The Truth About Ancel Keys: We’ve All Got It Wrong

(Note: This post was inspired by the “Ancel Keys” section in a recent series of paleo-challenging YouTube videos, which I may critique in the future. The anonymous videomaker “Plant Positive” highlighted some important misconceptions about Keys and his research that I’d like to broadcast to a larger audience, but didn’t address some equally important points tangled in the Keys saga, and likewise made some arguments I believe are incomplete or misleading. This blog post is an attempt to address those misconceptions in a more balanced and thorough way, and provide a broader context for how we view the infamous Mr. Keys.)

This is one of those “gotta bust me some myths no matter where they come from” blog posts. And by that, I mean I’m about to challenge a story that’s been so well-circulated among paleo, low carb, and real-food communities that most of us have filed it away in a little brain-folder called “Things We Never Have to Question Because They’re So Ridiculously True.”

I’m talking about the late, great Ancel Keys, and his equally late (but maybe not as great) role in the history of heart disease research. The oft-repeated tale goes something like this:

Once upon a time, a scientist named Ancel Keys did an awful thing. He published a study about different countries that made it look like heart disease was associated with fat intake. But the truth was that he started out with 22 countries and just tossed out the ones that didn’t fit his hypothesis! When other researchers analyzed his data using all the original countries, the link between fat and heart disease totally vanished. Keys was a fraud, and he’s the reason my mom made me eat skim milk and Corn Chex for breakfast instead of delicious bacon and eggs. LET HIS SOUL BURN. BURN! BUUUUUURN!

Depending on who tells the story, some of the details (and wishes for eternal hellfire) may differ. But in many cases, Keys’ infamous cherry-picking is attributed to his Seven Countries Study, a landmark project that helped sculpt our common beliefs about fat. Even the Seven Countries Study page on Wikipedia—the first hit when you Google “Seven Countries Study”—says that Keys shamelessly erased the data he didn’t like:

The study began with a great many more countries … but Keys deleted the countries whose results did not match his pre-conceived conclusions, leaving him with only Japan, Italy, Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the US. Full disclosure would have made a great deal of difference.

Ditto for the page on Ancel Keys himself:

Keys collected data on deaths from coronary heart disease and fat consumption from 22 countries. Despite the fact that 22 countries provided statistics, Keys cherry-picked the data from the 7 countries which supported his theory that animal fat was the main cause of coronary heart disease in order to publicize his opinions. The results of what later became known as the “Seven Countries Study” appeared to show that serum cholesterol was strongly related to coronary heart disease mortality both at the population and at the individual level.

…And we all know Wikipedia would never lead us astray. Other big-hitters in the nutrition blogosphere have repeated this version as well, dismissing the Seven Countries Study as manipulated bias, and claiming Keys’ theory fell apart once some discarded countries were added back in—making it all the more troubling that the study became so influential.

This, we’re told, is Keys’ cherry-picked graph:

The upward curve of doom.

And this, we’re told, is the graph with all 22 countries and a diminished fat-and-heart-disease association:

And this, we’re told, is the man who ruined the world:

Unfortunately, reality sometimes infringes on the things we’d prefer to consider “facts.” This is one such occasion.

The Truth:

  • Ancel Keys did not drop any countries from the Seven Countries Study. His most famous graph—the first one up above—is from a different paper he presented at a World Health Organization (WHO) conference in 1955. The Seven Countries Study didn’t even launch until 1958, and entailed much more than just plopping numbers into a pretty curve. (That said, the Seven Countries Study had plenty of problems too; some are mentioned on this site.)
  • Contrary to popular belief, the cherry-picked graph didn’t convince everyone that fat was evil. In fact, Keys was pretty much ridiculed for the weakness of his fat/heart disease theory by other scientists at the WHO meeting, and whenever his graph was cited in medical journals later on, it was usually paired with some criticism. Although Keys’ work definitely shaped our current beliefs about fat, this graph didn’t exactly take the world by storm. (More on this later.)
  • When all 22 countries were analyzed, the association between fat and heart disease did not go away. It actually remained statistically significant (meaning it probably wasn’t due to chance). And to make matters worse, the paper frequently cited as a “rebuttal” to Keys shows pretty clearly that animal protein had an even stronger association with heart disease than total fat did. The China Study was right all along! Time to go vegan, you guys. (Just kidding. But this part is the most interesting of all, and we’ll examine it in excruciating depth in a moment.)

Although some of his saga has been misconstrued, Keys was still far from perfect—and his eventual role in demonizing saturated fats (while glorifying polyunsaturated fats) has led us down an unfortunate road. My goal is neither to nudge Mr. Keys into sainthood nor to perpetuate his villain status—only to lay out the history and data as objectively as possible.

Here’s the more detailed scoop.

The six-country graph

Let’s look at this sucker again—smaller now, to symbolize its diminished importance (and to ease the burden of scrolling):

Keys published this graph in 1953 in a paper called called “Atherosclerosis: A problem in newer public health” (which is apparently so brilliant that neither the abstract nor full text is allowed to exist online). It was simple, really: he graphed fat consumption alongside heart disease mortality in men from six different countries—and voila! The data points landed in a tidy little line. Keys first unveiled his Wonder Curve to a handful of people at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, but his most famous presentation was at that WHO conference a few years later.

Curiously, instead of rolling around on the floor possessed by fat-phobia demons, his WHO audience reacted with skepticism. One report says another researcher challenged Keys to describe his “best piece of evidence” for the diet-heart idea, and effectively squashed Keys’ argument with his Oxford-educated debate tactics. As a result, poor Keys never got to show all the WHOs down in WHOville the full reasoning behind his theory, and left the conference rather defeated. (At least he didn’t steal Christmas.)

But the debate humiliation was small potatoes compared to what came next. In 1957, Jacob Yerushalmy and Herman Hilleboe—Berkeley statistician and New York State Commissioner of Health, respectively, who’d both attended the WHO meeting with Keys—wrote a scathing critique of Keys’ beloved graph. Their paper was titled “Fat in the diet and mortality from heart disease: A methodological note.” This, my friends, is the rebuttal that gets cited near and far as proof of Keys’ fraudulence, and is the source of that “original 22 countries” graph we saw a bit ago.

It’s a pretty good paper, almost clairvoyantly identifying problems that would plague epidemiology for decades to come. And like most pretty good papers, I can’t link to it for free anywhere online. Which means I’ll be screen-shotting excessively from a copy Peter at Hyperlipid kindly sent me a few months ago. (Thanks, Peter!)

It starts out with a nugget of wisdom about “indirect” studies (e.g., playing connect-the-dots with observational data):

It is well known that the indirect method merely suggests that there is an association between the characteristics studied and mortality rates and, further, that no matter how plausible such an association may appear, it is not in itself proof of a cause-effect relationship. But quotation and repetition of the suggestive association soon creates the impression that the relationship is truly valid, and ultimately it acquires status as a supporting link in a chain of presumed proof.

True that, Yerushalmy and Hilleboe. True. That. But I realize we’re not here for wisdom nuggets; we’re here to learn the truth about Ancel Keys and his picking of cherries. Here’s where the paper gets interesting:

Since no information is given by Keys on how or why the six countries were selected [for his graph], it is necessary to investigate the association between dietary fat and heart disease mortality in all countries for which information is available.

That’s right, folks. At the time he made his six-country graph, Keys actually had access to a much larger database of food intake and mortality statistics for 22 countries. Why he chose only six will forever remain one of life’s great mysteries.

And thusly, we’re presented with this. The graph with all the original countries in their non-manipulated glory. Drumroll, please. (For purposes of suspense and unbridled excitement, pretend you didn’t already see this graph a few minutes ago.) Here we have…

…a less defined, but existent upward trend. Yeah, it’s still there.

But wait! Wasn’t this graph supposed to demolish the association between fat intake and heart disease among the 22 countries? Aren’t we told that was the epic discovery of this paper? Yerushalmy and Hilleboe concede that although Keys’ six countries “greatly exaggerated the importance of the association,” the full graph still shows that there’s “some association in the conventional sense between the two variables.” And as we’ll see shortly, that “some association” was actually quite large—a statistically significant r-value of 0.59 (p < 0.02), which is pretty hefty in math-speak.

So here’s what we’ve got so far:

  1. Keys cherry-picked six countries and never told us why.
  2. The cherry-picking was shameful and terrible and unscientific, but the fat/heart disease association among his six countries was also present in the full set of data. Keys didn’t just make it up.

I’m not going to pat Keys on the back for deliberately choosing countries to make his case look stronger, but in terms of historical accuracy, we can’t say that he actually lied. His biggest error, in fact, had less to do with data-deletion and more to do with tunnel vision. Along with failing to explore reasons why fat might be linked to heart disease in a non-causal way, it seems Keys had his eyes locked so tightly on his lovely lipids that he didn’t notice the role of other dietary factors.

And indeed, this is where Yerushalmy and Hilleboe really hammer the heck out of Keys (he could surely never open a door again). In their paper, they explain that—in order to gauge whether the fat-heart disease relationship is really noteworthy—we also have to look at the relationship between heart disease and other elements of diet. Is fat as a category really the strongest link? Certain subsets of fat? A different macronutrient altogether? What’s the deal?

Luckily, the paper supplies us with a chart answering those very questions, using the same data Keys drew from. Apologies for the crookedness of it all. (Edit: A huge thank-you to Tynan Smith for removing said crookedness and emailing me the improved version below!)

There’s a lot going on here, so for now, let’s just look at that first column that says B-26. That’s neither a vitamin nor a rock band: it’s the official classification for “arteriosclerotic and degenerative heart disease,” which is the mortality category Keys used in his six-country graph.

To make it a little easier to prune through, here’s the B-26 column typed out. Values higher than about 0.43 (or less than -0.43) are considered statistically significant, meaning the association is very likely to be valid and not just due to random chance. Positive numbers indicate a positive correlation—heart disease goes up hand-in-hand with the food variable. Negative numbers indicate an inverse correlation—heart disease goes down as the food variable goes up.

  • Total calories: 0.723
  • Total calories from fat: 0.659
  • Total calories from animal fat: 0.684
  • Total calories from vegetable fat: -0.236
  • Total calories from protein: 0.709
  • Total calories from animal protein: 0.756
  • Total calories from vegetable protein: -0.430
  • Total calories from carbohydrate: 0.305
  • Percent of calories from fat: 0.587
  • Percent of calories from animal fat: 0.677
  • Percent of calories from vegetable fat: -0.468
  • Percent of calories from protein: 0.172
  • Percent of calories from animal protein: 0.643
  • Percent of calories from vegetable protein: -0.651
  • Percent of calories from carbohydrate: -0.562

No use in beating around the bush. After statistic-ifying all 22 countries, Yerushalmy and Hilleboe found that not only was “fat as percent of total calories” still associated with heart disease (r = 0.59), but animal fat was clearly driving that correlation. In fact, plant fat had a negative association with heart disease (-0.47) while animal fat was uber positive (0.68). And to rub salt into the wounds of omnivores everywhere, the animal protein/plant protein division was equally stark: animal protein as a percent of total calories had a correlation of 0.64 with heart disease, while plant protein had an inverse correlation of -0.65.

In number-free language, this means the countries eating more animal foods were—as a general trend—reporting more deaths from heart disease.

As with any observational data, this doesn’t tell us diddly squat about cause and effect. Drawing correlations between countries is particularly risky because of massive confounding that’s almost impossible to account for. But if we’re going to be honest about these specific numbers, a heart disease/animal food relationship is very much there.

Oh, the irony. The fat Keys focused on for his 1953 graph was basically a reflection of meat and dairy. We’ve lambasted him for not using all the available data, but if he had, he might’ve turned his “correlation is causation” laser-gaze onto animal foods and plumb gone vegan.

Come join us, Ancel.

