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.”
1830 Sugar consumption in the US is 15 pounds per capita (much of it molasses). Today: 150 pounds per capita (much of it high fructose corn syrup).
1863 William Banting published Letter On Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. Banting had lost 85 pounds on a high fat, carbohydrate-restricted diet. The British Medical Journal and Lancet reported that Banting’s diet could be dangerous: “We advise Mr Banting, and everyone of his kind, not to meddle with medical literature again, but be content to mind his own business.”
1880-1910 U.S. population doubled from 37 to 75 million. One out of three people lived on a farm – and ate from the farm. The U.S. population today is over 300 million and about 1 percent live on a farm.
1906 Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle exposed unsanitary and inhumane conditions in Chicago area slaughterhouses. Reported meat sales fell 50 percent and took years to recover. As is true today, the highest quality safest meat was pasture-raised on the small mixed farms that dotted much of the American landscape.
1910 Lifetime risk of type II diabetes was 1 in 30; today 1 in 3 according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.
1910 Butter consumption = 18 pounds per capita – mortality from heart disease was below 10 percent. (Infections killed a majority of people; a high percentage of infants and women of child-bearing age died during the birthing process.) Today as we consume our “Country Croak,” the mortality from heart disease is 40 to 45 percent. Dr. Andrew Weil and the late Dr. Robert C. Atkins agree: “Eat butter; not margarine, regardless of the claims the manufacturer is making for it!”
1910 Lard, the rendered fat from outdoor-living pigs, was the #1 cooking fat – enjoying 70 percent of the market. Lard was the best source of Vitamin D and a good source of palmitoleic acid, a monounsaturated anti-microbial fatty acid that kills bacteria and viruses. Today highly processed soybean oil has 70 percent of the market; zero vitamin D. Now the same experts who told us not to eat lard are telling us we are deficient in Vitamin D!
1911 Proctor & Gamble introduce Crisco, first shortening made from hydrogenated vegetable fat. P & G bought the patent for hydrogenation from an English company that was attempting to make candles out of the artificially hardened fat. When rural electrification wiped out the candle market, P & G hydrogenated vegetable oil and introduced Crisco, a cheap alternative to lard. Crisco featured a much longer shelf life and, over decades, gave unsuspecting Americans hundreds of millions of pounds of trans fatty acids.
1912 Dr. James B. Herrick first described a form of heart disease he called “hardening of the arteries.”
1918 The electrocardiogram was introduced helping to launch cardiology.
1920 As sugary soft drinks become popular, sugar consumption reaches 100 pounds per capita.
1921 Canadian physician Frederick Banting and medical student Charles H. Best discovered the hormone insulin in pancreatic extracts of dogs.
1924 Four cardiologists found the American Heart Association (AHA) – a non-fund-raising association of medical doctors.
1930 Margarine consumption reaches 2.6 pounds per capita – and growing – as is the sale of trans-fat laden Crisco hydrogenated shortening.
1937 Columbia University biochemists David Rittenberg & Rudolph Schoenheimer demonstrated that dietary cholesterol had very little effect on blood cholesterol. Never refuted, to this day the U.S. Dietary Guidelines restrict dietary cholesterol to fewer than 300 milligrams a day.
1948 Boosted by butter and lard shortages during WWII, vegetable fat consumption reaches 28 pounds per capita. Trans fat intake continues to rise as saturated fat intake declines throughout 20th Century.
1948 National Heart Act created the National Heart Institute and the National Heart Council.
1948 American Heart Association re-invented itself as a volunteer fundraising organization and hired a former bible salesman (Mr. Betts) and a PR agency to do fundraising. “Heart Night at the Copacabana” was attended by movie stars and Hollywood celebrities.
1949 American Heart Association raises $3 million dollars.
1949 Arterioslcerosis is added to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), causing a sharp increase in reported deaths from heart disease - creating at least the appearance of a heart disease epidemic.
1949 Pasteurized milk is mandatory. During World War II, tainted milk produced by inexperienced replacement creamery workers killed a number of people. The government blamed raw milk; not the replacement workers (and not the dislocations of war). Pasteurization kills the enzymes that make it easier to absorb the proteins in milk and destroys many other key nutrients, including Vitamin B-12.
1950 Using a newly invented one-of-a-kind centrifuge, University of California medical scientist John Gofman discovered 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 Ancel Keys, professor, University of Minnesota, attends a conference in Rome on nutrition and disease and learns that heart disease was rare in some Mediterranean populations who consumed a lower fat diet. He noted, too, that the Japanese had low fat diets and low rates of heart disease. He hypothesized from these observations that fat was the cause of heart disease.
