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Keys’ Lipid Hypothesis “Made Out of Whole Cloth”


Gary Taubes (Good Calories Bad Calories) and Tom Naughton (Fat Head) both pointed it out, as have others I’m sure, but Peter’s charts add a nice crescendo to the chorus. What am I talking about? Nothing less than the biased, incompletely used data upon which Ancel Keys built his infamous, notorious, and utterly bogus lipid hypothesis. It’s a solid example of confirmation bias and scientific chicanery reigning supreme.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, just imagine how many people have been sick or gone to an early grave because they were following the resultant bogus advice that comes out of the lipid hypothesis, which is to say nothing of the wealth that has been utterly wasted trying to support both research into a bad hypothesis and the healthcare of an increasingly sick population paranoid about eating fat (While getting fatter every day eating more and more “whole grains”)!

Rant over.

The gist is that Ancel Keys ignored the entirety of a study and handpicked the data that would support his lipid hypothesis. You can read about it in Taubes’ book. You can watch a great, animated snippet illustrating the legerdemain compliments of Tom Naughton (youtube: ) or you can dive into the charts from Peter.

Here’s a snip from the latter:

OK, this is the graph of heart deaths plotted against fat intake, produced by Ancel Keys in 1953. It’s a beautiful curve, utterly convincing to any Congressperson looking to find fame by funding a cure for heart disease:

. . . Slightly less convincing is when the choice of different countries from the same data bases suggests that dietary fat has nothing to do with heart disease and that heart disease is very rare anyway . . .

So let’s stop playing and look at the whole database from which Keys carefully selected his six countries:

OK, there IS a correlation. It’s pathetic, especially compared to the original line swept in by Keys. Of course things get worse if you add in the Masai, the Inuit, the Rendile, the Tokelau and a few others, shown as red dots:

At this point you would have thought that the name Keys would have become a joke and people would simply have ignored him as a self publicising evangelist with scant respect for the truth. But Keys was nothing if not determined.

There’s even more chart-making sleight-of-hand if you’re curious. Sad “science.” We can only hope that one day the verdict of “guilty” on fat is overturned.

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Why You Got Fat (Fat Head Review)


Richard Nikoley recently received, watched and reviewed Tom Naughton’s documentary (mockumentary?) Fat Head. I had a very similar general take on the movie to Richard’s, so I’m going to echo his comments by way of blockquote:

It’s really two movies in one. In the first part, he thoroughly discredits that lying, opportunist bastard, Morgan Spurlock. Tom Naughton also goes on a fast food diet for a month, but a sensible one, keeping total calories to about 2,000, and total carbs to 100 grams (400 calories, so 20% of total kcals). He loses about 8-10 pounds, as I recall, and most of his blood work is improved.

The second half (the best) is about the awful state of nutrition science and dietary advice in America. Naughton even employs an evolutionary basis, as seen here.

Just to expound on this review, I found the second half of Fat Head to be much more interesting and compelling than the first half (even though Naughton does a plenty thorough job debunking Spurlock, I just didn’t really care — I never saw Super Size Me!).

The particular clip from Fat Head Richard posted in his review was one of the best parts of the movie as it humorously explains the relationship between blood sugar, fat cells and insulin. Check it out:

One other clip from the movie that isn’t available for preview online talked about the glycemic index and visually displayed how certain foods digest into whatever equivalent amount of sugar.

Richard gives an example of this conversion with regard to a soda:

Consider this: for the average person with normal blood glucose levels, you have about the equivalent of one single teaspoon of sugar circulating in your entire body. One. Single. Teaspoon. So, what that means is that when you drink a regular Coca Cola at 27 grams of carbohydrate . . . you are ingesting . . . over 5 times the amount of sugar as is contained in your entire body. How about an 8 oz. glass or orange juice? Same thing (26 grams). Now, consider that as you go throughout your day. Look at food labels, and divide the amount of carbohydrate by 5 to see how many times your total blood sugar you’re ingesting all at once.

Richard’s rule of thumb for conversion is great because I can visualize a teaspoonful of sugar. Take a bowl of Raisin Bran. A serving has 45 grams of carbohydrates, 7 of which are fiber, so net 38 grams plus the 12 grams from a cup of milk. 50 grams of carbohydrates converts to 10 teaspoons of sugar in your bloodstream. That’d be a nice pile of sugar.

This mental picture conversion of carb-heavy foods to teaspoons of sugar is a powerful way to help people connect the dots between “ingesting lots of sugar is bad for you” to “ingesting lots of carbohydrates is bad for you.” Even as this is an oversimplification of a more complex macro-nutrient problem, it’s still a better way to guide your eating behavior as compared with our current, asinine low-fat-equals-health insanity.