David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, FACLM, is the Founding Director (1998) of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, and former President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He has published roughly 200 scientific articles and textbook chapters, and 15 books to date, including multiple editions of leading textbooks in both preventive medicine, and nutrition. He has made important contributions in the areas of lifestyle interventions for health promotion; nutrient profiling; behavior modification; holistic care; and evidence-based medicine. David earned his BA degree from Dartmouth College (1984); his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (1988); and his MPH from the Yale University School of Public Health (1993). He completed sequential residency training in Internal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine/Public Health. He is a two-time diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and a board-certified specialist in Preventive Medicine/Public Health. He has received two Honorary Doctorates.
A stunningly good, extraordinarily comprehensive paper on the health effects of saturated fat in our diets has weighed them in every relevant way, measured them with every pertinent metric, and found them wanting. There are no saturated fatty acids shown to be better than “harmless at best,” and those we consume most often and abundantly in fatty meats, processed meats, fast foods, dairy and processed dairy products are decisively worse than that. They are bad for us.
I am an equal opportunity doubter. I doubt the teachings of my own conventional medicine, knowing how readily we succumb to the transgression of close-mindedness, welcoming only news ensconced within the confines of our native comforts and conventions. I doubt the teachings of so-called Complementary and Integrative Medicine (CIM) as well, having seen them wander into the realm known pejoratively as “woo,” and perpetrate the opposing transgression: a mind so open that brains flop out.
A “new era” in medicine does not come along very often. We had one, perhaps, in 1854 when John Snow effectively invented the practical applications of epidemiology by removing the handle from London’s Broad Street water pump. We had one about 50 years prior when Edward Jenner discovered the prevention of smallpox with vaccination. We had one when the value to public health of basic sanitation was first sorted out; we had one when micronutrients were discovered to cure and prevent various deficiency syndromes; and we had one when Alexander Fleming and a bit of serendipity combined to discover penicillin, and usher in the antibiotic age.
When the PURE diet study papers roiled headlines around the world recently, I wrote an admittedly lengthy analysis. I didn’t feel I had much choice; the publications encompassed three distinct research papers, reams of data, and a whole lot of what proved to be mostly misguided interpretation of the findings by the media, and the investigators themselves. Getting the story sorted out reliably involved some heavy lifting, and considerable verbiage.