Part I-Low Carb High Fat – The Diet-Heart Hypothesis
The number one contention I hear from almost everyone I speak to about low carb high fat dieting is the diet-heart health connection that has been drilled into us since the 1950’s, that is, the 1953 “Seven Country” study published by American Scientist Ancel Keys. In that study, Keys extrapolated that consumption of saturated fat (cholesterol derived from animal fats and dairy) led to a higher incidence of heart disease. Sounds legit right? Haven’t you been told all your life that high cholesterol causes heart disease? The truth is, THAT IS SIMPLY FALSE. Please, read on.
This is a direct quote from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee which is used by Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to publish their respective recommendations:
“Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”¹
It’s one single line on the bottom of page 8 of 40 in that report. How many of you actually read this stuff? None of you. And that is the point of this educational piece. To inform you of the truth. After decades of telling us that cholesterol was the cause of heart disease, the government finally admitted they were wrong.
In the Seven Country Study, Keys’s showed a higher incidence of deaths from heart disease correlated to an increased fat calorie consumption, hence cholesterol consumption. Here is an actual graph he used:
As you can see, it’s pretty impressive, right? Look at where the United States fairs in this graph. This is scary stuff. Despite his work, criticism followed and Keys vigorously defended his position.
Years later, he helped steer our entire American culture with the subsequent American Heart Association (AHA) dietary recommendations that informed us that cholesterol (dietary fat) was the perpetrator in chief for causing Heart Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes. Keys even made the cover of Time Magazine that helped change the entire dietary and medical landscape of millions, even billions, of people worldwide. Unfortunately, as you will read later, he admitted he was wrong.
There were two major flaws in his study listed below.
Correlation is not Causation
Epidemiological and observational studies are just that, observations. They do not involve an A causes B result, rather only an appearance of correlation between A & B. Although observational studies can be a valuable tool, they fail to describe specificity for a specific variable. Any unaccounted variable can influence the outcome. Factors like smoking, lifestyle, activity levels, and other dietary factors can also affect the rate of heart disease. The best an observational study can prove is to help formulate a hypothesis which should be further studied in a specifically controlled environment.
Cherry Picked Data
Cherry picking data is a perfect example of dishonest arguments. It’s designed to prove only what you are trying to prove, and therefore violates the scientific method. If a study intentionally and knowingly ignores data that influences the outcomes, it disproves any integrity of the data to begin with. In the case of Ancel Keys’s Seven Country Study, data for 22 countries was available to him, but he only picked seven. Here is the graph with the data from all 22 countries in the study:
There are countries all over the place on this graph. “People from some countries, like France and Holland, have a high saturated fat consumption and have very little incidence of heart disease, yet people from countries like Finland and Australia have a lower saturated fat intake and a very high incidence of heart disease.”²
In response to the criticism, Keys published another paper in defense of his study and drew further faulty conclusions. He used a 1913 study widely known as the “Cholesterol-Fed Rabbit model”, or what we now call the “Response To Injury” model. The study used a variety of methods to reproduce a resemblance of human atherosclerosis in rabbits. The study was unsuccessful in proving that dietary cholesterol was the cause of atherosclerosis [heart disease] in humans. Where it became a problem for us in modern medicine was the fact that Keys extrapolated from that 1913 study that consuming a diet high in saturated fats would increase cholesterol and therefore, increase the prevalence of heart disease in humans. Once again, correlation, given enough time, became accepted as causation.
His extrapolation, and his later role in the American Heart Association changed the entire dietary landscape and with it, followed all of medicine for the last 56 years or so in what became the “Diet-Heart Hypothesis”. This hypothesis has wrongly shaped how we have managed and treated heart disease, high cholesterol, Diabetes, and Obesity patients for decades.
In Part II of this Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) review, I will bridge the past research with the myth of modern medicine’s false view that consuming a diet high in dietary saturated fat causes heart disease.
I do want to make a notable mention that although the majority of practicing Doctors are still regurgitating antiquated and ill-advised nutritional advice advocating for a Low-Fat-High-Carb diet, there are a few out there that have done the research and understand the myths that have plagued the medical community in effectively and successfully treating Heart, Diabetic, and Obesity patient populations. The Doctor that will be partnering in our Physician Referral Program is one such clinician and we are excited to join with him in helping patients in our community.
As always, I welcome your comments/questions. Please subscribe below to get the latest newsletters and Part II of this series.
Coach Rob Solano
Wolf Den Strength