In fact, the relationship with heart disease and animal foods rather than “fat as a percent of total calories” becomes even more obvious when we improve the data a bit. Yerushalmy and Hilleboe—those perceptive fellas—note that the countries with the lowest rates of “death from arteriosclerosis and degenerative heart disease” had suspiciously high rates of “death from other diseases of the heart” (or B-27, if you want to get fancy):

Odd, oui? Yerushalmy and Hilleboe offer the most logical reason:

…unless there is a reasonable explanation for the high rates in these countries in this less definitive group of “other diseases of the heart,” it may be safer to operate on the assumption that in these three countries [Chile, Mexico, and France] some deaths from arteriosclerotic and degenerative heart disease are being recorded under the broad group of “other diseases of the heart.”

Indeed, classifying heart disease deaths was pretty inconsistent in the mid-1900s—and even today, “death coding” practices vary widely between countries. To get a more accurate picture, Yerushalmy and Hilleboe recommend combining the “death from arteriosclerotic and degenerative heart disease” with “other diseases of the heart,” instead of using only B-26 like Keys did. And when we do that, our correlations shift a bit. Here’s the “B-26 + B-27” column from two charts ago:

  • Total calories: 0.593
  • Total calories from fat: 0.470
  • Total calories from animal fat: 0.562
  • Total calories from vegetable fat: -0.282
  • Total calories from protein: 0.694
  • Total calories from animal protein: 0.695
  • Total calories from vegetable protein: -0.153
  • Total calories from carbohydrate: 0.423
  • Percent of calories from fat: 0.390
  • Percent of calories from animal fat: 0.557
  • Percent of calories from vegetable fat: -0.509
  • Percent of calories from protein: 0.465
  • Percent of calories from animal protein: 0.608
  • Percent of calories from vegetable protein: -0.483
  • Percent of calories from carbohydrate: -0.386

Nearly all the correlations got weaker, but Keys’ favorite variable—”percent of calories from fat”—dropped off into statistical-insignificance land. Animal fat and protein, however, remained strongly associated with heart disease deaths. (Gasp shock horror!)

(Note: Even though adding “other diseases of the heart” to the mix probably gives a better picture of heart disease trends, it’s quite possible—maybe inevitable—that the mortality data is still skewed for some of the “healthiest” looking countries. A WHO paper called “Miscoding and misclassification of ischaemic heart disease mortality” (PDF) points out that countries like Japan, France, and Portugal have historically been “high ill-defined coders,” meaning they dump a large portion of heart disease deaths into the wrong category. This is typically because of insufficient diagnostic methods (especially for low-income countries), local medical practices (such as Japan’s tendency to write off coronary heart disease as “heart failure”), or simple physician error. Interestingly, the WHO paper also notes that the apparent rise in heart disease as countries become “more developed” is probably due to better classification on death certificates rather than an actual increase in the disease.)

But the story’s not over yet, folks.

Yerushalmy and Hilleboe ramp it up a notch by posing the question: “How does fat (and by extension, animal food variables) relate to other causes of death?” We’ve seen what happens with heart disease, but there are certainly many other ways for the human body to perish. Are the folks eating more fat, animal fat, and animal protein generally dropping faster than their more plant-focused counterparts?

Time for another table. Omnivores, wipe away your tears. Vegans, put away your kazoos. The playing field’s about to change.

Let’s look, first, at that middle column—deaths from everything other than diseases of the heart. Notice a pattern?

  • Total calories: -0.530
  • Total calories from fat: -0.674
  • Total calories from animal fat: -0.466
  • Total calories from vegetable fat: 0.296
  • Total calories from protein: -0.398
  • Total calories from animal protein: –0.505
  • Total calories from vegetable protein: 0.452
  • Total calories from carbohydrate: 0.172
  • Percent of calories from fat: -0.657
  • Percent of calories from animal fat: –0.481
  • Percent of calories from vegetable fat: -0.090
  • Percent of calories from protein: -0.080
  • Percent of calories from animal protein: -0.405
  • Percent of calories from vegetable protein: 0.521
  • Percent of calories from carbohydrate: 0.671

We’re basically staring at the reverse image of that earlier heart disease chart. Fat now has the strongest negative association with mortality out of any variable—a whopping -0.674 for “total calories from fat” and -0.657 for “percentage of calories from fat” (highlighted in purple). Animal fat and animal protein, but not plant fat or plant protein, are also strongly negatively associated with non-heart-disease mortality. You may notice, too, that the folks with a higher percent of calories from carbohydrate had the greatest mortality in this age range.

Even if we look at the first column for “death from all causes”—which is a little less impressive, because none of the numbers reach statistical significance—we see that all of the animal food correlations are negative. The only positive correlations, weak as they may be, are with plant protein and carbohydrates.

The results are clear. When we look at “non-cardiac deaths,” it’s the folks eating more animal fat and animal protein who are stayin’ alive. And when we look at overall mortality, animal foods sure don’t seem like stealthy killers.

Out of curiosity, I tried graphing the life expectancy for the countries in 1950 against their fat intake to see what would happen. Considering that the bulk of each nation’s fat intake came from animal sources, plotting animal food against life expectancy would probably turn out similar. (Life expectancy data taken from EarthTrends.)

Although the dots are pretty scattered when fat intake is below 25% of calories, the trend becomes unmistakable once that number passes 30%: countries with higher average fat intake had the longest life expectancies.

But does any of this—the life expectancy graph and the “death from other causes” table—prove that eating more fat and animal foods makes you live longer, or eating more carbohydrates makes you die sooner? Heck to the no. Same goes for interpreting the animal food/heart disease relationship in this data as a reason to go veggie. Yerushalmy and Hilleboe explain precisely why we shouldn’t assign a cause-and-effect relationship to anything we’ve seen so far (emphasis mine):

Table IV shows that fat calories and animal protein calories, which were seen above to be positively associated with heart disease, are here negatively associated with noncardiac diseases. A … plausible explanation is that the dietary components which according to the rank correlation coefficients appeared to be positively related to heart disease are indices of the various countries. That is, it may be that the amount of fat and protein available for consumption is an index of a country’s development, industrially, nutritionally, medically, and no doubt in other respects as well.

Bingo. Intake of fat and protein—particularly from animal sources—is usually a proxy for a country’s development. These foods goes hand-in-hand with other features specific to industrialization, making their relationship with disease likely to be confounded. Continuing on:

It may also be that countries with more abundant diet are more high developed and diagnostic acumen is greater. Hence, it is possible that in some of the countries in which less protein and fat are available, a certain percentage of deaths from arteriosclerotic and degenerative heart disease are recorded under the non cardiac groupings.

Bingo again. As we saw in the WHO paper I referenced earlier (PDF), diagnostic patterns vary tremendously between countries. This paper even points out that the countries with the highest apparent rates of coronary heart disease often have the most valid death classifications as well. In fact, if we X-out the countries with the worst track record for classifying heart disease and circle the countries whose accuracy was nearly perfect, our 22-country graph looks pretty striking. (Mexico gets an X because it didn’t even have a death-certificate system until the late 1950s (hat tip to Plant Positive for noting this on his Primitive Nutrition videos). Ceylon/Sri Lanka and Chile—numbers 4 and 5 at the bottom—aren’t mentioned in the WHO paper one way or another, but I imagine they deserve some Xs too.)

Keep in mind that the WHO paper looks at mortality data for the ’70s through ’90s, while the graph above uses mortality data from 1948 and 1949. It’s possible that some of the countries improved their death-classifying practices in the decades between, so this graph should be taken with a grain of salt. Especially if you have low blood pressure.

But back to Yerushalmy and Hilleboe for a moment because they’re so awesome:

Moreover, as Table IV shows, there are appreciable negative correlation coefficients between dietary components and death rates from B-45 (“senility, ill-defined and unknown causes”). The latter category may be considered a rough index of the accuracy of cause of death certification in the different countries. The negative association with protein and fat is further evidence of the non-“specificity” of the presumed association.

Indeed, if we glance at that third column from a couple graphs ago (click here to open it in a new window so you don’t get lost in scrolling-limbo), we’ll see that animal food variables have strong inverse associations with this death category, while the plant food variables have strong positive associations with it. Senility, ill-defined, and unknown causes are the equivalent of a doctor saying “Gee, I dunno why this person died so I’ll just file them away under one of these vague, essentially meaningless categories!” Such a scenario is much more likely in an under-developed area with shoddy medical care than an industrialized country with more diagnostic precision.

I wanted to explore this issue even further, so I dug up some data for each country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in 1950. This is the measure of a country’s economic output divided by the population, and is a pretty good way to estimate standard of living. (Numbers taken from NationMaster; Israel and Ceylon/Sri Lanka are omitted because I couldn’t find their data from this year.)

So there we have it: more kindle for the idea that fat intake generally reflects a nation’s economic status and level of industrialization, and is hence vulnerable to confounding. (Or maybe correlation really is causation, and inhaling sticks of butter will make your country richer! Only one way to find out…)

One final, super-important point that could quite possibly render everything else useless: The diet data for our 22 countries comes from F.A.O. food balance sheets—which show how much food was available for consumption in each country, rather than how much food was actually consumed. If this sounds like a totally weird and unreliable way to measure what people eat, that’s because it is. Yerushalmy and Hilleboe explain the problem further:

These indices were constructed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations from statistics on production, imports, exports, and on the proportion of available food used for purposes other than human nutrition. The underlying data are stated by F.A.O. to be subject to great limitations. Moreover, there are no doubt great differences in food “scraps” in the various countries compared. For example, it is highly probable that far more edible dietary fat is thrown into waste cans in the United States than in less fortunate countries.
Dur. Although this doesn’t mean the data for the 22 countries is bogus, it does mean the fat intake (as well as total calories) for wealthier nations may be overestimated. Maybe by a lot. Indeed, there’s a strong connection between how abundant food is and how much of it we waste.

That about covers it for the Yerushalmy and Hilleboe paper. Isn’t it neat that we just did a deeper analysis of the 1950s data than Keys himself probably did? Here’s a summary of the major points in case your eyes glazed over for any of that:

  • Yep, Keys picked some cherries—but a link between fat intake and heart disease mortality existed among all 22 countries, not just his six-country graph. And as Yerushalmy and Hilleboe’s paper revealed, the real force behind that correlation was animal fat intake, not just fat as a general category. Keys definitely should’ve facepalmed himself for not looking at the data more carefully, but even if he’d been scrupulous, he probably still would’ve launched the anti-saturated-fat crusade that defined his later career.
  • Although total fat, animal fat, and animal protein were associated with heart disease in this data, those variables were associated with less death from pretty much everything else. Overall, the countries with higher fat and animal food intake had longer life expectancies than the rest. This doesn’t prove that animal foods make you immortal or that plant foods will slit your throat in the middle of the night: it’s mostly a result of countries with more money and a higher standard of living tending to eat more animal products (along with having lower rates of infectious disease, better health care, diets higher in industrially processed foods, and so forth). There’s so much confounding involved with this subject that I don’t even wanna touch it with a ten-foot statistical pole.

  • A lot of countries suck at classifying heart disease deaths under the right label. Especially less-developed nations with sketchy medical care. This makes it look like some countries have abnormally low rates of heart disease, when in reality, they just have abnormally high rates of messing up.
  • The F.A.O. data that Keys (and others of his time) used is probably the most inaccurate way to measure food consumption ever invented. Because food-balance data doesn’t account for stuff people throw away, wealthier countries are always going to look like they have a higher intake of pretty much everything compared to poorer countries. It’s impossible to say how much this influenced the link between fat or animal foods and mortality rates, but the impact might’ve been pretty big.
  • Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t a cucumber. (Just making sure you’re awake.)
Now back to Keys. I’m mostly interested in clearing up the confusion about the Yerushalmy and Hilleboe paper and what it really showed about Keys’ cherry-picked graph, so I’m not going to tweeze through the rest of his work with the same Aspergers-esque detail. (At least not in this blog post—the real Seven Countries Study probably deserves an eventual skewering.) But I do want to address something interesting about Keys that many people aren’t aware of, which is…

Keys on dietary cholesterol: one thing he got right

Although Keys was staunch in his belief that saturated fat causes heart disease by raising blood cholesterol, he was one of the brave few who insisted that dietary cholesterol was pretty much irrelevant. Thanks to a slew of early animal experiments—such as Nikolai Anitschkow’s famous rabbits—that used dietary cholesterol to induce atherosclerotic lesions, implicating dietary cholesterol with heart disease was all the rage for a while. For a long while, actually, considering how many folks today still to dump their egg yolks down the drain.

