Response to Denise Minger 2: Not Benefiting from Hindsight
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 09:02AM
Plant Positive

Response to Denise Minger, Part 2:
Not Benefiting from Hindsight

Minger thinks Yerushalmy and Hilleboe were awesome.  She says by going over their paper, she and her readers looked at these issues more deeply than Keys did. The cholesterol deniers are in perpetual admiration of their own cleverness.

Here are excerpts from a presentation given by Yerushalmy in which he recounts their supposed correction of Keys. You can see in the text that he was basing his skepticism on isolated populations he didn’t fully understand like the Eskimos and the Masai and similar tribes.  I have, of course, examined these outliers already in the Primitive Nutrition Series.  You can also see on the right he presented a graph with Mexico even though he should have known there was a problem with their record keeping. Why would she think these guys knew what they were doing any better than Keys did? Why do low carbers care about that paper so much? It has to be because of their agenda. I see no other explanation.

These excerpts are from the same presentation when he turns his attention to the epidemiology of smoking.  He states, “The evidence appears, therefore, to support the proposition that the incidence of low birth weight infants is due the smoker and not the smoking.” He is saying that the sort of people who tend to be smokers would be more likely to have babies with low birth weight regardless of whether or not they smoked.  He is suggesting that smoking does not affect the development of the fetus.  Pretty awesome, right Ms Minger?

Here’s some more evidence of his amazing skepticism at work. Just like his finger wagging at Keys, his defense of smoking while pregnant hasn’t faired so well over time.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause low birth weight.

Dr Yerushalmy died at the age of 69.

To be fair, he did important work in other areas and is remembered with respect. Here’s a good line from his essay.  He said other modes of investigation beside epidemiology were needed to understand which correlations in the diet indicated real causations.  He was quite right, and this is exactly what Ancel Keys did.  Minger fails to mention this, as she is not trying to provide a service to readers who want to make healthier choices.  She prefers to leave them instead stuck in a fifty-year-old blind alley.

What about Yerushalmy’s co-author for that paper, Herman Hilleboe?  He agreed, further studies were needed to study the connection between diet and atherosclerosis.  He mentions a pilot study in Minnesota looking into the topic, calling it “excellent.”

Who do you think was running this study, Ms Minger?  The only Minnesotan actively investigating diet and heart disease was Ancel Keys.

He was the leader of his day in this sort of research.

If you think Hilleboe is so awesome, maybe you should have mentioned his observation in 1963 that cholesterol was the most important risk factor for ischemic heart disease.

Denise Minger says her only purpose in this blog is to present history and data as objectively as possible. 

In her supposed correction of the record she also doesn’t give any ground in blaming Keys for, as she puts it, demonizing saturated fats, and this made him far from perfect in her estimation.  She says he glorified polyunsaturated fats.

Keys was on an anti-saturated fat crusade in his later career, says Minger.  “Crusade” is a word with religious overtones, but I ask you, if we compare Minger and Keys, who is looking at diet through the inflexibility of semi-religious belief and who is dispassionately following the scientific method? 

If you look at the paragraph on the right, in 1953 – a time when Key’s had not yet figured the unique dangers of saturated fats - he did not glorify polyunsaturated fats and demonize saturated fats.  To the contrary, he said fats used in cooking should be reduced, including polyunsaturated oils such as corn oil and cottonseed oil, along with vegetable shortening and lard.  He also offered a rationale for the continued use of butter.  It only contributed 5% of fat calories, he said. He didn’t seem to think it was important. He thought fats other than butter should be reduced and provided a quote from the USDA with the phrase, “excluding butter”. Does this look like the writing of a crusader who was hell-bent on promoting oils and opposing animal foods like butter? I don’t see it. But Ms Minger says she is just laying out the truth.

He said it was not reasonable to expect people to consume more than 7% of total calories from polyunsaturated oils.  This is glorification?

For Minger, Keys’ belief that dietary cholesterol was not a significant factor in blood cholesterol levels was one thing he got right, implying she is in a position to say he got a lot of other things wrong.  I wonder why she likes these quotes. They say that dietary cholesterol doesn’t raise blood cholesterol. So does she believe high blood cholesterol does cause atherosclerosis? She says, “good for him”. Is she endorsing the lipid hypothesis?  I can’t figure out her perspective, but I can say that the one thing she says Keys got right is in fact something he got wrong.

As I pointed out in my Primitive Nutrition Series video number 39, once you have elevated blood cholesterol levels, additional dietary cholesterol doesn’t have much of an effect.  But if you eat a healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, with your body making all the cholesterol it needs, then consuming dietary cholesterol will have an appreciable effect. So Keys was clearly wrong on this point. This meta-analysis from 1992 should have resolved this.

This should have been apparent all the way back in 1965, but Minger still hasn’t caught up with this fact. Do you see the author of this one? His name is Hegsted. Hegsted says, “Dietary cholesterol is obviously an important variable in determining the serum cholesterol level.” Do you see the title of this study?

There you see it is reference number 10 in this editorial by Ancel Keys. It looks like he agreed with Hegsted. By 1995, Keys seemed to be warming up to the idea that dietary cholesterol wasn’t desirable.

We have yet to look into the basic charge being made against Keys by Minger and others. They say he cherry picked his data. We’ll see if that’s fair in Part 3.

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