What we do and don’t know about dietary science.
By Jerome Groopman
Nutritional science is too complex to furnish easy answers about what to eat.Illustration by Ben Wiseman
In the early nineteen-sixties, when cholesterol was declared an enemy of health, my parents quickly enlisted in the war on fat. Onion rolls slathered with butter, herring in thick cream sauce, brisket of beef with a side of stuffed derma, and other staples of our family cuisine disappeared from our table. Margarine dethroned butter, vinegar replaced cream sauce, poached fish substituted for brisket. I recall experiencing something like withdrawal, daydreaming about past feasts as my stomach grumbled. My father’s blood-cholesterol level—not to mention that of his siblings and friends—became a regular topic of conversation at the dinner table. Yet, despite the restrictive diet, his number scarcely budged, and a few years later, in his mid-fifties, he had a heart attack and died.