But Ancel didn’t buy it. In his paper “Human atherosclerosis and the diet” (PDF), he writes that “from these animal experiments only, the most reasonable conclusion would be that the cholesterol content of human diets is unimportant in human atherosclerosis.” Likewise, in some of his metabolic ward studies, Keys found that altering dietary cholesterol in the context of a normal diet had only minor effects on blood cholesterol, concluding that “attention to this factor alone accomplishes little.” And in his paper “The relationship of the diet to the development of atherosclerosis in man,” Keys is pretty clear about his views:

The evidence—both from experiments and from field surveys—indicates that the cholesterol content, per se, of all natural diets has no significant effect on either the serum cholesterol level or the development of atherosclerosis in man.

Good for him.

And since I probably won’t write any more blog posts until 2012 (unless someone surgically implants a new month between December and January), I want to use this final paragraph to tell everyone who reads this blog that I love you and appreciate your readership more than you could possibly imagine. I’m continually astounded that you guys not only bear with me through my sporadic blogging habits, but also create such awesome dialogues in the comment section. You people rock my world. If I were wearing socks right now, those would be rocked, too. I really mean it. Have a wonderful new year, everyone!


  1. I’m still unconvinced that we are looking at anything except for the idea that certain diseases may be low in societies too poor to afford much sugar, tobacco, or good government data collection.

    I’d still like to see a graph overlaying Key’s chart with a chart showing those same countries’ tobacco consumption during those same years. Because i think the real culprit here is tobacco.

    1. “I’m still unconvinced that we are looking at anything except for the idea that certain diseases may be low in societies too poor to afford much sugar, tobacco, or good government data collection”

      Sounds right to me.

      It’s been some time now that I wonder what Keys’ graphs would have looked like, if he had chosen to look at sugar (and white flour) instead of looking at fat.

      My take is that he probably wouldn’t have needed to drop some data to make the correlation look stronger.

      1. >”I’m still unconvinced that we are looking at anything except for the idea that >certain diseases may be low in societies too poor to afford much sugar, >tobacco, or good government data collection”

        Without good data collection, we don’t know what diseases really kill people. It seems to me that what Denise has essentially pointed out is that countries that are too poor to eat a lot of meat or fat are also too poor to know an accurate cause of death much of the time. In other words, the seven country study has very little information that is interesting vis a vis a “good diet” at all.

        In truth, I am not convinced that all the deaths that are attributed to CV causes in the US are really caused by CV and not instead by the doctor writing down a CV cause when “I don’t know” is more accurate.

        1. True, Anecdotal case in point: A very successful realtor had a massive heart attack at age 40,and dropped dead. It was attributed to a heart attack of course but word had it, he was a coke-head.

          He died in his own home but if he’d been in an accident, there probably would have been an autopsy.

  2. OK, I think it’s time for some summary.
    There are problems. There is a problem with the original graph – problem with its “simplicity.” I looked at it again to verify my concerns and yes, the problem is there. Someone pointed out right at the beginning that there were many more factors involved than only eating grain/meat. IMHO, comparing of the population of Switzerland or Australia of 1951 with the population of Israel (high percentage of survivors/refugees) without considering other factors is incorrect.
    Now a summary of problems with comments. The “gentlemen” who dominate this section should start eating less meat (too much energy) and stop silencing everyone who has legitimate doubts and concerns. The proper, polite questions are totally ignored or dismissed, the rebels are attacked by a numbers of posters (you see I am nice and I didn’t use the word “mob”) and are labelled trolls, sent to school, or threatened by leaving, etc. I am pretty sure that precisely this attitude resulted in banning of fat. At that time it was done by “grain” marchers.
    Several people (all are women) share, for example, the same concern: how safe is meat/fat overeating. Women know that iron overload is not good for them, some are also concerned about phosphorus excessive intake. There are probably other concerns and I think they should be addressed.
    Most people here are truly impressed by Denise, understand the importance of what she is doing and wish her success. I think we should strive for improvement of the comment section. No, uneven “nutritional” level of comments isn’t a problem – this is not an academia. The fights are a problem and they should be reduced. I promise to tone down. I expect the “gentlemen” change too.

  3. Those that keep posting constantly thinks not related to the post is because they don’t have the smarts, beauty and witty writing style of Denise. Please stop if you have so much to write make your blog.
    Thanks Denise for another great post.

    1. OK, I am back. Those who complain that their parents were not as witty as Lucy in the film and who don’t know the difference a text prepared for publication and arguments in a discussion should NEVER write ANYWHERE.

  4. Well, “the gentlemen” will never learn.
    I was thinking … is it possible that Keys reduced the number of countries he considered because he was aware of the imperfection of the 22 country list? I didn’t check the list of the countries he chose, so I am just guessing.

    1. OK, I want to correct the text and it is in the wrong place. I’ll try again to place it after Charlie’s comment.
      Those who complain that their parents were not as witty as Lucy in the film and who don’t know the difference between a text prepared for publication and arguments in a discussion should NEVER write ANYWHERE. 🙂

      1. Actually we have a similar situation to the one above. Pretensions, ignorance and aggression. Denise has a great style, but … it doesn’t mean that
        – others don’t have a great style
        – that it’s the most important thing
        – that circumstances, such as speed of response and of course whether or not we are dealing with the mother tongue don’t matter.
        Frankly, this can be viewed as a biased silencing. You don’t like comments by not native speakers – skip them – your right. To tell them to stop being themselves (drop that accent) looks like harassment.

  5. What a fantastic piece, I read this through totally absorbed. First time I have visited this site.

    I love your sense of humour. I’m off now to read the rest of your articles.

    Best wishes


  6. Dang people…stress kills regardless of your diet of choice.

    Take a chill pill (vegan or not) and add a couple of years to your lives.


  7. “stress kills regardless of your diet of choice”
    Correct, Mark. That’s why it’s important for analysts to know what kind of stress was behind the scenes – for whom it was “Oh, my mansions value just decreased by 5%” or stress of watching you family burned alive. Those who insist on counting calories (or fat, or grains or whatever) only really don’t know what they are doing. There are so many things “related.” Nutritionists usually are not prepared to deal with the complexity of human existence and its historical/cultural aspects and the results … are predictable. I laugh when I read “Look there is so much sun in this or that country, but yet women have very low level of vitamin D.” Why do I laugh? Because it’s funny. The author just forgot the fact that women are covered TOTALLY and spend most of their days indoors. Just an example.

  8. I believe the major uncertainties in all epidemiological studies involving diet, health, and mortality are from large uncertainties in the accuracy of the diet information and large uncertainties in the proper classification of the cause of death as already discussed here. Diets are so varied between individuals and over time and causes of death are usually multi-factored. These uncertainties alone are so large as to make these studies quite useless unless the results show very large differences by factors of 2 or 3 or more. And of course, even then we have only association and not proof of cause. But another often overlooked aspect to this type of epidemiological study is the age at which people die from the disease and the age distribution of the population. In these studies that aspect was properly handled by looking at mortality within specific age groups.

    However, I notice in looking at Figure 3 from the Y-H study that the absolute mortality from “B-26” type heart disease in males aged 50-59 ranged by a factor of three at about 40% of calories from fat, from about about 0.25% in Norway to about 0.75% in the US. At about 30% of calories from fat, the range in mortality rates is even larger, a factor of about seven, from about 0.1% in France to about 0.7% in Finland. And of course, France with near 30% of calories from fat appears to have about a 30% lower rate of B-26 heart disease mortality than Japan at near 10% of calories from fat. To me, these statistics only help to confirm that humans are well adapted to a wide variety of fat intakes and that other factors are far more likely to be stronger influences on heart disease. In my current view, the leading candidates for *premature* development of both heart disease and cancer are 1) too much dietary sugar (sucrose and fructose) in conjunction with 2) too much dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated fat. Next 3) are a wide variety of toxins and poisons in the environment, where exposure dosage and health status are likely to cause widely varying tolerances as well making it difficult to single out specific chemicals as being the greatest contributors. Also worthy of mention is 4) digestive health, which is strongly influenced by diet, including 1, 2, and 3, but is the critical defense mechanism for the body. And of course 5) at least adequate dietary nutrition is required to live very long anyway (which is not usually a big problem except in starvation situations or compromised digestive health).

    Since I have now reached 59 years of age, according to US CDC stats for 2007, my life expectancy (for “white male”) if I make it to 60 next year should be to reach age 81. If get lucky and manage to live to be 100, what difference will it make if I die from heart disease, cancer, or slipping on ice? I don’t want to end up spending 20 years in a wheel chair or bed-bound in a nursing home where they keep me alive, but just barely, so they can make more money. Quality of life is very difficult to discern in these studies as well.

    1. >I don’t want to end up spending 20 years in a wheel chair or bed-bound in a >nursing home where they keep me alive, but just barely,

      I worked for a little while in a nursing home. After I had been around the people there for a while, I realized that many of them were there because they wanted to be alive, even if they could hardly hobble around.

      You may not feel that life in a nursing home is worth living, but that is not actually a sentiment that is shared by all. Just saying …

      1. Beth, yes, most people will take a nursing home over suicide or dieing at home because they can’t take care of themselves, but that doesn’t mean it’s their idea of a good quality of life. My point is simply that I feel quality of life, especially with aging when many diseases are more prevalent, is a very important concern that is often overlooked in studies about “health” and especially in the context of aging.

  9. Denise, I saw your talk at the WAPF conf in Dallas. So awesome! I think you need to quit your day job and be a science writer. (What is your day job?) It just goes to show that with a good (Liberal Arts) education and a lot of common sense, plus some excellent investigative skills, you can poke holes in a lot of stuff that we have come to believe today as the “honest truth”. My mantra is this: In God We Trust, All Others Bring Data.

  10. In a wholly separate vein: Denise, would you consider changing out your html ‘style’ for links? The web convention is that a dotted underline is used for a pop-up box that either defines an acronym, or adds a wee bit of a data specific to a piece of text. (I often use it to define/explain American slang for non-native-English speakers; so as to retain the ‘flavor’ of a web client’s writing style by leaving the slang in there, without confusing non-Americans (or Americans, for that matter!).

    (I’d do the following bit with a dotted underline and pop-up if I could, but I can’t — so please see it as an explanatory aside.) Web conventions *are* conventions because the vast majority of web surfers ‘know’ them unconsciously (akin to grammar, which is picked up by very young children without them being taught grammar directly). An example would be when we “automatically” look for the search box in the top right corner (which makes Tom Naughton’s blog annoying — his is left-side and down…), or clicking on the top right corner logo to go to the home page. (Or, think of those annoying building doors that have a ‘pull-handle’ design, but some idiot designer made it a PUSH door.) Using web conventions makes navigating a page an unconscious act; mis-using web conventions makes the ‘style’ come to the forefront and takes the reader out of the material. (Like using (any) underlines on the web — how many times have you “clicked” on a underlined bit of text to find that person used the underlining for emphasis, not as a link. That’s breaking a very long-standing and fundamental web convention.

    LOVE your stuff! Enjoyed meeting you in passing (and your talk) at AHS.

  11. That pretty much explains why the initially observed positive correlation between heart disease and total fat (or saturated fat) is reduced to insignificance in modern cohort studies. The scientific methods have, luckily, improved over time.

    It’s always a treat with a really good paper (Yerushalmy and Hilleboe) as well as a really good blog post (long, informative, well written). I will link to this in the comment section of other blogs I read.

    Ancel Keys did some very interesting weight loss experiments and probably other good research too. Worth looking at for anyone interested in science history.

    The really tragic part of the story is how the diet-heart hypothesis became politics. And how it just continues to live on, despite all the evidence against it.

  12. I think it is possible that the countries in the “six-country graph” were actually not cherry-picked by Keys. His mortality data covers (as indicated in the graph) the period 1948–49, while Y&H (as you can read from their Table II in the text) used data from the period 1951–53. These data were obviously not available at the time Keys prepared his 1953 paper, and some countries included in Y&H:s paper (including the Nordic countries, pdf) did not use the international ICD-6 (containing the disease categories used by Keys) classification for mortality statistics before the 1950s, so there is nothing strange that they were absent from the data used by Keys.

