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The Limits of Scientific Knowledge and the Ethics of Dietary Guidance

When Dec 05, 2011
from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library
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American Science Writer

Gary Taubes is a science and health journalist and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Independent Investigator in Health Policy Research at the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health. He is the author of Nobel Dreams (1987), Bad Science (1991), Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007), and Why We Get Fat(2011). He has won the Science in Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times and was awarded an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship for 1996-97.

Taubes studied applied physics at Harvard and aerospace engineering at Stanford (MS, 1978). After receiving a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University in 1981, Taubes joined Discover magazine as a staff reporter in 1982. Since then he has written numerous articles for Discover, Science and other magazines. Originally focusing on physics issues, his interests have more recently turned to medicine and nutrition. Taubes’s books have all dealt with scientific controversies. Nobel Dreams takes a critical look at the politics and experimental techniques behind the Nobel Prize-winning work of physicist Carlo Rubbia. Bad Science is a chronicle of the short-lived media frenzy surrounding the Pons-Fleischmann cold fusion experiments of 1989.

"The Limits of Scientific Knowledge and the Ethics of Dietary Guidance"

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The American Heart Association first began advising Americans how to eat in 1961, half a century ago.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture published its first official recommendations, “Dietary Guidelines for America,” in 1980, and the National Institutes of Health followed suit four years later, recommending that all Americans over the age of two consume a diet low in fat and saturated fat. While these guidelines have become ever more stringent over the years, the advice itself has remained controversial. Critics have gone so far as to suggest that the ongoing epidemics of obesity and diabetes in the U.S. and abroad are a direct consequence of these official dietary recommendations. This seminar will discuss dietary recommendations from a historical perspective, focusing on the conflict between the requirements of good science and the need to act on a pressing public health problem. Ultimately, the seminar will address the level of evidence necessary before advising single patients or an entire nation to make dietary changes to effect primary prevention of disease.

Harold K. Schilling Memorial Lectureship