My husband read the headline and groaned to himself, "She's going to be insufferable."
"She" being me, the headline being, "Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds."
In fact, the study of 49,000 women over eight years found that the half placed on a low-fat diet had no less incidence of heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer or strokes than the women eating what they damn well pleased.
"Just switching to low-fat foods is not likely to yield much health benefit in most women," is how one of the researchers put it. So, yes, insufferable is what I've become because I BELIEVE IN FAT! Always have! Always believed that if you eat a hunk of real, glorious, Oscar Mayer-Haagen Dazs-Hershey's-With-Almonds fat, you'll feel happy and full and ready to leave the table.
Nonetheless, throughout a generation of conflicting health advice there has been only one constant drumbeat: Eat a low-fat diet or else.
The French, in all their goosefat snootiness, got it exactly right when they reported the new study thusly: "It turns out that all the suffering and privation could have been in vain."
That's hitting the nail on the headcheese. America fell for the low-fat diet because it was the one diet guaranteed to induce suffering and privation every meal of every day - part of our Puritan heritage.
We hoped that by sacrificing all our joy in eating, we would appease the gods of health. Look back at any of the magazines you have on your coffee table (right next to the empty Cheetos bag) and you will see how they all exhorted you to CUT THE FAT FROM YOUR DIET!
Every month, the same message, because every month, no one could do this. It's hard and ultimately unsatisfying to substitute normal food for Snackwellian repasts. Even in the study just released, the women on the low-fat diet gradually crept up from 24% to 29% of fat in their foods, and they had medical supervision. They didn't even lose weight! So, clearly, the less fat they ate, they more calories they craved.
Now that scientists have actually bothered to study the effects of this cruel and difficult regimen, they are telling us, ahem, we don't really have to cut all the fat from our diet, just the "bad" fat.
"You can't go off and eat your Kentucky Fried Chicken and French fries," says Eric Rimm, an associate professor of health at Harvard. But we can eat "good" fats, like olive oil and nuts.
I'll take those nuts enrobed in caramel, thanks. Because for all we know, caramel could be the next magic bullet.
And even if it's not, I happen to like it.