    1. Very interesting, Karl. It just shows how complex everything is and how often we’re missing (or miss) important information. Just the awareness of complexity makes me reluctant to march happily and sing in unison.

      1. Jeffrey,

        Where does Karl question the ‘correlation-is-not-causation’ thing in his post?

        To me, you seem to be replying to an argument he never made… if I’m wrong, care to provide pointers?

        Personnaly I find Karl’s observation about the dates, a rather sharp one!

        1. You have interpreted me correctly, I think. My point was just that Keys was not necessarily fraudulent in his selection of the six countries. I also think this is an issue primarily of historical interest — even if Keys’ selection was not intentionally biased, Y&H:s data still gives a more accurate picture of the country-level correlation (which, of course, does not necessarily imply any causal relationship) between fat availability and reported cardiac mortality in the world about 60 years ago.

  13. Nice and dandy analysis, in both the main text and the comments. But 6/7 countries studies are still epidemiological hogwash (okay that WAS the whole point in the post but still). History is always cool but IMHO it’s far more interesting to think what lipid/diet/heart theory looks like in context of more recent international epi studies like MONICA. Now that would be actually interesting – if there still is something fresh 2 find.

    Oh and Back to the Keys – how about the sugar controversy and earlier papers by Cleave and esp Yudkin that take on Keys. Now thinking about THAT would be cool and actually current and topical.

    1. More ambitious international studies, where dietary patterns are compared with disease rates, seem to be rare. However, in a review from 1998 (J Clin Epidemiol 1998;51:443-460, see author’s homepage), Ravnskov noted that the positive ecological correlations between (saturated) fat and vascular mortality, as measured by official FAO/WHO data, seem to have disappeared since the 80s. A couple of months ago, I also looked at data of this type for more recent years, and even noted statistically significant negative correlations between e.g. energy percent fat and age-specific coronary mortality (post in Swedish).

      But this may be due to the same type of confounding as seems to lie behind the strong negative correlations between fat/animal products and non-cardiac mortality in Y&H. Within age-groups, vascular mortality has declined in wealthier Western countries in recent years (which may, at least in part, be related to improved medical treatment), and rates nowadays are highest in relatively poor countries in eastern Europe and Central Asia, while the positive correlation between wealth and fat availability still exists.

  14. Hey Neisy,

    I know it’s been the holidays, and I’m sure you’re bizzy, but just wondered if you got my e-mail (“Heavy Tail”)?

    happy winter solstice (the days are getting longer!)

  15. Hi Denise, wow Shoreline to Hawaii. I’m a former Seatlite, (Capital Hill/Volunteer Park stomping grounds) and former SDA. I still have many friends family who are SDA, and I know many who have adapted, or tried to do a strict vegan diet. I’ve currently been influenced by Dr. Robert Lustig of the UCSF/youtube Sugar the Bitter truth video, and from there have been reading science writer Gary Taubes. They both talk about Ancel Keys. They both say saturated fat from diet isn’t the major cause of health problems, that the major cause of most chronic health diseases is high carbs which leads to metabolic syndrome, which can lead to the major diseases. I’m learning, barely scratching the surface, I’ve the habit of not eating much meat, but am quite confused by the warring of the diet camps. I’ve been beaten over the head by the China Study by a few friends. Why vegans are so often so militant is surprising: one of my vegan friends is in denial that he needs vitamin B12. I find this blog refreshing in that you have a particular diet that works for you, yet you are all about getting to the truth, scientific objective truth as much as possible. My request: you review Gary Taubes latest book if you get a chance. Regardless, I enjoy this blog, and am digging in a bit. Rather thank-you for this blog.

    1. Hey Philip, I’m a current Seattlite (CapHill area). This is certainly a very interesting area to be researching. I’m curious if you’ve read Weston A Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration? In my mind this is one of the best sources for finding out what humans have thrived on (traditional diets). They’re quite varied (some ate more plant foods, some less, all ate fat from animals and/or fish). He never found a group of healthy humans who were vegan. It’s something that I think in and of itself refutes the China Study in addition to Keys. You can find it online. It’s just fascinating. At the end of the day, for me at least, what Taubes and Lustig do is demonstrate that refined foods (carbs/sugar usually) aren’t healthy for humans and this is something that Price noted over and over again in his studies of various human populations.

      1. Hey Christopher! Greetings and Happy New Year from Montrose Colorado! Yes I’ve fond memories of being body slammed into the Jack in the Box front window near Seattle Central by three riot police during WTO! lol. Ah nostalgia. (note I was peacefully videotaping on the side walk, not a protester.) despite that I miss Seattle and Capital Hill. Wonderful place to live round about Lake Washington, yes?
        Thank-you for the recommendation “Weston A Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” I’ll look into reading that.

        And for Denise, to clarify my post. I was hoping you could *review* Gary Taubes latest book. It would be nice to hear what you think of it.

  16. Hey, here’s another one you could maybe look at when you are bored. Dr. William Davis of Wheat Belly mentions it in chapter 8 of that book. Lookie here… their whole basis for judging how much animal protein is eaten is those same FAO tables you mentioned. They misrepresent the FAO tables as being about food *consumption* rather than food *availability*, too.

    I haven’t read the whole book yet, but in that part of that chapter where he cites that source (in other words, just where it’d be most timely to mention it), Dr. Davis neglects to mention that *all* proteins need to be buffered, not just animal protein! Too, unlike most plant proteins (notable exceptions being wheat and spinach, neither of which you want to consume in excessive quantities), animal protein comes with its own buffer–the amino acid glutamine. We can make glutamine if we’re in good health, but consuming extra in the diet frees up what we make for its other functions.

    I wish just *one* person out there would write a book about nutrition where they were more interested in telling the whole story than just promoting a narrow agenda. I don’t mean explaining the entirety of the field of human nutrition, but geez, I’m so over all the scaremongering about animal foods.

    1. Denise is writing such a book and will be published by Mark Sisson in 2012. It’s called “Death By Food Pyramid”. Should be a best seller!

  17. “I wish just *one* person out there would write a book about nutrition where they were more interested in telling the whole story than just promoting a narrow agenda”
    Me too, me too.

  18. My personal view has been, that a balanced diet of max 30 percant animal products, 70% of vegatables is ideal.
    It is also clear that with the prelevation of processed foods, vegatable oils, refined carbohydrates, and varied (yes varied) food intake is significantly decreasing lifespans and health.
    this article pretty much proves my point, although i can never prove it (my assumptions).
    I would eat meat and fat in moderation, and place great importance on the other factors mentioned above.
    The body is a fine tuned instrument, not a garnage dump.
    Also, the fact that we are physiologicly the same, does not equate to the fact that our genetic inheritance is very different.
    Ergo, the idea of examining a group of people with extremley varied genetic markers, and drawing conclusions is extremley idiotic. And science clearly points this out.
    We can learn from clinical studies (and indeed have), but only if we read them, as the results are many times skewed in favore of the theory.
    For some reason medic science especially likes to draw conclusions from insufficient data, and make claims when no such exists. Hencs it could hardly be called science, but a colle tion of random observations, and judgements.
    In the end we are responsible for ourselves, and ur body will ket u know what exactly to do, if u fine tune urself.
    What is good for one, may not be good for the other. Duhhhh. This is where some medic scientists have apperantly not advanced.

  19. After reading a week’s worth of internet douchebaggery, I feel the need to clarify that your writing is actually delicious and that the cherry-picking reference is jokingly aimed at Keys, not you. Because every joke is funnier when you have to explain it.


    Denise has shown that she clearly has the ovaries to not only articulate her position publicly, but to allow anyone to anonymously comment on it, and then even refute anonymous criticism point by point knowing full well that the provider of that criticism has no intention of returning the favor. If you really want any credibility at all, go start your own blog and try going head to head with her based on facts, not insults. But you won’t do that because it would mean actually putting your own words together instead of letting someone else’s video do it for you. People like you turn the internet from a wonderful resource into a Lord of the Flies-esque day care for retarded children. Good day sir.

    (I said good day)

    Denise, I apologize for the gratuitous use of the word “douchebaggery”. Feel free to edit any or all. That first part wasn’t really meant for anyone else anyway.

    “Illegitimi non carborundum”

    1. Dear, Eric.
      I can assure you that not a single part of me is that of Richards.
      And you see my criticism of Denise … where? And the value of you comments …is?
      dr anna

  20. From Richard Feinman’s blog:

    “The idea of a Mediterranean diet derives, in some way, from Ancel Keys’s Seven Countries study. He discovered that the two countries with the highest consumption of fat, had the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease (Crete) and the highest (Finland), and he attributed this to the type of fat, olive oil for Crete and animal fat for Finland. It was later pointed out that there were large differences in CVD between different areas of Finland that had the same diet. This information was ignored by Keys who was also a pioneer in this approach to conflicting data. ”

    Nicely put.

    1. It derives directly from the comparisons. Read Eat Well and Stay Well, written by Ancel & Margaret Keys in 1959. I’d argue that they pulled in the best features of many national diets (Japan, Italy, Crete, China, France, etc.) as they created what came to be known as the Med Diet.

      If you get nothing else from it there’s a great recipe for soup stock (aka bone broth) from beef bones/off cuts, as well as many red meat recipes, from Irish stew to Italian beef tongue. Ancel stressed eating the greatest possible variety of foods. And he was not anti-fat, just moderate in using it.

  21. And enjoyed this article very much (the first I read on this blog). I’m gonna read more now!
    Keep up the good writing!

  22. Thank you Denise for a great research, and an attempt to make an honest conclusions. Personally I think you leaving this article without a “summary” in the end is not a good idea.

    I will write one as a comment, in case someone will find it useful.

  23. Summary for the article:

    Was Keys a liar? Not really. He just tried to make his discovery more “shocking”.

    Does fat makes your heart stop? No…just animal fat.

    Do people die from anything else, except heart diseases? Yes, and animal fat has nothing to do with it.

    Addition from Max:

    Since coronary hear disease is consider one of the most popular death reasons, we can say that animal fat is most likely to kill you, in comparison to any other factors. Given, that you are a human of cause =)

    1. Who said it: “A sicko is a sicko is a sicko?”
      Denise, pretty soon you will be able to form a fully staffed neo-Nazi camp out of your visitors. I doubt it’s the intention of your blog, but they seem to invade everything.

    2. “Since coronary hear disease is consider one of the most popular death reasons, we can say that animal fat is most likely to kill you, in comparison to any other factors”

      OMG what a baffling summary of Denise’s article.
      My eyes are rolling so high that I’m probably looking like a zombie.

      Maybe I’m just being thick and you were actually joking?

      If not, you could consider reading the article again….

      1. lol! and no serious offense meant MaxPavlov, that’s the most pretentious thing I’ve seen in a while: summarizing some else’s writing. If you want to write a bad summary, start your own blog!

        1. Philip, he has a blog which not only is the most pretentious (sharp observation), but also the sickest thing.
          Wizzu, he seems to be a vegan (“plant based”), but we shouldn’t blame his diet for his mental condition, since it looks like he’s a newly minted vegan.

          1. “he seems to be a vegan (“plant based”)”

            Why would someone with a “plant-based” diet be a vegan, let alone a vegetarian? My own diet is “plant-based” an I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian.

            My acception of ‘base’ here: a fundamental ingredient; a chief constituent (‘a paint with an oil base’).

            To me, “plant-based” only means that one’s diet consists mainly of plants, like vegetables, legumes and grains. It can be an omnivorous diet nonetheless. Mine is definitly omnivorous, though 80% of my plate consists of vegetables (but as previously stated, no grains – they make me sick).

            YMMV with the word ‘base’ of course, and if to some “plant-based’ means ‘plants-only’ why not. But I think “plant-only” would be clearer to everyone.

            Just a quick reminder though (since I have the feeling that this is not as clear to everyone as it should):

            * ‘Vegan’ = eating zero animal products (not even dairy)
            * ‘Vegetarian’ = eating no meat (some ‘vegetarians’ eat fish, though) but eating animal products like dairy and eggs

            1. OK, I understand this. That’s why I was cautious. I don’t want to go back to this charming website to check whether it says something more than “plant-based.”
              BTW, I think we had recently several what looks like “hit and run” (a beautiful name) comments.

