Cholesterol is not just essential to health, it has its own intrinsic beauty
This is the second in a series of articles on this topic.
What we revealed in the previous article of this series, were the numerous flaws in the cholesterol theory for heart disease, linked with dietary saturated fat, promulgated by Ancel Keys and eventually taken on board by the US establishment, via the American Heart Association, National Institute of Health, American Medical Association and the numerous bodies associated with government. We also mentioned the McGovern report which led to the first release of the Dietary Goals for the United States, which established the cholesterol theory of heart disease as the new dogma.
The question we raised at the end of the previous article, was if the cholesterol theory of heart disease is wrong, which the evidence we reviewed seem to powerfully suggest, then what is the true cause of heart disease?
The second question, this issue raises is what effect following a seriously flawed dogmatic adherence to the cholesterol theory had on our society? What effect has it had on our health? Following government guidelines, that of reducing saturated fats in our diet, has led to a massive change in our eating habits that has led to serious consequences for our health, which we will discuss below.
Before discussing these two important questions, I feel it would be worth mentioning that there were a number of people who offered an alternative view of the cause of heart disease, and not just heart disease, but other conditions that were believed to be due to our failing metabolism. There was a body of opinion that believed that a number of afflictions affecting our industrialised societies, was directly due to the massive increase in the consumption of over-processed carbohydrates, such as white flour, sugar, white rice, and the numerous combinations of these food products producing sweet pastries, cakes, biscuits etc. This body of opinion expressed the view that the numerous conditions, now increasingly affecting populations in these industrial economies, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, were all metabolic diseases—predominantly caused by these over processed carbohydrates.
Alternative theories for Heart Disease
In Unhealthy betrayal, [i] I discussed the work of Weston Price, The dentist who made a vast study of populations all over the world. He studied populations that were still existing on their traditional diets, and undertook further studies of populations that began to use foods that were introduced through trading with the industrialising nations. The first foods that were traded were the foods that could survive being transported long distances in the bottom of a cargo holds of sailing ships. Sugar, and white flour, were among the early goods traded, and rum which was fermented from the sugar. This was followed by canned foods.
What Weston Price discovered was dramatic, wherever the traditional foods were given up for the industrialised processed foods there was a very obvious effect on the health of the indigenous populations. Where there was originally healthy faces, with fine teeth, there was to be found a significant deterioration of the teeth. Price took numerous photographs and documented carefully what he found, and later published his findings. What he found even more disturbing was the discovery, not just of the effect on the teeth of the people who consumed these impoverished foods—he found that the children born to these people inherited physical problems that were unseen in any of the previous generations. One of the most obvious features was that the skull was measurably narrower, and the teeth grew crooked in their mouths and appeared to be overcrowded. Some people’s skulls were so narrowed, they had more difficulty breathing in some cases, and he referred to them as the mouth breathers. They tended to sleep with their mouths open, and snore at night, as they seemed to breathe easier that way. He also discovered that many of the women, seemed to develop narrower pelvises—and this was later found to make childbirth more difficult.
Price published his findings in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration—A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects, in 1939, which stood as a serious indictment of over-processed carbohydrate use in modern society.[ii]
Focus on Sugar
Another critic of over-processed carbohydrates, was Professor John Yudkin, who was a contemporary of Ancel Keys, who we reported was the person who was mainly responsible for the promotion of the cholesterol theory. Yudkin, was head of the Department of Nutrition, Queen Elizabeth College, which was instituted in 1953, and regarded as the first in Europe to be devoted to undergraduate and post-graduate teaching of nutrition. Yudkin was not just a doctor, but a highly-trained biochemist also, earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge. He felt that the main culprit to our health and particularly heart disease, was sugar. In his research he found that sugar consumption, raised cholesterol levels in the blood, raised triglyceride levels, made the blood platelets sticky and raised the blood pressure—all negative signs for heart disease. He wrote about his findings his book, Pure White and Deadly—How Sugar is Killing Us and What We Can Do About it, which he published in 1972, in response to what he perceived as the mistaken and un-proven theory that the culprit was saturated fat. [iii]
All Over-processed Carbohydrates
Another contemporary of Keys was Dr T L Cleave, a physician in the armed services, who had the opportunity of studying large populations of servicemen. He was Surgeon–Captain of the Royal Navy, and Director of Medical Research, at the Institute of Naval Medicine. Cleave was greatly in agreement with Yudkin regarding the dangers of sugar, but what he found basically agreed with Weston Price’s original assumption that it also included the over-processed foods such as white four and white rice. This is what he had to say about the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates:
The over-consumption, stems from the concentration present in refined carbohydrates, which concentration not only deceives the taste buds in the tongue, so they cannot signal accurately enough when to stop eating these foods, but also interferes with the normal distension of the stomach and hence with the feelings of satiety.
