I’ve written a few posts titled This Is What We’re Up Against (see here, here, here and here) recounting how the so-called experts keep pushing the same old anti-fat hysteria in the media. I come across new examples all the time, like this one: The CDC is in a tizzy that not enough kids are drinking low-fat milk.
Drinking milk is important for children’s bone health, but CDC experts advise that although young people need the calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients found in milk, children aged 2 and older should consume low-fat milk and milk products to avoid unnecessary fat and calories.
The research, published in a CDC report titled “Low-fat Milk Consumption Among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 2007-2008,” showed that about 73 percent of children and teens drink milk, but only about 20 percent of them say they usually drink low-fat milk (skim or 1 percent).
You can look high and low, but you won’t find a decent study anywhere showing that kids (or adults) who drink low-fat milk are leaner and healthier. If anything, the evidence points the other way. But there’s our taxpayer-funded CDC, declaring that more kids need to switch to lowfat milk – and of course the American Academy of Pediatrics echoes that advice.
Just today, U.S. News published an article about the best and worst diets, as ranked by a bunch of nutritionists … you know, the people who are trained to push lowfat, high-carb diets. They of course rated the tasteless, lowfat DASH diet the best overall, and the Ornish diet the best for heart health.
The nutritionists also ranked the Paleo diet 18th out of 20. You can probably guess why:
Slapping the diet with many 1s and 2s, experts couldn’t accept that entire food groups, like dairy and grains, are excluded, making it hard for dieters to get all the nutrients they need. It’s one of the few diets that experts actually considered “somewhat unsafe” and, on nutrition, only “somewhat complete.”
Yup, you got it: the diet that sustained humans for hundreds of thousands of years is “somewhat unsafe” … as opposed to the vegan diet, which ranked 16th, and of course the highly-ranked Ornish diet — two diets that exclude entire foods groups. The Atkins diet -– which produced greater improvements in cardiovascular markers than the Ornish diet in a large clinical trial — was ranked dead last. Diets that encourage you to live on nothing but processed lowfat foods were ranked higher.
This is what we’re up against, and yes, sometimes it feels like we’re batting a behemoth. But I’m an optimist, and I believe we’ll win – because here’s what they’re up against:
You. Me. Jimmy Moore, Dr. William Davis, Dr. Mike Eades, Mark Sisson, Gary Taubes, Dr. Richard Feinman, Zoe Harcombe, Dr. Robert Su, Robb Wolf, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, Richard Nikoley, hundreds of other bloggers, and hundreds of thousands of educated and passionate readers … and a little concept called The Marketplace of Ideas.
Everyone from John Milton to Thomas Jefferson to Supreme Court Justice William Brennan has been credited with enunciating the concept of The Marketplace of Ideas (proving that ideas are often more memorable than the people who enunciate them), but regardless of who coined the term, I believe it makes perfect sense: given a free exchange of information, the best ideas eventually rise to the top, just as the best products tend to rise to the top in an economic marketplace.
In the terrific book The Wisdom of Crowds, author James Surowiecki contends that ordinary, just-plain-folks who compare information often come up with better solutions than the so-called experts. But for the Wisdom of Crowds to work, he explains, four conditions are necessary:
- Diversity of opinion
- Independent thinking
- Decentralization of information
- A means of sharing and comparing results
In other words, a free market of ideas. So let’s look at our current situation in the battle to overcome the anti-fat hysteria and the constant reminders to eat our healthywholegrains:
Diversity of opinion: Check. There are blogs these days for raw foodies, vegans, low-carbers, paleo dieters, etc., etc. There are plenty of disagreements among those groups and – just as importantly – within those groups.
Independent thinking: Check. Decentralization: Check. Not long ago, your only sources of information on diet and health were your doctor, your newspaper, a few magazines, and the occasional TV news piece – all of which would pretty much parrot the American Heart Association, the USDA, the American Diabetes Association, and the other central authorities. Sure, there were a few books disputing the government-issued dietary advice (I’m reading one now, written by a doctor in 1977), but you weren’t likely to hear about them.
That’s all changed. As I discovered when I began researching Fat Head, there are more blogs, articles, opinion pieces, podcasts and studies available online now that you could ever hope to absorb, even if you made a career of it. Independent thinkers are everywhere, and it no longer matters if they happen to live in Sweden, or the U.K, or South Africa – you can find them with a couple of search terms and a few mouse clicks.
A means of sharing and comparing results: Check. Just read the comments section on this blog or any other health blog. People share information and results all the time. Someone asks a question, and within an hour someone else has already left a comment with an answer and links to the relevant research. I see the same thing happen in Facebook groups, Yahoo groups, on Twitter, and in email exchanges. I even read an article recently titled something like Peer Review by Facebook, explaining how lousy studies that are accepted at face value by traditional peer-review committees and the media are being shredded online – often by people with no academic credentials.
In short, ordinary people are now able to bypass the information gatekeepers and learn from each other. That’s exactly what more and more of us are doing, and as a result, the truth about real food and real health is spreading like a beneficial virus. When the standard-issue dietary advice is preached in the media these days, I’m delighted to see how often a majority of the commenters rip into that advice. A reader in the U.K. informed me that his local paper ran an article promoting an anti-fat tax like the one recently adopted in Denmark. Here are two of the responses:
I don’t think you would’ve seen those responses 10 years ago.
Here’s an even more encouraging sign: a reader here in the U.S. sent me this email.
First, thank you for your blog and especially the Fat Head movie. We saw it on recommendation from friends when we were doing a “paleo challenge” at our local CrossFit gym. Since watching your movie and also reading several books on the subject, we have been “low carb” ever since and leaner and healthier as a family than we ever were before.
Our kids, age 8 and 12, have evolved from our former family “healthy” breakfasts of Honey Nut Cheereos with 1% milk, wheat toast with “I Can’t Believe its NOT Butter” and glasses of juice to bacon and eggs cooked with REAL butter, some nuts, veggies and cheese and whole milk. Lo and behold they are NO LONGER starved at the school “snack time” and even after school the begging for “snacks” has diminished 90%. Prior snack after school used to include “Wheat Thins” (of which my 8 year old could sit and power down and ENTIRE box – and STILL be hungry) to now maybe a small bowl of cashews and almonds with no cravings afterwards. At school my kids will get their burgers, etc. with “no bun” and pass the crackers, etc. in favor of the vegetable selection.
His email included a scan of some sentences his 8-year-old son wrote for a school assignment. Check out the second-to-last sentence:
You’ve got to love it! I just wonder how his teacher reacted.
This is what they’re up against.
And it’s the reason they’re going to lose.