McDonalds rejoices

McDonalds rejoices: (see Update) I was just IM’d by a female reader of this weblog who informed me she was dropping what she was doing so she could run grab a Big Mac. “This is the most exciting news, ever,” she said.

Quote (from the NY Times):

The largest study ever to ask whether a low-fat diet keeps women from getting cancer or heart disease has found that the diet had no effect. The $415 million federal study involved nearly 49,000 women aged 50 to 79 who were followed for eight years. In the end, those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer heart attack and stroke as those who ate whatever they pleased, researchers are reporting today.

Woddy Allen fans are going to really enjoy this. If you’ll recall this line from the 1973 film, Sleeper:

Dr. Melik: [puzzling over list of items sold at Miles’ old health-food store] … wheat germ, organic honey and… tiger’s milk.
Dr. Aragon:
Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik:
You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or… hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon:
[chuckling] Those were thought to be unhealthy… precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik:
Incredible!

Also from the NY Times article:

And, confounding many popular notions about fat in the diet, the
different diets did not make much difference in anyone’s weight. The
common belief that carbohydrates in the diet lead to higher insulin
levels, higher blood glucose levels and more diabetes was also not confirmed. There was no such effect among the women eating low-fat diets.

Man, there are entire industries (start with Lean Cuisine and work your way down) that will be impacted by this news. I can’t wait to see the spinmeistering that is about to explode. (Actually, a bit of it starts in the article.)

Bottomline according to this nearly half-billion dollar study: It’s not what you eat, it’s how much you eat, that determines your weight and health.

Somewhere tonight, Julia Child is smiling down on us.  She said once, “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

Update: Despite me clearly saying in the original post, “It’s not what you eat, it’s how much you eat, that determines your weight and health,” some of you must not have read that part. So, once more: “If you “intake” lots of calories and don’t burn off those calories, you’ll gain weight.” Also, you’ll be out of shape and have a miserable life. The whole point of my post and of this study is to underscore that fact: You can enjoy food AS LONG AS you control the volume of calories – coming in, being used. Apparently, from this study we learn yet again: It is not in WHAT you eat – it’s how much one eats and how many calories one burns!

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  • Johan van Rooyen

    Sorry to rain on the parade here but Ray Kurzweil (the world’s leading authority on AI) long a go demonstrated that a normal low fat diet has only insignificant benefits to health. What does make a life-changing difference though is a huge reduction in fat intake to the point where you only take in 10 percent of your calories from fat. Prof Kurzweil wrote a highly entertaining and useful book on the subject and it’s available online for free at:

    http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0436.html?

  • phil jones

    Erm …

    maybe I’m being a bit dumb here but what’s the message?

    That if I eat 10 grammes of fat it doesn’t matter whether I eat it in the form of ten 1-gramme “lite” yogurts or one 10-gramme full-fat yoghurt? It’s still 10 gramems of fat.

    If so, is this news? Isn’t this kind of obvious?

    What’s worrying is that this is *NOT* the message that people are getting. They’re getting the message that “hey! all that stupid diet advice is wrong and I can go out and eat as much as I like and it won’t effect me.”

    Which is not only wrong but dangerously wrong.

  • rex

    I think I pointed out in the original post, this message here is: It’s HOW MUCH you eat, not WHAT you eat that determines health. You can’t go out and eat all you want. I didn’t say that — but that’s what a multi-billion dollar industry says: If you eat our branded stuff, you can eat all you want and lose wait. The message here is this: You need to what HOW MUCH you eat and get up off your butt and exercise.

  • phil jones

    Sorry Rex, I wasn’t getting at you in particular. I was commenting on the whole way this story was coming across in the blogosphere.

    Although I do think the result is kind of obvious and well enough known (it’s the basis of all calorie counting diets) that it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    Also, the fact that you can eat anything you like as long as you eat little enough of it is kind of misleading. I can’t go and buy a fifth of a Big Mac even if that’s the amount that’s healthy for me to eat today (given everything else I ate).

    So faced with a choice between avoiding Big Macs as a rather clumsy and inaccurate heuristic, and thinking “Big Macs are OK, I can have one” as a rather clumsy, inaccurate heuristic, which would you suggest is the better option?

  • Shawn Lea

    My life has been significantly better since they decided that peanut butter was good for you too.