The fat hypothesis – Part II – The 200 words project

(Continued from “The Fat Hypothesis – Part 1‘)

Despite making fat the enemy in the 1980s, replacing butter with margarine and eggs with muesli, it emerged the obesity rates in the US and UK more than doubled in 20 years.

It turns out that despite its monumental stature, the Ancel Keys 7 Countries Study was horribly constructed. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that Keys chose the 7 countries because he suspected they would support his hypothesis (he omitted France and Germany from a list of European countries presumably knowing they had low hard disease rates despite saturated fats rich diet). And, when the study’s lead Italian researcher, Alessandro Menotti, went back to the data, he found that the food that correlated most closely with deaths from heart disease was not saturated fat, but sugar.

The most prominent doubter of Keys’ fat vilification drive was John Yudkin, then the UK’s leading nutritionist, who noted that while humans have always been carnivorous, sugar – a pure carbohydrate stripped off fiber and nutrition – had only become part of our diets recently. Saturated fats, by contrast, are so intimately bound up with our evolution that they are abundantly present in breast milk.

Unfortunately, Keys was not open to debate.. (more next week)

fat hypothesisThanks to Lane Kenworthy for the image

If Yudkin published a paper, Keys would excoriate it, and him. He called Yudkin’s theory “a mountain of nonsense”, and accused him of issuing “propaganda” for the meat and dairy industries. – Ian Leslie

Source and thanks to: The Sugar Conspiracy by Ian Leslie in the Guardian – a fantastic piece of journalism that inspired this 4 part series.

The fat hypothesis – Part I – The 200 words project

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

fat hypothesisThanks to source and 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.