THE TRUTH ABOUT CHOLESTEROL: WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?
We at The Exercise Coach® pride ourselves on empowering our members to make informed decisions about their health. We aim to provide direction, information, and support so you can feel comfortable and confident making these important decisions.
The ensuing blog posts will describe how our nation was led down an erroneous nutritional path based on bad science and false conclusions. We will also delve into what exactly cholesterol is, why it is essential, what nutritional studies actually say in regards to healthy cholesterol levels, why normal to high cholesterol is potentially advantageous, what causes heart disease and what we can do to prevent it.
We know the information we will be presenting may be controversial, counter-intuitive or maybe even different than what your doctor recommends. We remind you that all information provided is for informational purposes only and that you are the one who is ultimately responsible for making decisions about your health.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CHOLESTEROL: WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?
It all began in 1956, when the American Heart Association (AHA) brought the concept of “heart health” to the forefront of public consciousness. In a public service announcement televised on three major networks, the AHA urged Americans to reduce their intake of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and to increase their intake of margarine, corn oil, breakfast cereal and skim milk. The AHA also endorsed the work of Ancel Keys, the “Father of the Lipid Hypothesis,” who maintained that dietary cholesterol caused high cholesterol in the body, which in turn led to a higher risk of heart disease.
What’s interesting to note is that, over the past century, heart disease and obesity rates have increased dramatically, despite this “Low Fat” movement. For instance, in 1910, only 1 in 150 (.6%) people was obese, the risk of heart disease was below 10% and the incidence of Type II diabetes about 3%. Today, nearly 70% of the nation is obese, a child has a 1 in 3 chance of developing Type II diabetes, heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women (affecting nearly half of the nation’s population) and coronary heart disease costs $110 billion per year and rising.
How can a country that has won two World Wars, survived the Cuban Missile Crisis, defeated communism and segregation, put a man on the moon and created the internet not be able to take care of its own health? Why do we as people follow a dogma that has led to alarming increases in obesity, heart disease and health care costs? Why is EAT LOW FAT so permanently ingrained in our collective conscious that despite our nation’s growing heart disease, obesity and health care costs, we refuse to examine everything we eat and instead hammer home the message to eat less fat, eat fewer calories and move more?
The following excerpts from Diet Heart News provide a brief history of the “science,” recommendations and nutritional guidelines that have shaped our nation’s view on fat, cholesterol, and heart disease:
1825 French lawyer and gourmand Brillant-Savarin publishes The Physiology of Taste, in which he says he has identified the cure for obesity: “More or less rigid abstinence from everything that is starchy or floury.”
1863 William Banting publishes Letter On Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. Banting had lost 85 pounds on a high fat, carbohydrate-restricted diet.
1910 Butter consumption (a food high in saturated fat) is around 18 pounds per capita. (In 2000, butter consumption went below 4 pounds per year.)
1910 Lifetime risk of type II diabetes is 1 in 30.
1924 The American Heart Association is formed.
1937 Columbia University biochemists David Rittenberg & Rudolph Schoenheimer demonstrate that dietary cholesterol has very little effect on blood cholesterol.
1945 American Heart Association donations total $100,000.
1950 Using a newly invented one-of-a-kind centrifuge, University of California medical scientist John Gofman discovers several fat-like substances circulating in the blood, including LDL and VLDL. At this time – 60 years ago – he reported that total cholesterol (TC) was a “dangerously poor predictor” of heart disease!
1951 The Practice of Endocrinology, a textbook published by seven prominent British clinicians, comes to nearly the same weight loss recommendations as Banting’s: Avoid bread and everything else made with flour; cereals, including breakfast cereals and milk puddings; potatoes and all other root vegetables; foods containing sugar and all sweets.
1953 Ancel Keys publishes his Seven Country Analysis that shows an association to his theory that dietary fat leads to high cholesterol and high cholesterol leads to heart disease. Keys studied 22 countries. He ignored the results of the other 15 countries.
