Wednesday morning gripe session

Sixty years ago a scientific study concluded that saturated fat was the primary cause of heart disease. Saturated fats are those that come from animal sources, like cream, butter and lard. That study pretty much destroyed the market for butter and lard and got most people to switch to drinking partially skimmed milk and using coffee whitener instead of cream. It turns out that the author of that study selected data from six countries that appeared to support his intended conclusion and rejected data from 16 other countries that did not fit his hypothesis.

A massive new study, the largest ever conducted, does not show any adverse health effects from saturated fats, but shows that trans fats can increase the rate of cardiovascular disease by 34%. This study was led by Doctor Russel de Souza of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and published in the British Medical Journal. Trans fats are found in vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated to solidify them. Thus, butter has no bad health effects, margarine may be dangerous. (Not all margarines contain hydrogenated vegetable oil.  Check the label — if it does not mention hydrogenated vegetable oil and says 0 trans fat, you should be OK.)

The media bring us news about all sorts of “scientific” studies, and often the results of one study directly contradict the results of another. “Scientific” is not a magic word, one needs to know the methodology and whether the results have been replicated by others using the same methodology. That kind of information is generally considered too arcane for the general public, so many of us are becoming more and more skeptical of anything labelled as scientific.

At suppertime yesterday evening, I sprinkled some dried cranberries over my salad. Then I looked at the package. These were organic cranberries, with no trans fats, gmo’s or gluten. Are there people out there gullible enough to believe that cranberries might contain trans fats, gmo’s and gluten? If so, I expect any day now to find bottled water on the supermarket shelves, labelled as organically grown, gmo free, gluten free and trans fat free.

About forty years ago, CBC television did a news report on Dutch Puck Disease. It showed a grove of trees bearing shrivelled up hockey pucks due to this disease and speculated that the NHL season might have to be cancelled. The interviewed Bobby Orr, who managed to keep a straight face while lamenting the possibility that he might not be able to score any more goals. Then they did man in the street interviews and showed the shocked reaction of people upon hearing this news. Millions of people had a good laugh at the story, but thousands believed it.

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