1951 The Practise of Endocrinology, a textbook published by seven prominent British clinicians. The weight loss recommendations were almost identical to Banting’s (see 1863). Foods to be avoided: 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, convinced that dietary fat is the cause of heart disease, published his Six Country Analysis, suggesting an association between dietary fat and mortality from heart disease. Critics pointed out that Keys had data for 22 countries, but selected data from just 6. (As an example, Keys excluded France, a country with a high fat diet and low rates of heart disease.) Keys selected data – he cheated!
1955 President Eisenhower suffers a first heart attack at age 64. He was put on a highly publicized low fat, low cholesterol diet. Over the next six weeks, twice daily press conferences were held on the president’s condition. His total cholesterol at the time of the attack was 165 ml/dl. Eisenhower was ordered to eat dry toast and Sanka for breakfast and eat only 1 egg per week. His cholesterol began to climb on a low fat, low cholesterol diet until it reached 259 the day he left office. Eisenhower had several more heart attacks and eventually died of heart disease.
1955 John Gofman reported that carbohydrates elevate VLDL – the lipoprotein that transports blood fats (triglycerides) made in the liver from carbohydrates. Gofman wrote, “Restricting carbohydrates would lower VLDL.” Excess carbs = elevated triglycerides = more VLDL = increased risk of heart disease.
1956 American Heart Association (AHA) conducts a nationwide fundraiser on all three TV networks urging Americans to reduce their intake of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. AHA was recommending “heart-healthy” margarine, corn oil, breakfast cereal, and skim milk – the same diet President Eisenhower was unhappily coping with.
1956 John Gofman reports that the majority of people with heart disease had elevated triglycerides (TG) and depressed HDL – not “high cholesterol.” Gofman blamed heart disease on “Carbohydrate Induced Lipemia.” His research conflicted with American Heart Association fundraising and was completely disregarded by the powers that be.
1957 Hilde Bruch, the foremost authority on childhood obesity wrote: “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.”
1957 Margarine outsold butter for the first time. Per capita consumption of margarine had grown to 9 pounds. For decades, margarine has been a significant source of trans fats. While butter is a good source of infection-fighting Vitamin A, margarine has none. Margarine. vegetable shortening, and vegetable cooking oils contain excess omega 6 linoleic acid. If there’s a fat of mass destruction – unsafe at any meal – this is it. Excess omega 6 causes injury and inflammation in the tissues of the body.
1960 Blood test for insulin developed.
1960 Jack La Lanne was America’s only fitness guru! Obesity is not a public health issue. Revenue in the health club industry: $200 million. When exercise was just having fun (not an obsession), obesity was not a public health issue.
1961 Exciting stuff! American Heart Association raised $35 million dollars and officially adopts AHA board member Ancel Keys’ low fat diet. In January 1961, the same month a sickly Eisenhower leaves office, Keys made the cover of Time Magazine. From now on, the media will amplify the low fat = good health mantra.
1961 Framingham Heart Study (data from five years). Men under 50 with elevated cholesterol were at greater risk of heart disease. However, this group of vulnerable middle-aged men were also more likely to smoke, be overweight, and not exercise – the famous Framingham “risk factors” and elevated cholesterol was at the top of the list. Also, these men had high blood sugar, an association entirely missed. And these were associations – not cause and effect. In Framingham, once men reached age 50 – the age when risk of heart attack increases – there was no association between elevated cholesterol and heart disease. This latter finding was greeted with silence by U.S. cardiology.
1961 Pete Ahrens of Rockefeller University and Margaret Albrink of Yale reported that elevated triglycerides were associated with increased risk of heart disease and that low fat, high carbohydrate diets elevated triglycerides. Carbs – not fat – increased the risk of heart disease.
1966 Jeremiah Stamler, Northwestern University professor, AHA board member, and Ancel Keys’ supporter, promotes the switch to vegetable fats in his self-help book, Your Heart Has Nine Lives, funded by the makers of Mazola Corn Oil and Fleissmann’s Margarine.
1967 In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Peter Kuo, University of Pennsylvania, reported that of 286 atherosclerosis patients who had been referred to him, 90 percent had elevated triglycerides. But this and all other research that challenged “the Gospel according to Keys” was disregarded by the Diet Heart proponents.