1955 John Gofman reports that carbohydrates elevate VLDL – the lipoprotein that transports blood fats (triglycerides) made in the liver from excess carbohydrates. Gofman wrote, “Restricting carbohydrates would lower VLDL.” Excess carbs = elevated triglycerides = more VLDL = increased risk of heart disease. John Peters, Yale School of Medicine, using a new analytical centrifuge, was able to quantify the triglyceride concentration in VLDL, confirming the work of Gofman.
1956 Framingham Heart Study, the world’s largest epidemiological study to discover common characteristics of heart disease begins. It will also become the cornerstone for insurance companies and doctors to use when assessing cardiovascular disease risk.
1957 Hilde Bruch, the foremost authority on childhood obesity writes: “The great progress in dietary control of obesity was the recognition that meat was not fat producing; but that it was bread and sweets which lead to obesity.”
1960 Jack LaLanne starts his career as America’s only fitness guru.
1961 American Heart Association raises $35 million dollars and officially adopts AHA board member Ancel Keys’ low fat diet. In January 1961, Ancel Keys is on the cover of Time Magazine.
1961 After 5 years of data, the Framingham Heart Study publishes that men under 50 with elevated cholesterol were at greater risk of heart disease. They were also more likely to smoke, be overweight and not exercise. These become the well-known Framingham Risk Factors still used today by doctors and insurance companies. High blood sugar was noted but not published! And for men over 50, “there was no association between elevated cholesterol and heart disease!”
1961 Pete Ahrens of Rockefeller University and Margaret Albrink of Yale report that elevated triglycerides are associated with increased risk of heart disease and that low fat, high carbohydrate diets elevate triglycerides. Carbs – not fat – increase the risk of heart disease.
1967 In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Peter Kuo, University of Pennsylvania, reports that of 286 atherosclerosis patients who had been referred to him, 90 percent had elevated triglycerides. The research was ignored.
1970 Margaret Albrink, Peter Kuo, Lars Carlson, and Joseph Goldstein report that elevated triglycerides (TG) were more common in heart disease patients than cholesterol! They confirmed that the majority of people with heart disease have what Gofman called “Carbohydrate Induced Lipemia.”
1972 Dr. Robert C. Atkins publishes Diet Revolution advocating a high fat diet for weight loss. Atkins sells a million copies in 6 months. Atkins first learned about the value of a high fat diet for weight loss in an article authored by Dr. Alfred Pennington in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
1973 American Medical Association (AMA) attacks Dr. Atkins calling his high fat diet a “dangerous fraud.” Atkins defends himself before a congressional committee.
1974 Framingham Heart Study (24 years). Men with cholesterol levels below 190 mg/dl were three times more likely to get colon cancer as men with cholesterol over 220 mg/dl! In Framingham, there was a strong association between low cholesterol and premature death. Also, there was no relationship between elevated cholesterol and sudden death.
1976 Nathan Pritikin opens his first “low fat” Longevity Center. One attendee is U.S. Senator George McGovern (Democrat, SD). Although he dropped out of the Pritikin program, Senator McGovern was convinced that fat made us fat and was responsible for “killer diseases” like cancer and heart disease.
1976 Senator George McGovern’s bipartisan, extra legislative Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs conducts 2 days of contentious hearings on “Diet and Killer Diseases.” Staffers are lawyers and ex-journalists without scientific training. In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes reports that McGovern and his staff went into the hearings strongly biased in favor of Keys’ anti-fat hypothesis.
1977 Nick Mottern writes the first Dietary Goals for the United States. Mottern’s mentors include Ancel Keys. Mottern is a vegetarian.
1980 U.S. Department of Agriculture releases the official first ever low fat Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In bold face on the cover: “EAT LESS FAT, SATURATED FAT, AND CHOLESTEROL.” Keys’ still unproven hypothesis that dietary fat was the cause of heart disease becomes the cornerstone of U.S. nutrition policies and education.
1980 Obesity rates begin to climb.
1982 Two years after the passage of low fat Dietary Guidelines, a major study fails to prove that low fat diets were safe or effective.
1984 Anthony Gotto, president of the American Heart Association, says, “If everyone went ahead with cholesterol-lowering, we will conquer atherosclerosis by the year 2000.”Although millions of people are taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the incidence of heart disease has not gone down as promised! We are still waiting!
