The demonizing of Ancel Keys - Laying some groundwork.

My friend Seth over at Science of Nutrition blog (check it out!) wrote the following post:  FAT IN THE DIET AND MORTALITY FROM HEART DISEASE: A PLAGIARISTIC NOTE.  I encourage you to go read it, but it is long, so in case you don't have the time at the moment, let me summarize my take away.  It's quite a bit more complicated than this, but he lays out the case that a diverse group of people has essentially plagiarized Gary Taubes (from GCBC) .  

the left you have the infamous 6 or 7 countries version from Ancel Keys, on the right you have Yerushalmy & Hilleboe's data superimposed (I believe this is Uffe Ravnskov's version of things, I just hotlinked Seth's image).  This side by side is ubiquitous about the internet and all too often includes something resembling what Gary Taubes wrote in Good Calories, Bad Calories.  
Jacob Yerushalmy, who ran the biostatistics department at the University of California , Berkeley, and Herman Hilleboe, the New York State commissioner of health , coauthored a critique of Keys’s hypothesis , noting that Keys had chosen only six countries for his comparison though data were available for twenty-two countries. When all twenty-two were included in the analysis, the apparent link between fat and heart disease vanished. Keys had noted associations between heart-disease death rates and fat intake, Yerushalmy and Hilleboe pointed out, but they were just that.   {Kindle Loc 713-717}
I included that last line where Seth did not, because ... Oh the irony!!  But that blue bolded statement is the one that has been repeated around the world wide web several times more than the ample sampling in Seth's article.   While the correlation is nowhere near as tight in the graph on the right, Taubes' interpretation that the link "vanished" is an erroneous one.  An error that has been repeated repeatedly.  (I have included some further musings on this phenomenon, Taubes and my experiences to the end of this post so as to stay on point)

Denise Minger wrote an article about Ancel Keys and this topic as well:  The Truth About Ancel Keys: We’ve All Got It Wrong.  Needless to say, this didn't go over quite as well with the wider community as her take down of T.Colin Campbell.   Give it a read too!  For me, the pertinent part to this article is the impression all of this Six-Seven Whatever Countries repetitive finger-pointing has done is foster the erroneous impression that the entire Lipid Heart Hypothesis rests on the flimsiest of correlations that (a) didn't even exist, and (b) was advanced by a dishonest cherry picking scientist who fooled the world with his lies.

What brought on this interest in Ancel Keys?  Well, in addition to mangling the dietary habits of native Hawaiians, in a recent interview (no longer available), Dr. Cate Shanahan put her own spin on where the so-called "low fat lie" came from paraphrased in my tweet which I repeat here.
Apparently Cate didn't read GCBC, or she would know that Keys was:
“pretty ruthless” and not a likely winner of any “Mr. Congeniality” awards.  {GCBC KL 670}
Hardly going to charm your socks off I'd say!  But Keys' irrelevant looks and temperament aside, these articles and Shanahan's commentary encapsulate one of the ongoing nutritional myths -- That Keys is almost singularly responsible for the Lipid-Heart hypothesis, and that this was based solely on his cherry picked plot.  Furthermore, he -- by force or by charm -- rammed this down the throats of governments and the populace out of blinkered dogmatic belief.    There can be no doubt that Keys was central in advancing the hypothesis.  There can also be no doubt that the 6-or-7 countries had exceedingly little to do with why this hypothesis has endured in varying forms to this day.   All the research from that day forward ... because ... Keys.  Right?

As the title implies, I'm laying some groundwork here, especially in light of the new Big Fat Surprise nonsense from yet another "science" journalist, Nina Teicholz.  

