The February issue of Reader's Digest features a smiley face made out of two eggs and a strip of bacon. The headline reads: "Eat This, Lose Weight; The New Science of Dieting."
The bacon and egg face is a parody of the frowney face on the cover of the March 26, 1984 Time Magazine. The headline then was: "Cholesterol, and Now the Bad News." Inside, an article titled, "Hold the Eggs and Butter," started with the following statement: "Cholesterol is proved deadly, and our diet may never be the same." The first assertion was false (although the second certainly turned out to be true).
In fact, the study that lead to this conclusion was not a diet study at all, but a study of a cholesterol reducing drug. All the previous studies that tried to link dietary cholesterol to heart attack risk had failed. We now have good science that shows why; eating fat and cholesterol actually reduces the amount in the blood.
Basil Rifkind, the project director for the study referenced in the 1984 Time article, was quoted as saying he "believed" the research indicated that lowering the cholesterol and fat in your diet would reduce your risk of heart disease. It was a belief, nothing more. (The nine-page article laid out the low-fat orthodoxy that continues to this day. You can read it here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,921647,00.html#ixzz1B96rh7k4.) Now, 27 years later, we are still burdened with the fallout of that belief, but at last, there is some good news to report. . The feature story in the February, 2011, Reader's Digest is an interview with Gary Taubes that covers some of the main points from his new book, Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It. .
According to Taubes, if the energy balance system (calories in verses calories out) determined how much we weigh, we would all be fat, because it is impossible to precisely regulate calorie consumption. Being off by just 20 calories a day would add up to a twenty pound weight gain every ten years and most of us would be obese by the time we reach middle age. Twenty calories is about the amount in one bite of a hamburger or two sips of Coke. .
He says that for the most part, you can define an obese person as "someone for whom eating less didn't work," and that the most important observation in the field of obesity research is, "that you can have an effective diet that doesn't restrict calories." .
He also says, "If you've been fat for a long time, getting rid of carbohydrates might not make you lean. But the leanest you can be is on the diet with the least carbohydrate."