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments. He introduced his report with these words: ‘The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964.’ That was a ludicrous statement, as Gary Taubes demonstrates in his new book meticulously debunking diet myths, ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ (Knopf, 2007). The notion that fatty foods shorten your life began as a hypothesis based on dubious assumptions and data; when scientists tried to confirm it they failed repeatedly. The evidence against Häagen-Dazs was nothing like the evidence against Marlboros. It may seem bizarre that a surgeon general could go so wrong. After all, wasn’t it his job to express the scientific consensus? But that was the problem. Dr. Koop was expressing the consensus. He, like the architects of the federal ‘food pyramid’ telling Americans what to eat, went wrong by listening to everyone else. He was caught in what social scientists call a cascade.’

The cascade is where the scientist agrees to something and another scientist hears about it, ‘Ooh, that guy, I like what he thinks,’ and it just cascades with people signing on to it simply because other people have signed onto it before them, without actually looking into it. ‘There were two glaring problems with this theory, as Mr. Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, explains in his book. First, it wasn’t clear that traditional diets were especially lean. Nineteenth-century Americans consumed huge amounts of meat; the percentage of fat in the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers, according to the best estimate today, was as high or higher than the ratio in the modern Western diet. Second, there wasn’t really a new epidemic of heart disease. Yes, more cases were being reported, but not because people were in worse health. It was mainly because they were living longer and were more likely to see a doctor who diagnosed the symptoms.

‘The evidence that dietary fat correlates with heart disease ‘does not stand up to critical examination,’ the American Heart Association concluded in 1957. But three years later the association changed position — not because of new data, Mr. Taubes writes, but because Dr. Keys and an ally were on the committee issuing the new report. It asserted that ‘the best scientific evidence of the time’ warranted a lower-fat diet for people at high risk of heart disease. … After the fat-is-bad theory became popular wisdom, the cascade accelerated in the 1970s when a committee led by Senator George McGovern issued a report advising Americans to lower their risk of heart disease by eating less fat. ‘McGovern’s staff were virtually unaware of the existence of any scientific controversy,’ Mr. Taubes writes. … That report impressed another nonscientist, Carol Tucker Foreman, an assistant agriculture secretary, who hired Dr. Hegsted to draw up a set of national dietary guidelines.’

Anyway, it goes on to describe how this myth came into existence, how it became reality. ‘Mr. Taubes argues that the low-fat recommendations, besides being unjustified, may well have harmed Americans by encouraging them to switch to carbohydrates, which he believes cause obesity and disease.’ So the point of this is you eat what you want. I don’t care what you eat. It really makes no difference to me. I’m not somebody who thinks I know what’s best for you, or best for anybody. It’s your life. Live it. My only point here is that this is another glaring example where a consensus of scientists had the whole country believing a myth, the whole country believing something was wrong.

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