Asides and such regarding the plagiarism angle:

Seth relates a story wherein his class got caught cheating due to a transcription error in the lecture notes the students shared.  From the other side of the lectern, I can say that there is no easier way to spot cheating than when the original source makes a mistake, because the odds of several students making the exact same mistake sitting in such close proximity is close to nil.   Somewhere in the now few hundred posts deep draft bin here I have a post discussing this phenomenon ... again ... yeah ... Gary Taubes.   I can think of two other topics where this has occurred, various versions of:  (1) you need carbs to store fat and (2) your fat is trapped in fat cells when insulin is even slightly elevated.   The first case is more of a circular referencing where the trail always leads to Taubes, the second is a misappropriation of Taubes' misrepresentation of the works of Yalow and Berson taking the words “only the negative stimulus of insulin deficiency” out of context.

Proper citations should be to the primary source of information.  In the cases Seth lists, there is no citation at all, therefore the term plagiarism applies.   Clearly these are not first-hand independent interpretations by various and several people.  Instead they are second-hand re-phrasings (sometimes verbatim copies) of Taubes' interpretation that fail to credit *their* primary source, which was Gary Taubes.  This is more than a nit pick here folks, there's a reason for this and that is demonstrated aptly by the wrecking ball of human nutritional research that is GCBC.  Taubes makes many "mistakes" that are perpetuated because most do not do the due diligence to read and evaluate the primary information for themselves.

There are several cases of this with popular memes in the IHC.  


Ramondelli said…
Just to add a lil more content -
Great series for more info on Keys.
Craig_in_CT said…
Some good material here for an academic study on the spread of mythology within a community of believers
Seth Yoder said…
Hey, a shout-out from CarbSane! Nice. Thanks!
Screennamerequired said…
Pretty easy to twist and distort history when Gary and his charisma realises that about 0.001 per cent of his audience isn't going to look into that history.

Do people seriously believe that low carb re enactment of history? Ancel keys was an evil villain who cherry picked a graph and completely brain washed the scientific community for the next 40 years?
Wuchtamsel said…
Yes, they believe that! It's just the same issue as with evolution denialism, global warming denialism and so on...
carbsane said…
Sisson as source of noise :-) Bahahaha
Wuchtamsel said…
Did Eades really mock a 100(!) year old man for his post-stroke looks, comparing him to a lifelong athlete and bodybuilder who even died at a younger age??? I just can't believe it, that must be the most disgraceful thing I have ever seen. Sorry, but Dr. Eades ist just a piece of shi* and this is absoultely evident and obvious now.
carbsane said…
Hey Seth! It's a great article.
carbsane said…
The comparison of Lalanne and Keys around 6:45 is pretty bizarre -- since Lalanne was an exercise guy, and certainly wouldn't have chastised Keys!

"Share Guide: That is what my favorite healing authority says, Dr. Andrew Weil. He believes in eating fish and dairy on top of the vegetarian diet--the vegaquarian diet.

Jack LaLanne: I use no milk of any kind. Anything that comes from a cow I don't eat.

Share Guide: You aren't eating nonfat yogurt with your fruit anymore?

Jack LaLanne: I may take one bite. Or a little skim milk once in a while is not going to hurt you. It isn't what you do once in a while that's a problem; it's what you do all the time. Look at the average American diet: ice cream, butter, cheese, whole milk, all this fat. People don't realize how much of this stuff you get by the end of the day. High blood pressure is from all this high-fat eating. Do you know how many calories are in butter and cheese and ice cream? Would you get your dog up in the morning for a cup of coffee and a donut? Probably millions of Americans got up this morning with a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a donut. No wonder they are sick and fouled up."

The man Eades is yucking it up with in the picture is Feinman. Feinman is not aging well from a physical stature stand point. Let's leave it at that!
charles grashow said…
Correct on the slouching part.
charles grashow said…
charles grashow said…
He is also starting to ban people from his blog and his twitter account. Evidently the "good" doctor cannot handle any criticism.
carbsane said…
My moist female eyes :)

Yes it's pretty disgusting the more you think about it.
carbsane said…
I'd say Feinman is around 70 here
charles grashow said…
Why not blame this on Keys as well?

Perhaps this is the reason for our problems
MacSmiley said…
Share Guide: In your book you mention that you were a vegetarian at one point for 6 years.