1970 American Heart Association’s anti-fat guidelines now extend to children and pregnant women. As a consequence, the federal government’s WIC program – food assistance to women with infant children – only allows skim or nonfat milk to children over age 2 – and all the sugary juice and sugary cereal they can eat!
1970 Margaret Albrink, Peter Kuo, Lars Carlson, and Joseph Goldstein reported 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.”
1971 Best selling anti-meat Diet for a Small Planet is published – Francis Moore Lappe’s argument for vegetarianism in order to feed the world’s poor. During the post-Viet Nam 1970s, it was suggested that Americans feel guilty about having an abundance of good healthy food to eat and increasingly red meat and saturated fat were blamed for just about everything.
1972 After prescribing his diet to patients for 10 years, 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 – laughing all the way to the bank!
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 FDA gives GRAS status (generally regarded as safe) to hydrogenated soybean oil – even though lipid biochemist Mary Enig, PhD, warned the government that – among their many dangers – trans fats interfere with insulin receptors on cell membranes and thereby increase the risk of diabetes. (It wasn’t until 2005 that the Dietary Guidelines weakly cautioned Americans to “limit trans fatty acids” by lumping trans with saturated fat into a new scientifically meaningless category called “Bad Fat.”
1976 Nathan Pritikin opens his first “low fat” Longevity Center. One attendee is pudgy 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. (Nathan Pritikin committed suicide years later when his low fat diet failed to protect him from leukemia.)
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 “All hell broke loose!” in Washington DC after the proposed guidelines were released. Major players - like the American Medical Association – and scientists in federal government agencies were aghast at what McGovern and his staff of non-scientists had come up with. At this juncture, McGovern was forced to schedule six additional hearings.
1978 After conducting six additional hearings, McGovern’s Senate Select Committee issues the final version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. With very few changes, for the first time, an agency of the U.S. federal government is telling the American people to eat less fat. Nick Mottern, a vegetarian, whose heroes included Ancel Keys and Jeremiah Stamler, was given the exclusive task of writing the first ever Dietary Goals for the United States.
1978 High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) enters the sweetener market. By 1985, 50 percent of the sweetener consumed by Americans was HFCS. In combination, HFCS and white sugar create a metabolic traffic jam in the liver, resulting in both greater insulin production and insulin resistance at the same time. Not good.
1980 Obesity levels in the US had remained between 12 to 14 percent from 1960 to 1980. After 1980 – and especially after 1990 – obesity grew dramatically. Today all 50 states have obesity rates over 20 percent.
1980 In spite of the considerable controversy over the McGovern Committee findings, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the official first ever low fat Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In bold face on the cover: “EAT LESS FAT, SATURATED FAT, AND CHOLESTEROL.” Key’s still unproven hypothesis that dietary fat was the cause of heart disease had now become the “Cornerstone of U.S. nutrition policy” and remains so to this day.
1982 Disappointing results in the National Institutes of Health MRFIT study. Participants eating the low fat, high carbohydrate vegetable fat diet had more deaths than the “usual care” group left to their own devices. 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 More disappointing results in the NIH sponsored Coronary Primary Prevention Trial (CPPT). But after tweaking the statistics, study director Basil Rifkind declared victory and asserted that the federal government had definitive proof that lowering cholesterol and fat would reduce the risk of heart disease. Many reputable scientists questioned the methodology, “relative risk” statistics, and skewed results of the study, but this failed trial and a subsequent NIH “Consensus Conference” in 1984 ended any further public debate.
1984 Anthony Gotto, president, American Heart Association, said, “If everyone went ahead with cholesterol-lowering, we will conquer atherosclerosis by the year 2000.” But since the year 2000, five new specialty heart hospitals costing more than $250 million dollars have been built just in Minneapolis and St Paul. Although millions of people take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the incidence of heart disease does not go down as promised.
1986 Without congressional or executive oversight, the National Institutes of Health and the private doctors of 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. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, up to 25 percent of our calories can be consumed as sugar. No nutrients – no fiber – no problem!
1986 The same year the U.S. declared “War on Cholesterol,” Japanese physicians warn that low blood cholesterol levels are strongly associated with strokes, the number one cause of death in Japan. As the percentage of fat in the Japanese diet increased after WWII, the incidence of deadly strokes declined.
1987 Another ignored finding in the Framingham Heart Study: “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.” Isn’t this worth knowing?