Cleave labelled the disease process that would be created by an over-consumption of refined carbohydrates, the ‘Saccharine Disease’, which manifested numerous symptoms. Some, conditions, such as constipation he put down to the severe lack of fibre in such a poor diet, and it accompanied venous ailments, such as varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, haemorrhoids, diverticular disease and cancer of the colon. He suggested continued use would lead to diabetes, obesity, and coronary thrombosis. He also associated appendicitis, e-coli infections and gall stones with the diet. As regards to Yudkin’s accusations about sugar he had this to emphasise:
The importance of relating any manifestation of the saccharine disease to the consumption of ALL forms of refined carbohydrates and not only one form. For all of them end up substantially as glucose in the blood…This crucial point in the author’s opinion partly explains why J Yudkin’s finding of a high sugar consumption in coronary sufferers has not been confirmed by other investigators… [iv]
What is remarkable about Cleaves understanding, is that future science would be able to explain the basis for some of his discoveries that at that time did not exist. For example his insistence that it was not simply sugar, but all carbohydrates causing the problem is now linked to our understanding of the massive rise in blood glucose prompting a huge insulin rise that is generated by eating both sugar and refined flour, for example. We will discuss these implications later in this series.
Dogma and the Politicisation of Health
To be fair to Yudkin, there was evidence to support his conclusions, he notes that after filing his 1957 paper outlining his findings, a Japanese researcher had independently confirmed the relationship between sugar intake and coronary heart disease in twenty countries.
However, the unquestioning acceptance of Ancel Keys theory of heart disease, which was to be shown over the passage of time to be based on no real science—would prevail simply because it was accepted as fact by politicians of the day and promoted as such to the American public. It meant that any other theories would not receive funding for further research, and the chances of getting publication in the major journals highly unlikely. In 1971 Yudkin retired from his post as chairman of the nutrition department at the University of London and he was replaced by Stewart Truswell who argued publically that Keys dietary fat hypothesis was assuredly correct.
The effect of the political acceptance and promotion of the idea that heart disease was caused by excess intake of saturated fats, was to have profound and serious ramifications on what we would be encouraged to eat, and the effects of these developments would affect all of us and future generations to come.
It would effectively give a green light to the food industry to continue to market their cheap over-processed carbohydrates that had been generating vast profits for decades, and not just that, it would take the heat off sugar, and allow the industry to use it more and more and be able to add it to a whole range of food products as a ‘taste enhancing ingredient’, and be able to sell it to the general public without the danger of severe criticism from the authorities.
One other outcome of the adoption of the saturated fat theory, would lead to the food industry’s development of the use of vegetable oils for the use in food products, and an alternative source of cooking oil, further leading to the development of margarines, and the development of new techniques such as the hydrogenation of oils. This would represent a massive change in human dietary history, as there was no time prior to this that human beings were able to consume much in the way of vegetable oils. Previously, we were able to use presses to extract oil from olives, which easily gave up its oil content, but never before had we been able to extract oil using industrial technologies that would produce oils of far different character than anything that we had been able to consume before.
On top of this development, we were to reduce the amount of fats and oils consumed from approximately 40 percent to 30 percent, and increase our reliance on carbohydrates, in the form of grains by approximately 30 percent. The idea of increasing our consumption of grains should have sounded alarm bells. Most agricultural vets had been advocating the use of grains for fattening animals for decades. What effect was this going to have on the human population? We are after all still mammals.
We will discuss these developments in the next part of this series.
Andrew A D Burgoyne
[i] A Burgoyne, Unhealthy Betrayal—How the Manipulation of Science and Politics by Corporate Interests Destroys Health and Threatens the Future of Humanity, Fundamental Press, 2015.
[ii] Weston Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration—A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects.1939.
[iii] John Yudkin, Pure White and Deadly—How Sugar is Killing Us and What We Can Do About it, 1972.
[iv] Cleave, T L, The Saccharine Disease—The Master Disease of Our tIme, 1966.