It seems that yesterday's quiz may have been a bit too easy, as both Jason and Rational Jenn nailed it immediately: in the mid- to late-70's, the government, lead by George McGovern and backed by Ted Kennedy among others, issued a document called Dietary Guidelines that recommended that the entire country adopt a low fat, low cholesterol, high carb diet. After a short, loaded debate, the full force of the various federal agencies got behind it, and soon we had all sorts of bureaucrats urging us to eat more carbs and fewer saturated fats.
The quotes came from Good Calories, Bad Calories*, by Gary Taubes, and in chapter three, he details how the real scientific evidence to support such a diet for the purposes of decreasing heart disease was essentially nonexistent. Badly designed studies were willfully misinterpreted and misrepresented for the sole purpose of toeing the "established" and increasingly buzzworthy dogma about the American diet. Conflicting studies were ignored. Dissenting scientific opinions were stigmatized. The heavy hand of government then politicized the debate and turned a contentious, barely credible conclusion into a consensus. With next to no hard evidence to back it up, the science was nevertheless settled, despite many conflicting studies with better scientific support to show that the opposite was in fact true, and that such a diet was actually harmful.
As I read this book, and as Taubes piles example upon example of how myopic--if not downright malicious--scientists continue to push pet theories regardless of conflicting evidence, how government interferes to not only tip the scale but to knock the damn thing over in favor of those pet theories by throwing funding at the researchers and countless programs, initiatives, policies, and laws to advance them, while a fawning, sycophantic press shouts it all from the rooftops. . .well, it all reminds me of a somewhat more recent phenomenon.
As Jenn mentioned in her comment, this is a dead ringer for the global warming debate. I'm constantly struck by the parallels in the way established, politically connected scientific opinion blithely forges ahead in spite of contradictory evidence, and is used to steer public policy and public opinion toward politically favored stances. The nutritionists used shoddy epidemiological practices, poor scientific controls, elaborately creative statistics, and cherry picked evidence, and then used all of this to state forcefully that the science was settled.
Global warming alarmists use laughable computer models that can't even model current conditions to predict decades in the future, they distort temperature records, fudge evidence, blacklist dissenters, use magical statistics, and cherry pick evidence, and then use all of this to state forcefully that the science is settled.
In the first case, the government pushes a diet that is not just nutritionally neutral, but actively harmful, and most assuredly, many people have died because of it. In the second case, the government has already enacted policies that hamper the economy, and wants desperately to do much more, which most assuredly has diminished the standard of living in this country and will only get worse.
The full scope of the dastardly mess that makes up the history of nutrition science and policy in the last half century is something that is new to me. I wonder how many other areas of government interference in science -- and its predictably disastrous results -- are out there?
*Note to the jack-booted thugs: I bought Taubes' book with my own money, and the only thing I'm receiving in compensation is the satisfaction of attacking government power and stupidity.