Jack LaLanne: I was a strict vegetarian. Then I decided to enter a Mr. America contest (which I won) and in those days they thought that in order to build muscle you had to have meat. So I ate meat for a while.

Share Guide: Why did you stop being a strict vegetarian?

Jack LaLanne: In those days everybody was saying that you had to eat meat to build muscle, so I went on a meat thing for awhile. NowI only eat fish--no chicken, no turkey, just fish. I get all my protein from fish and egg whites.
MacSmiley said…
How old is he now?
Hello_I_Love_You said…
If anyone needs a backcruncher, it's Feinman. Check out the slouch on him, which makes his paunch look worse. He should ask Dr. Tom O'Bryan to crack his back.
Hello_I_Love_You said…
My favorite astrologer, Jenny Ruhl, claims that Eades confessed to treating his long-term patients with T3 medications then clammed up. Apparently, he's done a better job than Bernstein in covering this up.

"A decline in T3 is a known effect of low carb diets on some people. The Eades used to discuss it on their web page a decade ago, then they removed it, and when asked about it, said they had never said it. I double checked at the time , and found the old version page on The Wayback Machine web site where they reported treating some of their low carb diet patietns with T3.

Dr. Bernstein reports the slowing of thyroid function too, but insists it is from autoimmune thyroid disease, however as I have no autoimmune disease and definitely experienced a metabolic slowdown after 3 years of very low carb dieting, my money is on it being an effect of the body perceiving the ketogenic state as being starvation."
charles grashow said…
Ian East said…
Another myth that keeps cropping up in the low-car community is the

Vilhjalmur Stefansson meat study. But no one seems to read it. More full of holes than a Swiss cheese, particularly as Stefansson was a con man and blagger of the first order, rather than the hero explorer low-carb authors assume that he was. And one of the three guys that started on the trial dropped out. I would love to see you get your teeth into that ridiculous study one day and demolish a further key piece of the scripture.
charles grashow said…
From the "great" Ron Rosedale

"The way you control blood lipids is by controlling insulin. We won’t
go into a lot of detail, but we now know that LDL cholesterol comes in several fractions, and it is the small, dense LDL that plays the largest role in initiating plaque. It’s the most oxidizable. It is the most able to actually fit through the small cracks in the endothelium. And that’s the one that insulin actually raises the most. When I say insulin, I should say insulin resistance. It is insulin resistance that is causing this.

Cells become insulin resistant because they are trying to protect
themselves from the toxic effects of high insulin. They down regulate their receptor activity and number of receptors so that they don’t have to listen to that noxious stimuli all the time. It is like having this loud, disgusting rap music played and you want to turn the volume down. You might think of insulin resistance as like sitting in a smelly room and pretty soon you don’t smell it anymore because you get desensitized. It’s like you are starting to go deaf and your are telling others to speak up because you can’t hear them, so if I was your pancreas, I would just start talking louder, and what does that do to your hearing? You would become deafer."

"So where do carbohydrates come in? They don’t. There is no essential need for carbohydrates. SO why are we all eating carbohydrates? To keep the rate of aging up, we don’t want to pay social security to everyone..

I didn’t say you can’t have any carbs, I said fiber is good. Vegetables are great, I want you to eat vegetables. The practical aspect of it is that you are going to get carbs, but there is no essential need. The traditional Eskimo diet for most of the year subsists on almost no vegetables at all, but they get their vitamins from organ meats and things like eyeball which are a delicacy, or were. So, you don’t really need it, but sure, vegetables are good for you and you should eat them. They are part of the diet that I would recommend, and that is where you’ll get your vitamin C.

Fruit is a mixed blessing. You can divide food on a continuum. There are some foods that I really can’t say anything good about since there is no reason really to recommend them. And the other end of the spectrum are foods that are totally essential, like:
Hello_I_Love_You said…
The left graph has a correlation of 90%+, the right graph around 75%, which is reasonable given that, everything else being equal, high fat consumption could be one of many factors in CVD. 50% correlation means zero relationship, a horizontal line running through the scatter. What the right graph shows is there is some correlation but there are other variables. But the opposite is not true: high fat consumption is totally unrelated to CVD = this is what Taubes and his plagiarizers claim, but this is false.

