I’m sure that this is just a coincidence:
It’s an interesting coincidence that this increase in obesity started roughly at the same time that the U.S. government started to advocate low-fat, high-carb diets. I remember that period pretty clearly, because I thought it was wonderful. Entenmann’s came out with no-fat pastries — the no-fat cherry coffeecake was one of my favorites — I could eat as much rice as I wanted, pasta was good and more pasta was better, as long as you didn’t use butter because of the evil saturated fat and cholesterol. But margarine, rich in transfats made by hydrogenating corn oil, was much better.
I remember that period clearly, too. It was during that time, after my father’s first heart attack at age 44, that the health gurus told him to go low-fat and eat more grains. Ten years later, he had another one, from which he died a month later. I blame the FDA/nutrition-industrial complex for his death (though it didn’t help that he smoked and had grown up on bagels, knishes and potatoes). And I find it particularly galling when idiots think that it’s anti-science to not buy the health-destroying junk science of the conventional wisdom, when the actual science indicates that it’s killing us.
[Update a couple minutes later]
In reading the Yglesias piece, it’s worth pointing out the flaw in the logic. No one is claiming that humans aren’t capable of rapidly evolving to accommodate dietary changes. That’s a straw man.
The issue is whether or not there is any evolutionary pressure for us to evolve to be healthy with a modern big-agro diet. In short, there is not. If you’re lactose intolerant in a dairy-based society, you’re unlikely to thrive or reproduce. But when it comes to grains, people do just fine on such diets when young, in terms of reaching reproductive age and rearing kids. The bad effects hit us generally later in life, when our genes no longer care (yes, I’m anthropomorphizing, but you know what I mean) whether we live or die, or are healthy or ill. So we go on, generation after generation, continuing to eat crap that’s bad for us, and our bodies not bothering to adapt.