Too Much Fat in Kolata's Coverage?

Felix Gillette criticizes a story by Gina Kolata on a major study examining a low-fat diet for postmenopausal women and finding little positive impact. Gillette says Gina Kolata's article in the New York Times hyped the study: "[T]he warnings about the potential shortcomings of the study were surrounded by quotes from doctors pumping up the study's 'Holy Geez!' index." Gillette compliments other reporters, saying "perhaps the best article of the bunch was penned by one of the skeptics quoted in Kolata's story," low fat diet proponent Dr. Dean Ornish. On Newsweek's web site Ornish "provided a clear and nuanced take on the study. 'The real lesson of the Women's Health Initiative study is this: if you don't change much, you don't improve much. Small changes in diet don't have much effect on preventing heart disease and cancer in those at high risk. Fat is only part of the story. What we include in our diets is at least as important as what we exclude.' Ditto for good journalism -- what a paper such as the Times chooses to include on its front page is at least as important as what it excludes. On this one, we recommend a little less Kolata in the diet, and a few more caveats."



Myself, I think the situation is hilarious. Both the results of the study and the reaction to it. When a study supports a popular paradigm, no one questions it, no matter how poorly designed. But when a study adds a new dimensions to the puzzle, those who don't agree with it cry wolf. Lots of us have been saying that the studies done on obesity have missed some amazingly
obvious confounding variables; yet we like obesity as a villian, so we ignore them. We also favor a few simplistic dietary guidelines to serve as a talisman so we can live forever. When the later is questioned, we cry fowl. How about fair play and critical thinking across the board on studies. Lets try the scientific method for a change. Then again if we as a society didn't make so many Faustian bargains, we would not be so afraid of where we are going.