Why would % fat correlate to some degree with CVD? Probably because high fat consumption is a marker of an industrialized economy that has increased the production scale of animal husbandry. When you industrialize, you increase the % of processed foods in your diet. But animal fat content also increases at the same rate in Europe, Oz, and in North America, where dairy, eggs, and meats have been staple foods for centuries. Industrialization makes distribution of such animal fat sources easier, and mass production lower the prices of such foods. You can't really have high fat % in developing countries or in countries like Japan, which are mainly grain-eating countries. Such countries drink dairy sparingly and animal foods like eggs, redmeat, pork and poultry as a much smaller proportion of their diet. Industrialization in such countries would not increase fat % at the same rate as the wealth effect.

In fact, that's exactly what the second graph shows: a complex but understandable picture of fat consumption and how it relates to industrialization, food traditions, and the interplay with the mass production of processed foods that arises with when food technology improves. Given all these factors, fat content does play some role. The reason is it captures the increasing % of processed foods in certain countries.
charles grashow said…

"We now spend a much bigger share of our grocery money on processed foods, which includes things like frozen dinners, canned soups and snacks. We spend much less on meat, largely because meat is much cheaper than it was 30 years ago."
charles grashow said…
charles grashow said…
Alan Smithee said…
I got banned from Eades' blog a long time ago. I believe the "final straw" was asking why he would speak about the 25 egg a day guy having "no cholesterol problems" when cholesterol is supposedly irrelevant to heart disease anyway.
Alan Smithee said…
If many people are "plagiarizing" Taubes for repeating his accounting of Keys/Y&H, then many people including you, Denise Minger, and The Science Of Nutrition are plagiarizing Plant Positive. Because he was the first to point out the low carbers' lies about Ancel Keys, such as confusing the Seven Countries Study with his 1953 paper, claiming the correlation between fat and heart disease "vanished" in Y&H's 22 countries graph, failing to note the stronger correlation between animal protein and heart disease in said data set, etc. I don't understand why you keep ignoring his site, CarbSane. The realities of modern animal food production too much for you to bear?
MacSmiley said…
Another reason for there being less than a complete association of total dietary fat and CVD is that not all fats cause the same level of damage. In fact, unsaturated fats seem to be protective. Y&H's criticism of Keys was what caused him to take a closer look at saturated fat's stronger correlation.
Screennamerequired said…
Speaking of ice-cream, milk, butter and cheese. Do you have any plans of blogging on the stupidity of the "Peat" diet?

Those are apparently health foods to him.
Screennamerequired said…
Yep. You can complain about his bias all day long but he has put a remarkable amount of time into his research and caught a lot of the lowcarb/paleo crew with their pants down several times. It's a pity that so many of the people that would benefit from having a look into his work put their blinders up and refuse to watch it.
Imagine someone who wouldn't know anything about Keys. They do a basic search and come across some video on YouTube regarding the WWII military rations. And then they come across one of the top comments about how Keys should be burning in hell, and after that, the bias is already set in motion. Hell, this would be the point where one could defer to that meme you had posted about arguing over the internet and the special olympics. Lol.

"Greetings, face! Meet thy nose that hath been cut so that it may spite--nay, smite thee!"
carbsane said…
This is a rather interesting comment. I'm plagiarizing a source I ignore? How can that be?

I don't think you understand the term. Two or several people arriving at the same conclusions at different times in space and/or sharing those in different realms does not plagiarism make.

