Disease Proof

Reaction on This Week's Big Study on Low-Fat Diets

Lots of reaction to the big study on low-fat diets described in detail earlier in the week... Thanks to a DiseaseProof reader for providing a link to the letters in response to The New York Times' coverage. They are fascinating. Certainly some leapt to the conclusion that this research shows you can eat whatever you want. But many of the letters--especially those from experts--were singing the same tune as Dr. Fuhrman. For instance, this is from David L. Katz, M.D., the director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale School of Medicine:

That there were any discernible differences in outcomes at all is more surprising than how modest those differences were, particularly given that cancer and heart disease develop over decades and that this intervention occurred relatively late in life, in women well past menopause.

My convictions in the fundamentals of a healthful diet are unshaken.

Larry Norton, M.D. and Clifford Hudis, M.D. are experts from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Here's what they had to say:
The study reports that over a short average period of observation (about eight years) a small reduction in fat calories results in a 9 percent reduction in the risk of getting breast cancer, which is very close to "statistical significance" (an arbitrary criterion).

Women eating more fat before entering the trial and those adhering to the diet showed an even better reduction in breast cancer risk.

It is too soon to dismiss these findings as negative, and further follow-up of women on this trial is needed.

David J. Goldstein, M.D., from Indiana, writes:
This study provides no new information except confirmation that maintaining a diet is difficult and a hint that reducing "extremely high" levels of fat intake to "high" levels may be beneficial.
Alice H. Lichtenstein is a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University, she writes:
This study may have raised more questions than it answered, but it would be counterproductive, as the editorial suggested, "to drown our confusion in a big serving of extra-rich ice cream."

The default option to dampen our frustration should be to take a brisk walk around the block.

Of course, not everyone agreed. Read all of the letters for an interesting cross-section of opinion.

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