The Science that is Not Getting Equal Media Attention
Every day new studies receive media coverage showing that diets based upon eating items found on the NHS approved ‘EatWell Plate’ can lower the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and of developing Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).
Upon first glance, all looks well and good. However, when you closely inspect the type of trials that these assertions are based on, you will find they are not sound at all. The majority of these studies are carried out for a limited time (usually not more than 6 months), and are only testing the isolated effect of a certain food item on health. Hence, all these claims do not have as great an effect on health in day-to-day life.
However, the studies that are paving the way for better nutrition science are all coming up with the same answer: the current low-fat heart healthy mantra does not work in protecting the heart against disease onset, and yet these studies are most often overlooked by the media because of their ‘negative’ results!
The Woman’s Health Initiative Randomised Controlled Dietary Modification Trial (WHIRCDMT) was designed as one of biggest dietary trials of its kind to mainly test fatal and nonfatal CHD, fatal and nonfatal stroke, and CVD (composite of CHD and stroke).
In this trial, over 48,000 post-menopausal women took part. Participants were then divided into two groups; one group received an intensive behaviour modification course together with individual sessions designed to help reduce fat intake to 20% of total calories, in combination with increased vegetables, fruit and grain servings to 5-a-day. The control group received none of this structure, apart from diet-related education materials.
To the astonishment of the researchers heading the study, after following the participants for an average of 8.1 years, the women who got the behaviour modification courses and the advice to lower their fat intake did not reduce their risk of CHD or CVD episodes.
Unfortunately, even after such a big trial confirming the fact that the current diet advice is not adequate; the UK health agencies are still advocating advice that has been scientifically proven to have no health benefits whatsoever.
Howard BV, Van Horn L, Hsia J, et al. Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: The Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA. 2006;295(6):655-666. doi:10.1001/jama.295.6.655.