Compare ‘Education Reform’ to Ineffective but Profitable Quick-Weight-Loss Schemes

John Viall compares the past 15 years of education ‘reform’ to the past 30 or 40 years of completely counterproductive weight-loss schemes — in both cases, the results are exactly contrary to what they were promised to be. In one case, we can see that America’s obesity rates are some of the worst in the world. In the other, we have certainly not ‘raced to the top’ on TIMMS, PISA, or any other international test, despite all of promises by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

He concludes (I added some color):

“For a sixth time the PISA test was administered in 2015.

Now, 15-year-olds from seventy countries and educational systems took the test. How did U. S. students fare?
The envelope please.
In reading U. S. students scored 497. In other words, after fifteen years of school reform and tens of billions wasted, reading scores were still down seven points.
Fifteen years of listening to blowhard politicians—and U. S. students averaged 470 in math, a depressing 23-point skid.
Surely, all that meddling must have done some good? No. Science scores averaged 496, still down three points.
Fifteen years of diet plans that couldn’t possibly fail and, metaphorically, we were all just a little more fat.
PISA scores had been the foundation on which all school reform was built; and after all these years, America’s 15-year-olds were scoring 33 points worse.

The hard-to-kill lie that low-fat diets are good for you

In 1980, health authorities in the US and the UK issued food guidelines that urged people to eat less fat, less protein, less cholesterol, and more grains and other carbohydrate-rich foods.

People in general (including me) followed that advice, even though in hindsight it has become clear that there was absolutely no evidence that it would work. If you’ve been paying attention, 1980 was about the year that the problem of obesity became an epidemic in the US and in Great Britain. Proponents of a low-carb, higher-protein, low-sugar diet like John Yudkin or Robert Atkins were called all sorts of names by powerful figures in the American and British health establishments, in particular by Ancel Keys and his many acolytes. Yudkin in particular had is reputation besmirched, and Atkins was called a fraud.

Gary Taubes, Nina Teicholz, and Robert Lustig are some of the researchers and writers who have recently pointed out that the familiar low-fat hypothesis has no evidence whatsoever backing it up, and that there is lots of evidence contradicting it.

A few paragraphs from a recent article on this in the Guardian, which I urge you to read in its entirety:

Only in the last few years has it become acceptable to study the effects of Atkins-type diets. In 2014, in a trial funded by the US National Institutes of Health, 150 men and women were assigned a diet for one year which limited either the amount of fat or carbs they could eat, but not the calories. By the end of the year, the people on the low carbohydrate, high fat diet had lost about 8 lb more on average than the low-fat group. They were also more likely to lose weight from fat tissue; the low-fat group lost some weight too, but it came from the muscles. The NIH study is the latest of more than 50 similar studies, which together suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are better than low-fat diets for achieving weight loss and controlling type 2 diabetes. As a body of evidence, it is far from conclusive, but it is as consistent as any in the literature.

…..

In 2008, researchers from Oxford University undertook a Europe-wide study of the causes of heart disease. Its data shows an inverse correlation between saturated fat and heart disease, across the continent. France, the country with the highest intake of saturated fat, has the lowest rate of heart disease; Ukraine, the country with the lowest intake of saturated fat, has the highest. When the British obesity researcher Zoë Harcombe performed an analysis of the data on cholesterol levels for 192 countries around the world, she found that lower cholesterol correlated with higher rates of death from heart disease.

In the last 10 years, a theory that had somehow held up unsupported for nearly half a century has been rejected by several comprehensive evidence reviews, even as it staggers on, zombie-like, in our dietary guidelines and medical advice.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, in a 2008 analysis of all studies of the low-fat diet, found “no probable or convincing evidence” that a high level of dietary fat causes heart disease or cancer. Another landmark review, published in 2010, in the American Society for Nutrition, and authored by, among others, Ronald Krauss, a highly respected researcher and physician at the University of California, stated “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD [coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease]”.

Many nutritionists refused to accept these conclusions. The journal that published Krauss’s review, wary of outrage among its readers, prefaced it with a rebuttal by a former right-hand man of Ancel Keys, which implied that since Krauss’s findings contradicted every national and international dietary recommendation, they must be flawed. The circular logic is symptomatic of a field with an unusually high propensity for ignoring evidence that does not fit its conventional wisdom.

Published in: on April 10, 2016 at 12:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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Another Area Where the ‘Common Wisdom’ is wrong: Diet and Exercise

The most recent issue of Scientific American features an article that claims to be what science tells us about the current obesity epidemic, and what to do about it. Unfortunately, there is very little science in the article, and lots of wishful thinking, such as finding ways to keep everybody hungry all the time.

The author’s thesis is that simple overeating is what causes Americans and others to get fat. Their solution is the usual mantra: eat less meat and more grains and other carbohydrate-rich foods, and do lots of aerobic exercise. The problem is that this prescription isn’t based on history, and it isn’t based on science. There are no studies that show that that sort of diet and exercise regime actually leads to losing any significant amount of body fat.  (I do NOT consider losing 6 pounds of fat after a year of near-starvation and 20 or more hours of aerobic activity to be a significant weight loss. My bathroom scale can have me losing that amount after a large bowel movement or two!)

In fact, almost any farmer can tell you that if you want to make your cattle fat, then you should feed them lots of grains, instead of their normal diet of grass.

What’s more, the author manages to write an entire article about obesity without once mentioning the ‘elephant in the room’ that has changed many formerly fit pre-colonial people into people who are simultaneously malnourished and obese, all over the world.

The big change has been from high-fat, relatively meat-rich diets to more Western diets consisting of cheap, starchy vegetables and grains filled with carbohydrates that humans did NOT evolve to eat. Over and over again, native societies – like our own Native Americans here in the USA – that have made this dietary shift have developed diabetes, obesity, nutritional deficiencies, heart disease, strokes, dental cavities, and much more in their adult populations, while the children simultaneously suffer from serious dietary deficiencies, often being on the verge of starvation.

Looking at sub-Saharan Africa, it’s hard to think of people who work harder, all day long, than most African women, and they eat a diet high in grains, beans, and starchy vegetables and fruit (yams and plantains, for example). Yet many of them are fat or obese.

It seems to me (though I am not an expert at all) that it’s much more likely that the USDA nutritional pyramid, and the current, anti-scientific propaganda in favor of low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, are causing, rather than curing, the current world-wide obesity epidemic. The author of the article apparently thinks that high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets are mere fads to be dismissed out of hand; he doesn’t even analyze any evidence in favor of, or against, their effectiveness at all.

How can a major article in 2011 that purports to be on ‘what science teaches us about obesity’ fail to even acknowledge Gary Taubes’ ground-breaking review and synthesis, now in two books and several articles, concerning the relevant literature on nutrition and obesity? Or are all the studies that were read and cited by Taubes also mere fads? You can look at some of his articles and books here, here, and here, and you can find his blog here.

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