The saturated fat falacy

Professor Timothy Noakes is writing a series of articles to try to put the nail in the coffin of the modern western diet and dispatch forever the shoddy work of Ancel Keys.

This is why you should immediately distrust anyone that says, “The science is settled.” Science by it’s very nature is never settled. Those people saying these things are more likely than not just like Ancel Keys. Pushing their theories and searching desperately for studies to confirm their own bias.

This first article is a great read.

So when, in the late 1960s, Keys became one of the original beneficiaries of research funding from the newly formed National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), he discovered, to his utter dismay (and perhaps horror) that, far from supporting his claims, his brilliantly designed and perfectly executed test — the Minnesota Coronary Experiment  (MCE) (6) — comprehensively disproved both his hypotheses. According to Karl Popper’s description that a real scientist is someone imbued with a “ruthless scepticism toward your own work,” had Keys been just such a scientist, this should have been the end of his hypotheses.

The MCE established that the replacement of dietary saturated fat with the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) linoleic acid, which lowered average blood cholesterol concentrations by 15% to the apparently “safe” level of 175 mg/dL (4.6 mmol/L), had absolutely no effect on heart disease outcomes. Instead, “no differences between the treatment and control groups were observed for cardiovascular events, cardiovascular deaths or total mortality” (6, p. 129).

This finding fatally dispatched Keys’ hypotheses because the MCE established that, when tested in a rigorous and essentially flawless trial, using Keys’ dietary recommendations to lower cholesterol failed to prevent CHD as Keys had promised.


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