              1. I think he says something about switching to plant-based diet which suggests something more radical than just adding a carrot or two.

        2. no offense, but labeling anyone who summarizes others as pretentious, without even bothering to address the points, is the height of pretentiousness

  24. Why is it that site attracts so much crapola?

    Would it be so hard to introduce genuine science into the discussion?

    1. Stop brushing your teeth with tooth paste, it leaves a solid glycerin layer which prevents minerals to do their job. Cut out all cereals, or at least cut back quite drastically and eat lots of vegetables that are high in magnesium. and maybe supplement with magnesium citrate. Avoid the oxide form. Although we are not very good at extracting minerals from pills. Better making broths from soup bones. Add a little vinegar to aid the process.

  25. You can argue nutrition and its correlation to heart health all day and likely never agree. This forum, like many others, depicts the amazing fact that very few experts in the realm of nutrition actually agree on a one size fits all diet. This is, I believe, because the data is, at best, difficult to disseminate for actual PROOF of cause and effects regarding diet and health. One thing that all of this ignores if genetic concerns and implications. Nowhere is anyone acknowledging the powerful implications (much of which is NEW information) regarding the C677T component of cardiac health, and the nutritional concerns regarding that! This will be a far bigger factor to cardiac health than cholesterol ever will be!

    1. That’s an interesting graph in terms of the “ferritin hypothesis” too. Aborigines tend to eat a lot of lean animals, not much dairy (Although it’s not clear if these are Aborigines on a native diet, or eating Western food). Russia, Lithuania, and the Czech republic are also bigger on ruminant meat. France, Switzerland, and Germany get more calories from dairy, which blocks iron. Spain, France, Sweden, and Denmark eat more fish than ruminant meat.

  26. I was thinking … I have the impression (I don’t follow the discussion seriously) that all those who talk about primal hunter-gatherers or gatherers somehow forget that the world was probably quite diverse and primates live in various circumstances – some probably near some shallow waters where fish were jumping themselves onto these primates’ china and others probably lived on some meadows covered with wild wheat and still other lived in some snow covered mountains where they ate … something. Didn’t this diversity affect those primates, their children and us, their grandchildren?

    1. Anna I think this is probably right, humans have always lived in very diverse environments. In fact Weston Price documented this with all the various ‘primitive’ cultures he visited. I think it’s why humans are omnivores.

  27. Everything I have read so far indicates to me that the same food quality—or lack of it—administered to different persons, will have different effects.

    Now, there MUST be something in the way things are being done by a society that is now used to sit and wait which one of the “affluent” diseases is going to kill you, your brother, your spouse, your sister, your friend, your children.

    In the end, most of them die of one of the “affluent” diseases. And each death means several tens of thousands of dollars worth of hospital and medical expenses that the global system must inject into the medical system.

    No wonder that if the person dies from something different than one of the affluent diseases, this person probably had a different diet… Sorry, I can’t say that, right? No, it wasn’t the diet, it was his/her genes! Or he/she probably was careful enough to take supplements.

    So, the positive correlations to plant protein and fat intake of groups of people dying from something different from the affluent diseases, is inviting me to think that if your life intake of protein and fat and carbohydrates comes directly from plant food, you will die, yes, but NOT from one of the affluent diseases.

    Doesn’t this sound very much like what Dr. Campbell suggests? What did I miss?

    1. Artcomm, I think you’ve kind of missed the point of this entire blog. Denise (and others) has been pointing out that these ‘correlations’ to plant and health, or inversely, animal protein and poor health, used by Dr. Campbell are highly flawed. In fact you can easily make the argument that it was the introduction of vegan foods into Western diets that began the slow decline into ‘modernized’ degenerative diseases, aka refined wheat and sugar. I hear this from vegans, that it was the introduction of meat products that suddenly caused modern degenerative diseases. It’s complete nonsense.

  28. Ancel Keys found that both sugar and fat were correlated with heart disease but he never bothered to do the proper multivariate regression analysis as explained in this video, Sugar the Bitter Truth, to determine rather it was fat or sugar that was causing heart disease.

  29. Denise

    How exactly do you eat eggs?

    Do you eat them raw?

    Do you mix them in with a smoothie?

    What qualities are you looking for in a good raw egg?

  30. Epidemeology suggests hypotheses; but perhaps there should be a law against discussing those hypotheses publically without a) proper proof, or b) a strong correlation, like smoking is 22:1 associated with lung cancer.
    A 30% increase, or even doubling, in some disease rate, compared to that just doesn’t cut it…

  31. So what happens when you graph heart disease against ferritin levels? It’s pretty well known that high iron levels in the blood lead to heart problems. Eating a lot of beef, esp. combined with potatoes and iron-supplemented wheat, and in the absence of tea, leads to higher iron levels, and ferritin levels in the US are one of the highest.

    I think the iron issue might account for some of the relationship between diet and heart disease. Countries like France and Japan get plenty of protein, but it’s not generally high-heme meat. Plus both dairy (cheese!) and tea block iron absorption.

    1. The incidence of iron deficiency is about 5 times higher than iron overload. Iron overload is mostly a genetic inherited disease. A person should not treat for the condition without proper diagnosis.

      1. That is what a lot of people believe, that iron deficiency is common. Based on more recent research though, it seems that we may need to revise what is “normal” iron. For instance:

        1. When “anemic” Maasai are given iron supplements, they become prone to amoebic infections and malaria.

        2. Ferritin levels of over 100 are associated with higher levels of diabetes.

        3. Oral iron stimulates insulin levels, much like sugar does.

        REALLY high levels of iron is genetic, for sure. But it absolutely is the case that “normal” people over-absorb iron, and toxic iron levels are commonly seen where cast iron is used, for example, or in kids who eat iron supplements. Our American foods have way too much iron in them, according to some experts. Anyway, Ray Peat has a good summary of the problem:

        I’m not anti-meat at all, and a lot of this has to do with other factors, like parasites. In rural countries, everyone has hookworm and anemia IS more common than overload. As those countries get more medicine though, and start getting rid of worms and a richer diet, iron levels go up. And as iron levels go up, I think, so does heart disease.

        The “treatment” for Americans is generally: Avoid iron-supplemented food (mostly processed food, which you should avoid anyway) and drinking tea, coffee, or milk with a meal, and avoiding fruit or Vitamin C with a meat meal. These steps are not dangerous at all. Getting your ferritin levels checked is a good idea for anyone though.

  32. heathertwist, I agree.

    In China, consumption of white flour but not white rice is associated with heart disease as Denise has shown, and with diabetes as Zumin Shi and others have shown, and according to Dr Shi, white flour in China has twice as much iron as white rice.

  33. I actually have a letter from Ancel telling me that my doctoral proposal wouldnt work- I made some queries among scholars asking for their professional opinion. His was the only negative response.

    Actually my idea was similar to his, without the lab testing. Based on that proposal I wrote my dissertation, was awarded a PhD, won a Fulbright grant from the US government to conduct research in Slovenia, a country in the former Yugoslavia.
    Two of his groups were from the former Yugoslavia and if my memory is correct, the Serbian group smoked, ate lots of animal fats, not olive oil, but still had low rates of CVD.

    Ancel gave new meaning to the term ‘flip-flopping,’ but for all his efforts he ended up living in Italy in a beautiful country villa, The Olive Oil Board perhaps played a role or was Ancel just so wealthy?

  34. I previously congratulated Denise on her ‘The Truth about Ancel Keys: We’ve got it All Wrong’. I feel that I must now retract this for the following reason. Subsequent to my praising Denise for her erudite critique, I came across the power point presentation by the Plant Positive author, and discovered that he had discussed almost every point brought up by Denise shortly before Denise had written her paper. Although Denise gave some credit to this author, it was minimal, considering that the bulk of her paper appeared to be lifted from his work. This may not qualify as explicit plagiarism, but it does suggest intellectual dishonesty.

    By the way, I am not a vegan, or any other variety of vegetarian. However, I have directed and conducted scientific research in university settings, and at this point find myself questioning Denise’s integrity. Perhaps she should consider this matter seriously if she has plans to enter the academic world.

    1. Hi Brian,

      I noted near the beginning of this post that the Primitive Nutrition videos are what inspired this post, but in case that wasn’t emphasized enough, I just added a note right at the top stating it in more detail. I do owe Plant Positive a hat-tip for digging up the info on Mexico’s birth certificate history, which I realized I left off, so I’ve updated this post to credit him for that. Judging from the number of click-throughs this page gave to his Ancel Keys videos (over 1,000), he got a fair bit of traffic from this page, and I do want to give him full credit for bringing attention to the myths about Keys circulating in the paleo and low-carb spheres. Although we obviously cover a lot of the same ground because we’re analyzing the same paper by Yerushalmy and Hilleboe, I think the fundamental message of his critique and the one of mine are extremely different, as are the ways we discuss and interpret the graphs and charts contained within the paper. It is not my intent at all to “lift” any of his original ideas.

      For what it’s worth, I corresponded with Plant Positive over email after this post was up, and in the time between this post going up and now (3 months?) he has never asked me to attribute his name to anything in this post, nor otherwise expressed concern with what I’ve written in terms of “intellectual dishonesty.” If he contacted me with any unhappiness about this, I would gladly add any addendums necessary to clarify his role in bringing the Ancel Keys “myth” to the fore.

      I have also discussed his videos in some of the earlier comments on this post:

      “As for the Ancel Keys videos, I *really* appreciate that the “Plant Positive” guy pointed out the frequent misunderstandings about Keys and the six-country graph that are often repeated within the paleo community. However, he admits to not having access to the Yerushalmy and Hilleboe paper, and it looks like he’s mainly referencing two graphs from it that were reproduced in a later paper by Stamler in 1958.”

      “As a result, he leaves out some of the most important points of the Y&H paper, including the unreliability of using food-balance data, the authors’ explanations of why animal food and fat intake can be correlated with heart disease in a non-causal way due to its association with a country’s industrial and medical development, and the discussion of what the inverse association between fat/animal protein and “death from other causes” really means.”

      “Also, the video narrator tries to selectively drop countries off the 22-country graph to make the fat/heart disease association look stronger: his rationale is that Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden — which had high fat intakes but low-ish heart disease mortality — don’t belong on there because their heart disease rates were probably still recovering from plummeting during the war years. Yet one of the abstracts he flashes to support this idea says point-blank “Denmark didn’t have any reduction in heart disease mortality during the war,” so his rationale for deleting its data point is bunk, and he doesn’t explain why other countries affected by war rations (like Finland and Austria) should stay on the graph. Likewise, if he wants to delete data points, he’d also need to get rid of Japan and France and Italy because they notoriously under-reported death from heart disease.”

      1. Plantpositive has uploaded new videos, addressing Minger pseudoscientific bull-shit and plagiarism. I warmly welcome everyone to check them out. The logic of Minger is utter perversed and bizarre. As if the author has to beg and look for the plagiator to pay a respect to the original work.

        1. “For what it’s worth, I corresponded with Plant Positive over email after this post was up, and in the time between this post going up and now (3 months?) he has never asked me to attribute his name to anything in this post”

          Unbelievable………Minger, get some standards. You are nothing but a fraud. I have lot to write to the amazon page of your upcoming book. You can fool these half-retarded cavemen clowns, but the smarter ones will see through your disintegrity.

            1. Don’t worry, I am just pissed seeing sick, confused people spreading their perverse agenda while attempting to give it all a scientific mask.

              “Death by food pyramid”….LOL…give a me break.

              1. What part of healthy is sick?
                My numbers could not be better since I gave up grain and sugar and other questionable so called nutritious plants. Don’t let facts like the debunking of cholesterol get in the way of your nonsense.

        2. This Richard being the one previously referred to as a troll? The slime from him is making my skin crawl. Denise, thanks again for your work, I appreciate it very much.


  35. Thank you for your response Denise. First, let me say that I admire your intelligence, inquisitiveness and commitment to understanding difficult and controversial subject matter. Very few are able or willing to take on such a task.

