Historical Events

Copy Link

Gina Kolata writes article from minority scientists at 'consensus' meeting where diet-heart hypothesis is pushed despite evidence against it.

January 1, 1984


Diet-Heart Hypothesis

Gina Kolata, then a reporter for Science magazine, wrote a skeptical piece about the quality of the evidence supporting the conference’s conclusions. The studies “do not show that lowering cholesterol makes a difference,” she wrote, and she quoted a broad range of critics who worried that the data were not nearly strong enough to recommend a low-fat diet for all men, women, and children. Steinberg attempted to dismiss the criticisms by calling her article a case of the media’s appetite for “dissent [which] is always more newsworthy than consensus,” but the Time cover story in support of Steinberg’s stated conclusions was clearly an example of the opposite, and on the whole, the media supported the new cholesterol guidelines.


The most widely read general scientific journal, Science, covered the Conference but the published article was entitled "Heart Panel's Conclusions Questioned." It dwelt as much or more on the points of view of a handful of vocal dissenters as it did on the unanimous views of the expert panel and the supporting views expressed by the majority of the invited participants who spoke from the floor. Did the dissenters quoted in this Science pice have access to different data? No. Did they poke holes in the rationale by which the expert panel reached its conclusions? No. Did they actually represent a larger number of professionals in the field than did the expert panel? No. It is simply that dissent is always more newsworthy than consensus. This is especially true if the dissenters are highly vocal and even more so if they claim to be exposing flaws in the establishment position. If they can in addition imply malfeasance and conspiracy, so much the better. That's news."