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February 13, 2006

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The News Hour talked with one of the lead investigators on the study of fat and health (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/jan-june06/fat_2-8.html)

There was a 9% reduction in breast cancer in the women who reduced their total fat. This was almost statistically significant, but was not quite large enough to say that this modest fat reduction would reduce the risk of breast cancer. They did find a statistically significant reduction in breast cancer rates for women who started out with higher amounts of fat in the diet and made larger reductions, and that result was statistically significant.

The stories written in the media on the results of this study were misleading. What the study showed is that modest reductions in total fat (35% of calories to 29%) might result in modest reductions in cancers like breast cancer. It did not show that lowering fat was of “no benefit” or that advice that you should lower saturated fat content in your diet is “bogus”. It just showed that this small reduction in fat intake, at best result in a small reduction in breast cancer rates.

If you cannot understand this, then by all means head down to McDonalds and chow down on a few double macs with supersize fries.

Effects on breast cancer rates were not statistically signficant.

To quote a NY Times article, "The problem, some medical scientists said, is that many people — researchers included — get so wedded to their beliefs about diet and disease that they will not accept rigorous evidence that contradicts it."

From the PBS News Hour interview with one of the authors the overall reduction in breast cancer was not statistically significant, but it just missed being significant by a small amount. When they looked only at women who started with a higher fat intake and made larger reductions, there was a statistically significant drop in breast cancer rates.

If you understand what that means, you would know that the results of this study do not prove that there is no connection between fat intake and breast cancer rates. The results suggest there is a weak correlation, but better or larger studies are needed to really tell one way or the other.

$415 million were spent on this study, there won't be another bigger study.

Let go and enjoy your fat.

So, "almost statistically significant" is your standard of proof? My, what a can of worms that opens.

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