    Since the early part of 1998, I have read most of what has been written in the Paleo literature. In fact, I engaged in a most edifying volley of exchanges with Loren Cordain, Mary Enig and Sally Fallon at that time, currently recorded in the Peleodiet Archives (For those interested in some of the earlier debates: My first posting: ; Mary Enig & Sally Fallon’s response to me: ; Loren Cordain’s response to me: ; My response to Loren Cordain, Mary Enig and Sally Fallon: ).

    Subsequently, I explored the general principles of Paleo thinking and those of the Weston Price Foundation over a number of years, both intellectually and in practice. Within both bodies of literature, I have found value, but also serious basic flaws in their understanding of historical and prehistorical data, as well as of current nutritional research. These limitations have been well covered and critiqued by other sources, for those who care to avail themselves of this information. On the level of praxis, I have noticed little personal health result differences between a well balanced vegetarian diet, the general outlines of a diet promulgated by the Paleo group (low fat version) and a diet more in line with the Weston Price Foundation. Perhaps one could attribute this personal health outcome homogeneity to my particular dipping point into the genetic pool, or to some other difficult to measure variable or variables. Since this last question is a level of ignorance I am most likely doomed to never surpass, I am left with the task of assessing the intellectual rectitude of these positions.

    I have carefully read your papers Denise, as I have examined all of the Plant Positive power point presentations, as well as having read much of T. Colin Campbell. As someone trained in scientific research methodology, I must say that Campbell is a first rate researcher and his China Study is the finest nutritional research to date. As far as the Plant Positive author is concerned, his research is exhaustive and his thinking of a high caliber and for the most part, flawless. It is not necessary for me to elucidate on a point by point basis the rejoinders to your critiques of Campbell and the Plant Positive author, as the latter has done this in detail in his recent power point youtube postings.

    Let me state once again that I am not a vegan or any other kind of vegetarian. However, I do believe that the bulk of evidence supports a vegetarian diet over an omniverous diet. I have personally made the choice not to adopt a vegetarian diet due to generally good health status on an organic omniverous diet, as well as for hedonic reasons.

    Just a further comment regarding posting etiquette. For those posters on this site who have a penchant for name calling and other slurs, you may believe that you are being ‘authentic’ and ‘telling it like it is.’ In truth, what you are doing, is destroying your credibility by an unskillful display of emotional incontinence and rudeness.

    Once again Denise, thank you for creating this forum and for your continued work in the field of nutrition.

    Kind Regards,

    Brian J. MacLean

      1. “Why “failure to thrive” on vegetarian
        diets is rarely talked about”

        I think its talk very much, you certainly seem to be very well aware of it. Here’s my two cent. Many aspiring vegeterians in US enter the scene through extremely dobious frame. Most of the time it’s the raw scene. Moreoverer, many of these people harbour the same thoughts on diet as everyone else, carbs are unhealthy…fruit makes you fat. Or then they just eat soy five times a day in addition to being raw vegan and pretend it was particularly the vegan diet that made them sick.

        However, you in different situation. I am here to tell you that carbs won’t make you fat. Skipping unprocessed carbs on veg diet is likely to end up badly. We never see anyone ending up in troubles among those people who follow f.ex vegan RD Ginny Messinas blog, have read the works of Michael Greger, Esselstyn, Barnard, etc. It’s only the kind of whackjobs who speak about entzymes who enter into problems with veg diet, and frankly it’s often not the only issue they end up having problems with in life.

    1. Nice comments Brian,

      PrimitiveNutrition has done such staggering jobb that the paleo crew can only pretend he doesn’t exist.

      The three additional videos on cholesterol are amazing….I think we all learn from these that if scientist want to inflict an atherosclerosis on us quickly as possible, they do it by feeding us the Inuit diet, not lectins nor wheat. Thanks to plantpositive anyone referring to Tokelayns, Masai, Inuit as model for good health will end up looking like a bordeline retarded.

      “Futility of cholesterol denialism”

      I find it very interesting that Miss Minger recommends the diet of Kurt Harris for people looking diet advices, intresting especially in the context that Harris has disclosed people following his regime get their cholesterol on the 300mg/dl region pretty quickly. Moreover, interesting also in the context of Harris being part of religious sect that thinks Ancel Keys is criminal…which should reveal all about what kind of intellectual powerhouse Dr Harris is. …just saying

      1. This video start with pure ad hominem: “are you foolish enough to believe some random Internet blog (Free the animal) rather than confirmed scientists”?

        If I apply the same dishonest reasoning to these videos: “why believe some ANONYMOUS video on Youtube rather than books written by doctors with real names”? (for the gullible people out there who bought the argument in the video that only online fools are cholesterol skeptics, I have news for you: there are actual *doctors* exposing the fallacy of the cholesterol hypothesis in actual *books*…)

        When a presentation starts this way, I just KNOW that it’s going to be bullshit, because people who use this approach (anonymity, fallacious rethorics, ad hominem arguments) always distort everything they touch with bias, prejudice, group thinking. That’s not the way of actual thinkers.It appeals to people with poor critical thinking skills. I’ve read countless material making a far better case for the cholesterol hypothesis, than these sophomoric videos that just regurgitate the current doxa, in a way that’s not even remotely interesting at that.

        1. The above video is response to original primitivenutrition series which covers cholesterol already in detail. You’d do yourself a great favor by forgetting your rules about ad hominems and actually just watch the vidoes. Primitivenutritions worked for Denise Minger very well. She certainly invested her time in them, maybe even too much as she plagiated her whole blog post based on primitivenutritions original work. So, it’s safe to say, you are not dealing with BS here.

          Minger likes myth-busting and who knows, maybe her next plagiated work is “The truth about lipid hypothesis – we all got it wrong”, in which she ofcourse refers to those half retarded cavemen quacks who got it wrong.

            1. Yep. It’s doubtful anything productive comes from this. But, maybe by responding to the troll, we are able to solidify our own thoughts/beliefs? Still, time to move on, seriously… There is a huge difference between an intelligent argument and just someone with misguided anger

          1. @Wizzu,

            and don’t forget these doctors who are cholesterol deniers are also, every single one of them, in the faith that Ancel Keys manipulated the data. This should all reveal how sincere and intellectual powerhouses these doctors are. These clowns are not even willing to do a rudimentary research, that’s why it’s so ridiculously easy to point their fallacies for someone with real talent, such as primitivenutrition.

            In his article, “the cause of atherosclerosis” the chiefeditor for American Journal of Cardiology says heart disease is a question of one factor and that’s cholesterol . One is immune to heart disease with total serum cholesterol under 150mg/dl no matter what you do, drink, smoke, stress, etc, since it’s physiologically impossible for atherosclerosis to develope under the magic treshold under normal conditions. This fact is nicley illustrated in the Framingham study for example. Roberts has hosted about 1300 scientific articles. I pointed out this to Minger while she debunked it by saying that Roberts was referring to “debunked” Ancel Keys study inter alia and thus cannot be taken seriously. LOL…so who is the twisted troll?

            Also, I’d like to add, I am not trolling or trying to convince you to plant-based diets, you guys are twisted, stupid muppets, completely brainwashed by this sect-like religious lipid confusionists. However, it’s sooo…satisfying to know, that anyone entering the scene with open mind is very unlike to fall for Mingers & Co’s BS once we get this material out to people. Brian above makes a good example.

            1. “These clowns are not even willing to do a rudimentary research”

              Sigh. Look who talking. Richard there is a huge gap between what you think your know/learned about all this, and what you actually know/learned, which is not much. You’re too busy being rude, agressive and posting crap, to actually learn much, I guess.

              As previously stated, you are being sophomoric, just like the guy in these videos (who I suspect is probably… you).

              These videos (that I did look at, as painful as it was) didn’t have anything to teach me. I already knew all these arguments, which have already been voiced by much brighter minds and better orators than this anonymous clown. If the ‘big guys’ didn’t convince me, how on earth could these poor videos change my point of view?

              If you are so sure that cholesterol causes heart disease, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to find a scientific proof. I mean a real proof, not conjectures from associations found in epidemiological studies or the opinion of some ‘specialist’. Bring the scientific proof. Good luck: for If it actually existed, there wouldn’t be so many skeptics.

                1. And, no. I am not behind

                  I would never have the talent for put a work like that, however I do have the talent to figure out in which kind of an intellectual hierarchy Masterjohn, Minger, Harris, etc stands next to the man behind primitivenutrition series.

                  If don’t believe me, then trust Minger, it was she, not me, who plagiated her whole blog post based on one segment of the series. Imitation is very sincere form and admiration, I guess….

                2. Aaah, yes, the famous cholestyramine trial.

                  Cholestyramine has a long list of metabolic effects:
                  . lowers LDL (the obvious reason why it’s been chosen for the study, of course…)
                  . increases HDL (not by much, but it’s there)
                  . Increases triglycerides
                  . lowers some kinds of inflammation
                  . binds several kinds of dangerous toxins
                  . binds fat-soluble vitamins(A, D, E, K…)
                  . forces the liver to make more glycocholic acid
                  … the list goes on.

                  So now tell me, Richard. What makes “lower cholesterol” the best explanation for the reduction in CHD from cholestyramine intake, rather than:
                  . better HDL/LDL ratio (since cholestyramine lowers LDL without lowering HDL)
                  . transitional lack of vitamin A
                  . the detoxifying effect of cholestyramine
                  . some other possible metabolic effect of cholestyramine that hasn’t even been investigated?

                  The reply is: blind faith, brainwashing, hidden agenda, group think, doxa, and lack of rational thinking. Just what you think are *our* problems.

                  This study (whic has met lots of controversy in its time, and not only from cholesterol skeptics…) is very, very far from being a scientific proof that cholesterol causes heart disease. Try harder.

                    1. I know this paper. I like it.

                      What’s really funny is that this very paper goes totally AGAINST your belief that “cholesterol causes heart disease”.

                      A single quote from this study will be enough: “a decreased trend in the incidence rate of CHD with an increasing HDL cholesterol level was consistent in people with any level of LDL cholesterol”.

                      So you increase HDL (thus, UPPING ‘cholesterol’) and CHD decreases, WHATEVER the LDL levels are. So, at the end, whatever the TC level is, you can decrease CHD by upping ‘cholesterol’, as long as it’s HDL.

                      This study is actually one of the dozens showing that total cholesterol levels per se have no relation with heart disease. Lipoproteins ratio (LDL/HDL) are a different story.

                      I’m pretty sure that you are very confused as to what actually are ‘cholesterol’, ‘HDL’; ‘LDL’, ‘Triglycerides’ and so on. Are you aware for instance, that technically, neither LDL nor HDL are even ‘cholesterol’? They are lipoproteins.

                      Still waiting for a proof that ‘cholesterol causes heart disease’. A hint: avoid posting papers you didn’t even read, unless you just want to keep on looking like a fool, like you do here by posting a study going against your beliefs…

                      Get smarter: post less, research/learn more.

        2. Your comment was the best thing about this page. Until these “vegans” can find ONE civilization in the history of the entire world that didn’t eat meat (and thrive) then I will stick to being an omnivore. You don’t need science to know what is right.

      2. “… the top specialists in the relevant fields have come to a virtually unanimous conculsion: Yes, high blood cholesterol is preventable risk factor for heart disease.”

        Indeed it is, and nobody is claiming anything different.

        What’s being claimed is that the link between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol is poor, and that it is an epiphenomenon… a (not-so-good) predictor.

        The rest of this video is a mixture of ad hominem attacks and argument from authority.

    2. Hi Brian,

      Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your background and voicing your perspective so respectfully. I think disagreements and alternate viewpoints — when they don’t devolve into character attacks — are the most valuable part of any nutritional discourse, since they force us to consider new angles and hopefully climb closer to whatever the truth is. I hope you’ll stick around and continue contributing to the discussions here!