I'd never seen that video before. I realize PP has given me props, and I've stated on a few occasions that he has good points to make. More than that? Not really the focus of his blog.
charles grashow said…
Are you Plant Positive??
rudyInLA said…
Gary has charisma? Huh.....never seen it.
rudyInLA said…
Charles I don't know how you find all these relevant links but I sure appreciate them. I just noticed on the Fat***d website you have caused a bit of a show stopper when you asked Jaminet about total LDL being bad and he said yes. Some fancy tightrope balancing now necessary by Tom. It's still up in the air Tom? Really? REALLY?!?! With a straight face he says this! He'll be getting a stern phone call from JM. NO FRISBEE GAME FOR YOU TOM!
charles grashow said…
Paul is pretty clear on that

Charles Grashow: If LDL-P increases isn’t that bad regardless of the particle size? Larger particles can still get thru the endothelium and become oxidized it just might take longer.

Yes. The LDL particles get oxidized in the bloodstream and then taken up by white blood cells, activating inflammation and potentially turning them into “foam cells” and assisting formation of atherosclerotic plaques. Endotoxemia (influx of endotoxins from the gut) is usually the biggest driver of LDL particle oxidation. More LDL particles and more endotoxins = more oxLDL reaching white blood cells = more inflammation and faster plaque formation.
rudyInLA said…
Yes, it's Tom that is now vacillating. In fact, his denials aside, he is no longer a fanatical LC advocate. He might disagree but look at this. As usual, if pasting this Fat***d conversation link is not allowed! please delete as necessary.

Firebird7478 says:
May 14, 2014 at 9:11 pm
Tom, how do you feel after that Mexican meal? We have a really good diner down the road from me that serves authentic Mexican food with $5 burritos and $10 Mexican egg platters that are insanely good, but I haven’t eaten there in 3-4 years since going really low carb. I really don’t have cravings for any of it, but have thought once in a while to stop in and at least get a couple of tacos.


Tom Naughton says:
May 15, 2014 at 7:52 am
I feel fine after the meal. I usually order fajitas, so still heavy on the meat. The high-carb part is refried beans, some corn chips and a couple of beers. There’s rice on the plate, but like I said before, I find rice too bland to be appealing, so I give that to Alana. She likes rice.


