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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 09, 2007

Another Nail in the Low Fat Coffin

By Mark Sisson

A prescient excerpt from the Times – it’s what we’ve been saying all along:

“In the case of fatty foods, that confident voice belonged to Ancel Keys, a prominent diet researcher a half-century ago (the K-rations in World War II were said to be named after him). He became convinced in the 1950s that Americans were suffering from a new epidemic of heart disease because they were eating more fat than their ancestors.

There were two glaring problems with this theory, as Mr. Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, explains in his book. First, it wasn’t clear that traditional diets were especially lean. Nineteenth-century Americans consumed huge amounts of meat; the percentage of fat in the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers, according to the best estimate today, was as high or higher than the ratio in the modern Western diet.

Second, there wasn’t really a new epidemic of heart disease. Yes, more cases were being reported, but not because people were in worse health. It was mainly because they were living longer and were more likely to see a doctor who diagnosed the symptoms.

To bolster his theory, Dr. Keys in 1953 compared diets and heart disease rates in the United States, Japan and four other countries. Sure enough, more fat correlated with more disease (America topped the list). But critics at the time noted that if Dr. Keys had analyzed all 22 countries for which data were available, he would not have found a correlation. (And, as Mr. Taubes notes, no one would have puzzled over the so-called French Paradox of foie-gras connoisseurs with healthy hearts.)

The evidence that dietary fat correlates with heart disease ‘does not stand up to critical examination,’ the American Heart Association concluded in 1957. But three years later the association changed position — not because of new data, Mr. Taubes writes, but because Dr. Keys and an ally were on the committee issuing the new report. It asserted that ‘the best scientific evidence of the time’ warranted a lower-fat diet for people at high risk of heart disease.”

Further reading:

Why the Atkins Diet Works

My Carb Pyramid

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Grains: Start with the Diabetes Pyramid

The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar, and Diabetes (and you’ll understand it!)

HT: Jim

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3 Comments on "Another Nail in the Low Fat Coffin"


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Dave C.
9 years 10 months ago

Check out Jimmy Moore’s latest rant–a perfect complement to this post:

9 years 10 months ago

Robin Hanson has an interesting blog entry on the Framingham Heart Study over at Overcoming Bias:

9 years 10 months ago
Heart disease rates vary widely even among developed nations whose citizens have access to decent health care. I suspect there are a number of dietary and lifestyle factors that explain the gaps and that there is no “one size fits all” diet that is right for everyone, owing to significant genetic differences that impact how we metabolize food. The nation with the lowest cardiovascular (heart disease and stroke combined) death rates is Japan. Having spent time in Japan, I can tell you that the Japanese eat a plant-based diet high in refined carbs like white rice and noodles. I do… Read more »