      As others have suggested, using “vegan” and “vegetarian” interchangeably could be a problem since the nutritional difference between veganism and vegetarianism is much bigger than between vegetarianism and omnivorism. Eggs and dairy still provide a number of animal-based nutrients that could ward off the issues many vegans end up facing, and I tend to think a well-designed vegetarian diet could be pretty sustainable for many folks. And although research on vegans is limited, some studies suggest they have a significantly higher mortality rate than vegetarians and health-conscious omnivores (e.g., — “Being a vegan was associated with a higher mortality risk (1.59; 95% CI, 0.98-2.59) than being a lacto-ovo vegetarian (1.08; 95% CI, 0.86-1.34), when compared with nonvegetarians with moderate meat/fish consumption, accounting for all other variables”).

      Thanks again for your thoughts, and for the kind words. 🙂


      1. […]the nutritional difference between veganism and vegetarianism is much bigger than between vegetarianism and omnivorism. Eggs and dairy still provide a number of animal-based nutrients that could ward off the issues many vegans end up facing[…]

        I’m glad that you insist on the difference between vegetarianism and veganism, which is indeed much bigger than most omnivores (and sometimes even vegetarians themselves) seem to think. These are two very, very different ways of eating.

        […] and I tend to think a well-designed vegetarian diet could be pretty sustainable for many folks. […]

        And I’m glad that we share this opinion.

        You can be a vegetarian and never touch grains or legumes. You can live on vegetables, dairy, eggs, cheese, nuts…and I’m pretty sure that if well designed, such a diet can be healthy. Though it’s harder to design it properly, and follow it, than a balanced omnivorous diet: I for one, threw the towel after 12 years of trying to keep up with the everyday thinking about possible missing nutrients in my diet. But for people who are enclined to it, I’m all for vegetarianism.

        On the other hand, a vegan can’t live long without a combination of grains and legumes, since no vegetable can bring the proper proteins in the diet. Besides, it will be difficult to provide the proper amount of fat-soluble vitamins. So I consider a vegan diet as a being simply a nonsensical concept, even more so since I see zero reason not to eat dairy (assuming you’re not intolerant to it of course…) and eggs, other than from the common misconception that these are bad for your health because of cholesterol and sat fat. Even the moral standpoint (exploiting animals) doesn’t make any sense when you dig into it.

        Apart from these populations in India where veganism is a traditional way of life, which I must respect, I see veganism either as a fad, as an immature way of feeling special, or as a depersonalizing moral dogma.

        Vegetarianism is completely, entirely different.

      2. Minger,

        why didn’t reveal us that the was only 23 reported deaths in the vegan group, that would help us to put things into perspective.

        Moreover, failed to report this,

        “The nonsignificant reduction in mortality from ischemic heart diseases in vegetarians compared with health-conscious persons could be explained in part by avoidance of meat intake”.

        Now, if non health conscious vegeterians (and Vegans) do atleast as well as health conscious omnivores, shouldn’t we all be vegeterians, keeping mind the ecologic and ethical reasons. I wonder how health conscious vegeterians would have fared.

  36. “Let me state once again that I am not a vegan or any other kind of vegetarian. However, I do believe that the bulk of evidence supports a vegetarian diet over an omniverous diet.”
    Brian, I am most certainly not an expert, however …
    – I tried to read Campbell’s book and rejected it as a piece of vegan propaganda
    – I didn’t watch any of the videos (Campbell’s or this anonymous guy) so I won’t comment here
    – There is a huge difference between veganism and vegetarianism and it seems strange that you ignore the difference. I find comments like: “Vegan researchers are wonderful, VEGETARIAN diet is superior to omnivorous diet” strange. What am I missing?

  37. Thank you for your comment Anna. With regard to my omission of drawing a distinction between a vegan diet and other forms of vegetarianism, this is for two reasons. First, I have no personal experience with a vegan diet. Secondly, I am not aware of any well done studies comparing a carefully constructed vegan diet and, let us say, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. The studies available appear to have too many confounding variable to draw firm conclusions.

    With regard to your question,’What am I missing?’, in the interest of not cluttering this post with excess words, I think you would find what you are ‘missing’ in the Plant Positive videos.


    Brian J. MacLean

    1. Brian, well … I don’t think we’re communicating.
      Something is really, really, really wrong.
      You don’t have a personal experience with veganism, but it doesn’t prevent you from promoting promoters of veganism and stating that vegetarianism? (you mean veganism?) is superior. Forgive me my logical inclinations, but I am an unrealized mathematician.

      1. Anna, as I said in my earlier posting, I am making statements primarily based on data and the quality of conclusions drawn from these data, not personal experience. However, on a personal level, I have noted that my cholesterol measures are more favorable with a reduction in saturated fat. Because of other favorable lifestyle factors, I have tended to ignore this, perhaps foolishly. If I suffer any cardiac events (and if I survive them) as a result of my less than optimal cholesterol ratios, I will perhaps be more qualified to share with you my personal experience resulting from the omnivore diet .

        1. Having health-minded mindset and based on the all the data we have. I’d never accept having my total serum cholesterol under 150mg/dl, everything else is playing with risks.

          1. If your total cholesterol is under 150 you may be in danger of serious health issues. Cholesterol is vital for good health.

            1. This is a good question (seriously, no snark). We hear a lot about how bad cholesterol, but close to nothing about what the body does with it IRL. I have heard that it wraps nerves and is used as a precursor to vit D (and I suppose other hormones that are closely related chemically), but not in much detail. What do people know about the benefits & uses of the various classes of lipoproteins?

              I’m sure the body doesn’t produce lipoproteins & cholesterol for the purpose of giving people heart attacks. 🙂 They have an important function, which it could be interesting to understand.


  38. The way I see it is that, we indeed do not have any data suggesting for veganism. However, I cannot comprehend why I hould add any animal products in my diet. As Joel Fuhrman nicely said animal products are like processed food. Lacking all the micronutrients. The average plant food has about 64 times more antioxidants compared to animal foods. In addition you get loads of cholesterol and saturated along the package. Keepin’ mind that the lipid hypothesis is one most established, researched and approved model in medical community. No thanks. So, I am happy to be 100% vegan eventhough the last 5-10% may be due to faith, ethics and spiritual reasons, I think that’s enough to compensate the lack of data.

    1. You seriously think animal foods are not nutritionally dense? Get a clue. And the lipid hypothesis is losing traction in scientific circles day by day. And you know what, a good sirloin steak might just take the edge off the obvious “vegan rage” you are walking around with.

  39. Dude…what an earth are you talking about. Apparently you are living some kind of a religious sect life, where your “scientist” are made of people who think Ancel Keys is criminal. Welcome to reality. You can start that by introducing yourself to primitivenutrition video serie on youtube. Lipid hypothesis is particularly emphasized in the additional “response serie”. It’s a free second opinion for you. Use it.

    I am sure animal products are nutritious, however the question we ought to be asking is, nutritious next to what?

    1. No, I am not living some kind of a religious sect life, whatever the heck that means. I am a very logical guy who has had a huge interest in health for over a decade. Simply being a parrot and repeating poor you tube material does not an argument make.

      The lipid hypothesis is dying on the vine and in a generation or two will have gone the way of the flat earth society. It simply does not hold up to scrutiny. The guy who I think exclaims the role of cholesterol in health better than anyone is Chris Masterjohn. If you are willing to broaden your horizons and do some research on his arguments, you will learn a great deal.

      I have said this several times on this forum. The enemy of healthy omnivores like myself is not vegans (although I truly believe they are misguided) or a vegan diet per say, and the enemy of vegans should not be healthy omnivores. The enemy of both and of all people who truly have an interest in healthy living is the horrendous Standard American Diet (SAD) and its proliferation of processed crap. That diet threatens to bankrupt the nation with spiraling health care costs due to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc…. that is taxing our health care system and continues to spiral out of control.

      If we could somehow magically make people give up the processed crap they eat and stick to real food (meat, vegetables, fruit, tubers, eggs, nuts, some dairy…) and eschew all “manufactured” food, we would very quickly become much healthier, lower the obesity epidemic dramatically rein in health care costs. Alas, it isn’t going to happen but one can dream.

      1. Sorry, guys, but are missing something very important – namely the quality of life itself. You can’t expect people who are unemployed and losing their houses and medical care or people who live in terror of a workplace and the horror of being unemployed and losing their houses and medical care to walk leisurely to a farmer market (possibly thousands miles away) for a fresh, very fresh piece of something for this evening, then to spend hours preparing this fresh piece of something and then educate themselves what would be good for the next evening and where to get it … When people work in terror for some 80 hours a week, they collapse after work’s charms and pleasures in front of stupid TV with some comfort food in hand or mouth.
        So many comments here are so elitist and so detached from reality.

        1. Anna what we need is a new intensive goverment sponsored education program against the dangers of cholesterol and saturated fat. This way could align more people with the science of year 2012 and help them to make better lifestyle choices.

            1. Epidemiologic studies on homogenic cultures does not really give any merit to the idea that diet causes sickness, that’s why because everyone is already in a high risk diet. The saturated fat hypothesis comes from clinical trials, drug trials, cross-cultural epidemiologic studies, etc.

              The saturated fat caused heart disease is proved from the waist down thousands of times, so that the only one you have left who does not believe in it are folks who think Ancel keys is criminal.

              1. “The saturated fat caused heart disease is proved from the waist down thousands of times” —– Yeah, right. Keep on chanting, mindless parrot, lobotomized that you are by the doxa imposed by the pharmaceutical lobby and short-sighted incompetent technocrats. Unable to think on your own.

                Until you provide the actual proof you are talking about (now you have TWO proofs to provide, that we will of course never see…), your allegations are as good as “Santa Klaus exists and it has been proved from the waist down thousands of times”. Simply repeating something doesn’t make it any truer.

                You have a loooong way to go, sonny. You’re not even scratching the surface: you’re just singing with the ignorant, mindless mob, trained to bark at the ones with real insight, the very ones trying to save you from your slave life. Five hundred years ago, you would have burned innocent women, shouting “they’re witches, it’s been proven!”.

                Now that was fun to write. 🙂

              2. “The saturated fat caused heart disease is proved from the waist down thousands of times”

                Sorry, making ex-cathedra statements like that doesn’t make it true. If this were so true Weston Price would have found people dying right and left from heart disease and other modern degenerative diseases while doing ‘cross-cultural studies’. But he didn’t. He found very healthy groups of people who ate lots of cholesterol and saturated fat.

                And of course nature chose saturated fats as a great source of energy. Ruminants as an example convert all that cellulose they eat into saturated fats which are one of their primary energy sources.

                Please go away. It’s the kind of nonsense you’re espousing that led the government and corporations to tell people that ‘polyunsaturates’ like corn oil are ‘heart-healthy’ and ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’.


              What is the American Heart Association’s Agenda? —It Sure Ain’t Science or Public Health

              Controversy and debate are an expected (and welcome) part of the scientific process. But the American Heart Association’s recent advisory urging Americans to gobble up their omega-6 fat is an unconscionable disservice, to both the scientific process and the public health.

              Old School Cholesterol Dogma versus Science

              On January 27, 2009 the American Heart Association (AHA) issued an advisory touting the benefits of eating plenty of omega-6 fats. Here’s the problem–AHA made sweeping statements that are not supported by the research, while ignoring landmark studies, which don’t support their views [Harris]. While the cholesterol myth has finally been put to rest as the cause underlying heart disease (it’s inflammation and beyond), it would seem that heart healthy eating would need some refinement.

              Yet, the American Heart Association’s key rationale for promoting omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, is because of their ability to lower blood cholesterol, when eaten in the place of saturated fats. (Keep in mind that one out of every two people with heart disease has a normal blood cholesterol level.) Furthermore, the AHA asserts that if Americans were to lower their current omega-6 fat, their heart health would suffer.

              Omega-6 fat intake has sky-rocketed in the last century, so it would seem that we should see a dramatic lowering of heart disease in the USA, yes? No. The incidence of cardiovascular disease has increased in parallel with the increase in linoleic acid intakes in many countries [Ghosh]. Linoleic acid is the most commonly eaten omega-6 fatty acid.heart disease have higher blood levels of the omega-6 fat, arachidonic acid, as shown below [Okuyama].
              yes? No. The incidence of cardiovascular disease has increased in parallel with the increase in linoleic acid intakes in many countries [Ghosh]. Linoleic acid is the most commonly eaten omega-6 fatty acid. Notably, people who have died from heart disease have higher blood levels of the omega-6 fat, arachidonic acid, as shown below [Okuyama].