Boundless says:
May 18, 2014 at 7:09 am
> … some corn chips …

I’ve given up on corn entirely, and wrote up why at:
WFF: Corn (aka Maize, and including Teosinte),906.0.html

~~~~fully delusional~~~~~~~~
charles grashow said…

Lessons for Science from the Seven Countries Study
35-Year Collaborative Experience in Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology

Ancel Keys M.D., Hironori Toshima M.D., Yoshinori Koga M.D., Henry Blackburn M.D.
Serum Total Cholesterol and Long-term Coronary Heart Disease Mortality in Different CulturesTwenty-five—Year Follow-up of the Seven Countries Study
Sue Staltari said…
But don't they still say (Rosedale did) that the low T3 is not something to be worried about as a low-carber - like revs in a car! You just rev lower.
Rosie May said…
He's done some of the best debunking of paleo, low carb and Weston A Price out there and debunked some of the supposed debunkers from the paleo side as well, I think his craftsmanship in putting those series together is second to none.
Some say his delivery is monotonous but I prefer him to Taubes any day, Taubes could send a glass eye to sleep.
carbsane said…
"Taubes could send a glass eye to sleep."


It's pretty funny when a filtered monotone beats out Taubes ;-)

I'm not dismissing him, and I have no issues with folks linking to him here in the comments. His work is just not on my priority list.
Hello_I_Love_You said…
Rosedale says that but that is not really an argument. First, low T3 is one of many hormonal and immune dysfunctions potentially arising from VLCing, i.e., self-induced starvation. Low T3 is basically a euthyroid state that gives rise to cold hands, low body temperature, and other symptoms of apparent hypothyroidism without pushing your TSH far out of the reference range. That state could progress to subclinical hypothyroidism and then to full-blown hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's. Plus, low T3 masks immune deficiency, i.e., starvation-induced immunodeficiency which can lead to breaches of mucosal immunity, infections, food sensitivities, and full-blown autoimmunity.

Rosedale dropped the ball big time. He got on the leptin bandwagon and felt lowering leptin would control appetite since it trumps insulin and will induce satiety. What he missed is that his high fat / low protein diet can induce leptin deficiency, which could potentially have more deleterious effect on the hormone-immune axis than metabolic syndrome. He knows this now because research on leptin deficiency and immune dysfunction started coming out in 2012. No one in the VLC camp is saying anything about this. You'll need a crowbar to pry this out of Rosedale. Eades and Bernstein are ignorant when it comes to leptin, so they're clueless; they're more concerned about T3 and hypothyroidism, since they've been on record saying their patients are ravaged by low T3. (And Paleo morons are focusing only on hypothyroidism and missing the entire immune-hormone angle.) They all have some inkling, however, this systemic hormonal and immune dysfunction, if ever documented carefully, could destroy VLCing for good. That's why the understandable strategy is to play dumb (Rosedale), be in denial (Eades) or blame it on diabetes (Bernstein).
Sue Staltari said…
Thank you for the explanation.
carbsane said…
Yeah charisma is definitely the wrong word for Gary's delivery ... it's not just telling them what they want to hear either. He has a certain je ne sais quoi . In the science realm he says x, y and z that are indisputably true and basically gains the readers trust and admiration ... then when he hits you with the elemenohpee, you don't realize it's total bullshit.

PP's voice is filtered. I only say that cuz it bugs me. Remember one video where the filter went out for like 5 seconds? I'd rather listen to his real voice. I'm pretty sure why he does it. Can't say as I blame him. Still bugs me ;-)
Screennamerequired said…
His voice does differ from video to video. But let's not forget, this is one guy doing an exponential amount of research in his own free time just to debunk some paleo gibberish. He has released over 100 videos that really give the paleo guru's a smackdown. I'm sure you can find some errors in all his video's but it's a shame they are being ignored.
Sanjeev Sharma said…
>Gary and his charisma

lemme[0] fix that for you

Gary and his charisn'tma

[0] me and Terry Pratchett that is
Sanjeev Sharma said…
Gary T follows and gives slightly different advice to his fans than he gave Stephan:

To Stephan: find populations that refute your ideas

For himself and fans:

1 find populations
2 lie
Sanjeev Sharma said…
(you caught me: number 1 is redundant ... it's a fair cop)
Hello_I_Love_You said…
This is how a typical, aging one-trick pony fades away. The only trick he knows is keeping carbs low, which he thinks will prevent insulin resistance. And the only hormone he knows is leptin, and only one aspect of leptin at that -- inducing satiety.

These one-trick ponies usually surround themselves with fawning sycophants and a daisy chain network. So they travel in incestuous circles where everyone quotes and regurgitates one another. Their idea of cross-pollination is debating the merits of intermittent ketosis versus constant ketosis.

You can be assured, when new research regarding intestinal gluconeogenesis or the immune function of hormones and gut microbes get published, you won't hear pipsqueak from these aging one-trick ponies. They'll gradually fade away, holding onto their few patients, and licking their wounds and cold hands. Unless their patients wise up and decide to file lawsuits that will their pierce their corporate veil.
carbsane said…
Where I'm driving to with all of his is that I have yet to see mention of his most seminal work of all. Maybe by the weekend :D

Even if I don't agree with an entire analysis, I do like to encourage folks to read it. Mostly my take away was that even with all 22, that correlation becomes weaker but not non-existent.

I am probably the only person in the IHC who hasn't read her T.Colin Campbell work.
Richard Arppe said…

have you read Healthy Longevity's 2-piece take on Denine's book. Excellent review of Denise's denialism and amateurish mistakes.

Screennamerequired said…
His work is debunking the gibberish of the paleo bro's. which is similar to what you do. I highly recommend watching more of his video's. I don't think anyone has done it better if you watch enough of his content
carbsane said…
I just realized he has transcripts on his site with the videos. I prefer to read rather than listen most of the time anyway.
Wait, wait, wait...

Are you global warming?