In 1955, US President Dwight Eisenhower suffered a heart attack. Eisenhower insisted on making details of his illness public instead of pretending it didn’t happen. So, the next day, his chief physician, Dr Paul Dudley White, gave a press conference at which he instructed Americans on how to avoid heart disease – stop smoking and cut down on fat and cholesterol. In a follow-up article, White cited the research of a nutritionist at the University of Minnesota, Ancel Keys.
Keys’ “diet-heart hypothesis” (or “fat hypothesis”) stated that excess saturated fats in the diet – from red meat, cheese, butter, and eggs – raises cholesterol, which congeals on the inside of coronary arteries, causing them to harden and narrow, until the flow of blood is staunched and the heart seizes up.
Keys was brilliant, charismatic, and combative. When faced with opposition, he used a 5,000 subject study he had conducted in 7 countries that proved his hypothesis. With support from the President and his physician, he destroyed any opposition to his hypothesis. His work was central in the 1980 dietary guidelines issued by the US government that made fat the enemy.
There was just one problem – Ancel Keys was wrong.
Keys was the original big data guy – a contemporary remarked: “Every time you question this man Keys, he says, ‘I’ve got 5,000 cases. How many do you have? – Ian Leslie, The Guardian
Thanks to source and health.gov for the image
Source and thanks to: The Sugar Conspiracy by Ian Leslie in the Guardian – a fantastic piece of journalism that inspired this 4 part series.