1986 The NIH and the American Heart Association establish the National Cholesterol Education Program. Guidelines are issued the following year. For the first time blood cholesterol over 200 mg/dl is treated as a disease. Cereal companies, vegetable oil interests, and the American Medical Association eagerly join the long-awaited “War on Cholesterol.”
1986 The FDA says there is “no conclusive evidence” that sugar causes chronic disease.Since that time, the government has not funded any studies to test the hypothesis!
1986 Japanese physicians warn that low blood cholesterol levels are strongly associated with strokes, the #1 cause of death in Japan. Furthermore, as more fat in the diet increased, the incidence of deadly strokes declined.
1987 Framingham Study after 14 years: “Framingham residents whose cholesterol levels declined over the first 14 years were more likely to die prematurely of heart disease and cancer than those whose cholesterol remained the same or increased.” The findings are ignored!
1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health is released with the following recommendation: “Highest priority is given to reducing fat intake.”
1989 After 20 years researching carbohydrate metabolism, Gerald Reavan, MD, University of California, announces his discovery of “Syndrome X,” now referred to as Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes-related heart disease. Syndrome X is a cluster of abnormalities, including high blood sugar, high insulin levels, elevated triglycerides, and depressed levels of protective HDL. In his book Syndrome X, Dr. Reaven said theculprit in heart disease is excess sugar and excess easily-digested carbohydrates – not red meat.
1997 “There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood…And we’ve known that all along.” – Ancel Keys, Father of the Lipid Hypothesis
1999 At the 14 year point in the Harvard Nurses Study, 3,000 nurses had developed cancer. According to study leader Walter Willett, the less fat the nurses ate the greater their risk of cancer. Willet said, “Saturated fat seems to be protective….” Even though dietary fat was exonerated, the American Cancer Society continues to blame red meat and fat on cancer – not sugar or excess carbohydrates.
2000 Over $1 billion spent on trials focusing on lowering LDL cholesterol. Little or no money spent researching added sugars, omega-6 industrial seed oils (vegetable oils) or the official low fat diet. Sugar consumption in the US: 150 lbs. per capita. Butter consumption: < 4 lbs. per capita.
2008 With the 2010 Dietary Guideline revision process approaching, the Corn Growers Association is spending $20 to $30 million on an 18 month TV ad campaign “targeting mothers” with the reassuring message that high fructose corn syrup (processed sugar with a significantly higher concentration of fructose) is perfectly okay for toddlers and children – young citizens whose lifetime risk of diabetes is now 1 in 3.
2010 The 2010 Dietary Guidelines continue their low fat = good health mantra. Unlike the media intensity over “health care reform,” the 13-member Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) conducted its business behind closed doors. Though the DGAC is charged with basing their revision on the “preponderance of the scientific and medical evidence,” the evidence in favor of a higher fat diet was simply ignored.
2013 In Dallas, the American Heart Association is inviting 33,000 cardiac experts – professionals who continue to follow the low fat gospel according to Keys – to their grand annual conference. The city of Dallas has agreed to build a lavish new 1,100 bed “Four Star” hotel. Mr. Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the event will generate an estimated $86 million for the city of Dallas. The AHA has assets over $1 billion. The CEO earns over $500,000 annually – They continue to promote a low fat dietary guideline.
2013 The lifetime risk of Type II diabetes: 1 in 3. Nearly 70% of the population is overweight or obese. Heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women. Coronary Heart Disease Costs $110 billion a year. Health and Fitness clubs generate $26 billion in revenue. There are over 300,000 fitness “experts.”
As you can see from the timeline, there has been plenty of opposition to the dietary recommendations we currently have from notable and prominent researchers and universities. Even the man who started it all, Ancel Keys, has admitted there is no connection between dietary cholesterol and heart disease. Recommendations we currently have from the statistics speak for themselves; over the past 50 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence rate and the mortality rate of heart disease. The current recommendation to eat less fat to reduce heart disease has not worked!
We will continue to discuss the topic of cholesterol in upcoming posts, including why low cholesterol could potentially be problematic. Stay tuned….”
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