Galileo once said, “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them." The Italian astronomer and philosopher is considered one of the greatest scientists ever and made his mark by challenging the status quo and promoting forward thinking validated by data.
Galileo’s belief that science should be grounded in observable fact comes to mind when one hears the recent criticism of past recommendations issued by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Critics point out that the DGAC has issued erroneous advice in the past because its recommendations have not been based on sound science.
Once a staple of the American diet – egg consumption fell rapidly when a previous DGAC warned the American public against eating eggs and other high-cholesterol food in the 1970s. Now, the DGAC recently dropped the 40-year-old warning against dietary cholesterol because there was never ever a strong link between cholesterol in the blood and foods high in cholesterol.
“It's the right decision. We got the dietary guidelines wrong. They've been wrong for decades,” Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told the DailyMail.com.
Dr. Martin Scurr, a British doctor who writes a medical column for the Daily Mail, predicts that advice will change in the United Kingdom too.
“I think we're at a tipping point where cholesterol is concerned. There have been a lot of vested interests in people talking about cholesterol because it's easy to convey to the public that fatty foods like butter, cheese and red meat are furring up their arteries. In fact there are many other risk factors involved but somehow we've become obsessed with cholesterol,” Scurr said.
We’ve said it before: human nutrition is complex. Demonizing one nutrient or product as the underlying cause of our public health issues is not sound science. As with the fat and cholesterol scares, these simplified public health messages can make public health worse. If we really want to address obesity, public health advocates should focus on real and meaningful solutions based on solid science.