I wish I could say I was shocked at the headlines from EurekAlert, but headlines like this have become so commonplace that I can longer feign being shocked.
Reading the first paragraph likewise sounds damning for high-fat diets, especially for women as the study suggest females have an unexpectedly higher (and thus worse) response. It isn’t until the second paragraph that you see the first mention that, oh by the way, we are talking about rats. Not actual humans. Rats. And not just any rats. These are rats that have been specifically bred to become hypertensive when ingesting high-salt diets.
What about the “food?” It wasn’t actually food. It was a rat-chow mix of lard, casein, maltodextrin, sucrose, methionine and choline. Doesn’t sound as appetizing as a nice steak with broccoli and butter.
The details of the study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, quite honestly are not that important. Rat studies may be an interesting place to start to formulate ideas for human studies. They should not, however, be promoted as evidence to act upon to change our lives.
In fact, the National Health Service in the UK was quick to point out the many problems with this study in its post, “Blood pressure warnings about the ‘keto diet’ may not apply to humans.” It was interesting to see this official body step in to essentially defend high-fat human diets from the media attention given to this study.
We wrote about this issue of misrepresenting mouse research previously, and we will continue to write about misleading media coverage of these rodent studies. If there are well-run human studies that replicate these findings, then we will also write about those to make sure our readers are well-informed. Until that day comes, keep your rat chow in the cabinet and pass the steak, please.
Thanks for reading,
Bret Scher MD FACC