1987 Mevacor, the first cholesterol-lowering statin drug, was approved in record time. Statin drugs reduce the liver’s production of both both cholesterol, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and other substances. The muscles and heart use the most CoQ10. It isn’t surprising then that the incidence of congestive heart failure has more than doubled since 1987. (Merck has a patent on combining CoQ10 with a statin, but they have been sitting on it for decades.)
1988 After a heart attack at age 43, billionaire Phil Sokolof launched full page newspaper ads across the country containing scathing anti-tropical fat rhetoric against coconut and palm oil. In unison, the Center for Science in the Public Interest – a supported of hydrogenated vegetable fat - launches an “Anti-Saturated Fat” attack against coconut oil in movie theater popcorn. As a direct result of these campaigns, hydrogenated trans fat replaces healthy natural saturated fat in the U.S. food supply.
1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health is released: “Highest priority is given to reducing fat intake.”
1988 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 protective HDL. In his book Syndrome X, Dr. Reaven said the culprit in heart disease is excess sugar and excess easily-digested carbohydrates - not red meat.
1990 According to the CDC in Atlanta, type II diabetes took off like a “runaway train” around 1990. In the year 2000, the CDC reported that the lifetime risk of diabetes is now 1 in 3. Because 80 percent of diabetics die of heart disease, we can expect a sharp increase in coronary heart disease and slow, suffocating heart failure during the next 2 decades. (Heart failure is already the #1 Medicare expenditure.)
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. Willett said, “Saturated fat seems to be protective…” Even though dietary fat is exonerated, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association continue to blame red meat and saturated fat for cancer – not sugar or excess carbohydrates.
2000 Soybean oil has 70 percent of the edible fat market in the U.S. Nutritious lard consumption: Less than 1 pound per capita.
2000 Sugar consumption in the US reaches 150 pounds per capita – most of it high fructose corn syrup.
2000 Butter consumption in the US goes below 4 pounds per capita.
2000 Well over $1 billion has been spent on trials focusing on lowering LDL cholesterol. Little or no money in comparison has been spent researching the obvious dangers of added sugars and excess highly processed omega-6 industrial seed oils.
2002 What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie? – Gary Taubes’ New York Times magazine cover story (July 07, 2002) signaled that after three decades low-fat could be on its way out. Taubes pointed out that the science behind low fat was never proven and was actually based on “a leap of faith”
2003 McGill University School of Medicine study found “enlarged hearts among obese teenagers, a strong predictor of serious heart problems in the future.” The indicators of heart disease in children included insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, and depressed levels of beneficial HDL.
2005 More than 30 percent of all Americans are clinically obese and revenue from the health club industry reaches $16 billion. Nearly 40 million Americans belong to health clubs. The exercise boom fails to curb obesity, diabetes, or the incidence of heart disease. Science writer Gary Taubes makes a compelling argument that exercise helps you “work up an appetite.”
2005 Butter is making a comeback! For the first time since 1957, butter outsells margarine.
2008 With the 2010 Dietary Guideline revision process in their gun sights, the Corn Growers Association spends $20 to $30 million on an 18 month TV ad campaign “targeting mothers” with the reassuring message that HFCS is perfectly okay for toddlers and children – young citizens whose lifetime risk of diabetes is 1 in 3.
2009 In the first six months of the year, the health care industry spent $263 million lobbying to protect their “health care” income. According to the October 7, 2009 USA Today, hospitals, doctors groups, device makers, and other trade groups are fighting hard to “protect their Fiefdoms.”
2010 The 2010 Dietary Guidelines continued 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 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. A rightfully proud 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. No surprise here. The AHA is a fundraising superstar with assets over $1 billion. The CEO earns over $500,000 annually - a tidy sum for the head cop of the low fat Dietary Guidelines.
2015 You guessed it; another chance to revise (or gut) the low fat Dietary Guidelines; however, because the U.S. “Disease Management Monopoly” is getting richer – a result of (1) an aging population and (2) a sharply higher incidence of chronic disease – don’t expect a return to America’s wholesome, higher fat whole foods diet. Their best advice to date: eat off a smaller plate.
About the Author (Author Profile)I am a Patient Advocate - an independent nutrition researcher. For 20 years, I've applied what I learned as a History Graduate to unravel the confusion and misinformation spewed from the so called low fat "experts." Also, as a two decade veteran of the herb and nutritional supplement business, I've learned that diabetes and diet-related heart disease are reversible and preventable. Al Watson
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