The hidden truth behind Ancel Keys’ famous fat graph

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For a while, in the middle of the last century, there was a scientific struggle. Was fat or sugar to blame for cardiovascular disease? Ancel Keys was the champion of the first theory; Professor John Yudkin of the other. Keys won, but not all of the data he used to make his arguments was a fair representation of reality.

The left graph above was famously used sixty years ago by Keys, to support his idea that fat intake was responsible for heart disease. But as the right graph shows, the same data could just as easily have implicated sugar. Countries eating higher amounts of fat were simultaneously eating more sugar. It was just a question of what you were looking for.

Since that time, we’ve spent half a century fearing natural fat, and instead eating more carbs. At the same time, an epidemic of obesity and diabetes has occurred. Even though the association in the graph on the right can’t show cause-and-effect anymore than the graph on the left, it may be time to reconsider: maybe Yudkin was right.

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NYT: How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat

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7 comments

  1. Brett Graham
    Ancel Keyes did not cherry pick his data. If he did he could have cherry picked 6 different countries to better support his hypothesis. He even explained the reason for his choices; he chose the countries with the most reliable data.
    As to the graph on the right, it's data from 1969, not from 1953. And by the way, why are we waving this graph around like its some kind of victory for fat? Look at the data points; fat correlates better than sugar for CVD. So correlation doesn't equal causation except when it satisfies your biases?
  2. Richard Nikoley
    Wow. So cherry picked bias is bad if it's fat, but good if it's carbohydrate?
    Replies: #3, #5
  3. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    No. Cherry picking is always risky. Furthermore, I don't recommend basing diet advice on ecological studies of country data at all. :)

    Fortunately we have dozens of high-quality RCT studies these days:
    https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/science

  4. Paul Meyer
    Exactly my thought on ecological (observational studies).
  5. Apicius
    Seriously, Nikoley? There's a reason your blog is no longer on this site.
  6. Brian Throop
    The sad fact is Keys is responsible for countless deaths and misery for pushing invalid data.
  7. Charlotte Braun
    Another sad fact is that doctors believe whatever the pharmaceutical companies say😤And a lot of cancers come from spraying our crops and allowing hormones and antibiotics in animals!💀

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