        2. You know Anna, sometimes you are just a pain in the you know what and you should get off your own high horse. I’m sick of your very tired act.

          1. Dear Mario, I love your posts and we often think along the same lines. But I personally believe that sound words are sound words, wherever they com from. So if Anna writes sound words, so be it: whatever her real motives, they are still sound words.

            She had the intellectual honesty to reckon the same two weeks ago (she sees me as a nazi, but she recognized that my words made sense despite her poor opinion of me as a person). So I’m kinda enclined to cut her some slack in this area, if you see what I mean.

            It’s difficult to keep a personal discipline of avoiding ad hominen, isn’t it? 😉 To me, it’s an everyday struggle. But I think it’s worth it.

            1. When she writes sound words, I don’t make a comment like the one I made above. In fact, most times, I bite my tongue no matter how off topic or lame her comments are. In this case, I had simply had had enough. That last one was just a little too arrogant and a little too pious for me.

              Where in God’s green earth did her comment about working 80 hours a week and walking thousands of miles to farmer’s markets and taking hours to prepare that food etc… come from?

              It was in response to simple comment about eating real food. Guess what? For the most part, real food is not that expensive (or at least you can certainly choose real foods that are not that expensive), is available in every supermarket in the nation and can be prepared in a lot less than “hours and hours”. I work, I am a single dad of 4 (admittedly they are older ranging in age from 16 to 24, but they still all live with me with the 3 oldest in university here in Calgary), and I go to the gym every day. I still make it to the supermarket every day to buy what I am going to cook for dinner that night and prepare wholesome but mostly simple meals pretty much every day of the year.

              Do I sympathize with obese people and with people who make terrible food choices every day? VERY MUCH SO. Many people think they are making great choices when they aren’t. We place “heart healthy” stickers on Eggo Waffles for goodness sake. No wonder the average consumer is confused and makes terrible choices. I think unless one does an awful lot of personal research, knowing what is a good diet is extremely difficult. Processed food companies spend billions trying to convince us that Coco Puffs is a healthy choice to feed our children, and there is a massive amount of misinformation floating out there so that even many people who are health conscious still have no idea what to eat. It infuriates me that our governments, consciously or not continue to propagate myths that keep people unhealthy, flirting with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome etc…

              The fact remains though, that the vast majority of people still eat far too much “manufactured food”, no matter what the reason. If over time, through Lord knows what means and methods we can change that mentality and get the majority of people to make “real” food their choice the vast majority of the time, they will be better off and we will be hugely better off as a society that is being crippled by health care costs that are quickly spiraling out of control.

              1. Hey Mario, very much enjoyed your comment but I would like to emphasize that government should stay out of the health advise business and let the consumer make the choice of who stays or goes in business. More and more people are going to grass fed and away from factory food. I have two 5 cubic foot freezers which allow me to buy in bulk at discount. I’m just finishing 190 lbs of beef and I think next I’ll go with full fat pork. I shop for food about once a month to get my vegies that enhance my meat centered meals. I stay away from grains and anything with sugar. I’ve discovered several things buying in bulk. Bone soup is delicious, surprised me.

                1. Unfortunately, our government is in the health advice business. That is part of the problem. The government “food pyramid” is a big part of the problem. I do get your overall point however about government involvement being kept to a minimum.

                  As far as bone soup is concerned, I am with you all the way. I bought a huge soup pot a while back and pretty much every week I make a big batch of bone broth (I buy some soup bones from the local market and whatever else I have gathered in the last week from every day eating) and let it simmer for up to 48 hours and then use that as a base for soup. I’ll throw in everything but the kitchen sink in that broth with a ton of different spices and it almost always comes out delicious. Real good for you and just plain yummy to boot.

              2. Now that’s a reply that makes sense. 🙂

                I don’t think I can find any part in it that I’m not in agreement with.

                You’re right about real food actually costing no more than junk. Actually, I think it costs even less (even more so if We count the health care costs but I’m not even going there). But what does cost more, is *premium* real food, like grass-fed meat, organic vegetables and so on. Even so, it’s still possible to reduce the costs by eating organs and fatty cuts rather than lean meats, which is what I do BTW. But this needs education in a society where people are more easily disgusted by chicken liver than they are by Twinkies or sugar-loaded drinks… sigh.

                1. Chicken livers and chicken hearts are delicious. There is a little place that sells organic chicken livers and hearts from pastured hens on my way home from work and that is a regular treat. Cheap, delicious (with sauteed onions and a couple of fried eggs), chicken hearts and livers are a treat. Have to say I am even more partial to the hearts.

                  1. Yeah, bone broth rules! To think I discovered its health benefits, then started the habit to constantly make broths, only three months ago… where was I?!

              3. “Where in God’s green earth did her comment about working 80 hours a week and walking thousands of miles to farmer’s markets”
                Well, Vachon, why don’t you check how many vacation days, how many sick days, etc, your neighbors have and how many hours they work. Your government and American are different, You just don’t know that and … anything else.
                I am not going to continue this discussion.

                1. Well Anna, how does it feel to be all knowing about other people and their cultures?

                  And by the way, it is extremely rude to address someone by their last name when you are aware of their first name. Can’t say I am surprised though. Throughout this entire blog, in post after post, you tend to be arrogant, self righteous and condescending. It gets real old real fast.

  40. Ouh…and for the all the sub-retarded cholesterol deniers who think Chris Masterjohn makes up a good scientist by telling the Inuits and Masai are healthy.

    This is what Denise Minger wrote to primitivenutritions youtube comment pages.

    “I agree cholesterol denialism (in the sense that blood lipids are … … unrelated to heart disease) is a problem”

    It’s very problematic indeed! You guys can be 100% certain that if scientist wanted to inflict you atheroclerosis as quick as possible in a laboratory, you would not be fed by wheat or lectins.

    1. Even Masterjohn does not contend that you should just ignore cholesterol numbers. Try to stay with the program Richard. He believes oxidized LDL is a contributor to arteriosclerosis. You obviously have not researched his thoughts on the topic and are just parotting something you saw or read elsewhere. What he doesn’t buy into are that certain levels are ideal or that cholesterol is a particularly good marker for cardiac health.

      What he certainly does not believe is that ingesting cholesterol in the form of eggs, unprocessed meats, dairy etc… is inherently unhealthy. Quite to the contrary, he recognizes that these foods are extremely nutritionally dense and healthy.

      1. And that’s why Masterjohn deserves the characaterization retard. Had you actually watch primitivenutritions channel, you’d know all about oxidized LDL. Claiming that cholesterol laden foods does not elevate cholesterol is just silly, since we clinical evidence that shows it does. The only being those who already have sky-high blood cholesterol levels.

        Egg cholesterol in the diet

          1. Chris Masterjohn NEVER said that cholesterol laden foods do not elevate cholesterol levels hahaha.. Where are you getting this? I am not a follower of masterjohn at all and I know he never said that. He specifically says that it DOES elevate your levels and that his cholesterol levels are pretty high. He pointed out that cholesterol Levels are not a cursor for heart disease, and also talks about the differences between LDL and LDC-C cholesterol. Btw people in Japan have higher cholesterol levels then those of us in America, and they tend to live longer too 🙂

        1. Sorry, you’re so full of crap it’s not even funny. Not a single person following Denise or Christ Masterjohn is going to take you seriously. You’re speaking to a group of people far more aware of these food issues than the general public and your epithet laden diatribes don’t do much to lend you credibility. You basically want us to believe that old foods cause new disease epidemics. Please. go somewhere else with your strange and quixotic anti-saturated fat/cholesterol foolishness somewhere else.

          I really think it’s time for Denise to ban you, calling people ‘retard’.

        2. Richard, this is your third warning and you won’t be getting a fourth. You are absolutely entitled to your views and opinions, and I want this blog to be an open platform for anyone to share their perspective (including you) — but when you start making the comment section an unpleasant place for other people, that’s crossing a line. You are welcome to stay IF you express your opinions in a more respectful way and refrain from calling people names. Otherwise, you’ll be cordially invited to my very exclusive banned-IP list. 🙂

          If you have any specific gripes you’d like to express to me, of course, you are welcome to use the “Contact” page on this site.

          Shape up or ship out, my friend!

          1. He doesn’t Denise and it doesn’t look like he will or can. It’s like a mental diarrhea brought on by an inability to cope with sane people having normal conversations about points of view, scientific findings, etc. Please stop him, it’s stinking up the blog.

            1. Afterburner: Are you aware of what Jack Kruse is up to these days? Either he is totally out of it, or he is brilliant and on the edge of something we have been overlooking all along, like an elephant in the room. As we did for instance with supplementation with Omega 3 instead of reducing Omega 6. I think it homeostasis at cell level and proper energy balance in the mitochondria is where it all plays out. Am beginning to apply his cold thermogenesis. Carefully, slowly, but I must admit an ice cold shower feels absolutely exhilarating.. afterwards.

          2. For the record, I do hope that Richard does “shape up” and does not get exiled to Veganland, as this would leave me quite alone as an occasional dissenting voice from the shadows. Who knows, I might even feel so lonely and alienated, that conversion to the fold may seem compelling. If this occurred, I am wondering what would be left for us to talk about, aside from congratulating each other for being smarter than the vast majority of world renowned medical and nutrition scientists, with regard to the lipid hypothesis? And of course, this would also make us much smarter than Loren Cordain, who also makes the egregious error of giving credence to the lipid hypothesis. Geez, just contemplating all this gives me a sense of rising self-esteem!

    1. Not many obese, or diabetic people there. I guess not many people there either who are a drain on our healthcare system and who will most likely ruin it for all of us.
      So what part of your “natural tradition” is worth emulating?

      1. Yes indeed, not many ‘obese, or diabetic people there’ and as you cleverly point out, there are ‘not many people there either who are a drain on our healthcare system.’ In fact there are no people there who are a drain on any healthcare system, because they don’t have one, and associated with this, are a different set of health problems, including a likely load of parasites, which assist in keeping blood cholesterol within safe limits. Another obvious area where a health comparison with our societal level is specious, is that these traditional peoples have an activity level far exceeding those of the vast majority of people in western cultures.

        And James, there is no part of my “natural tradition” worth emulating, since I don’t have such a thing, and neither do you. Pretending to be
        a modern ‘hunter gatherer’ or ‘paleolithic’ is just plain silly. You may have heard of the naturalistic fallacy.

        1. “Pretending to be a modern ‘hunter gatherer’ or ‘paleolithic’ is just plain silly.”
          Of course it would be silly because the industrial machine and division of labor have removed the need to be a hunter gatherer but the evolution of our metabolism requires that we eat like a hunter gatherer. Have you ever wondered in the history of man the cost to human lives finding which plants are safe to eat? (include mushrooms)
          In regards to the video I think it was staged to display hunting as a savage disregard for animal life.
          I don’t buy it. Hunters have a great deal of regard for animal life.

          What is the safe limit for cholesterol and how do you know?

      1. Chris, you think that Brian is a vegan? It looks like. I suspected it because what he was saying was too convoluted and I never got a straight answer.
        But I do have a problem with some of paleo tenets. I think I just don’t need them or any other tenets.

        1. Sorry to upset your binary classification scheme, but as I said previously, I am not a vegan or any other kind of vegetarian. I consume both meat, fowl and dairy, although not in large quantities and all organic. In fact, since Denise eats a diet which is 90% plants, she is considerably closer to being a vegan than myself. Based on the bulk of scientific evidence, I would move as close to veganism as Denise, but alas, I enjoy the bon vivant lifestyle far too much, and quite frankly, am not as disciplined.

          And Anna, you did get a straight answer from me.

          Regarding your last point, I am curious why, if you don’t need any ‘tenets’, that you are engaging in such a dialogue, which is largely about ‘tenets’?

          1. Actually, this blog has a lot of useful information and I am learning. I don’t see it as ideological. Denise has clearly an analytical mind and comments are diverse.

    2. Oh please, this video is masterful at creating and intensifying a suspenseful grip, not by what is shown, but by the music.
      Play the same music with a video of a nursing baby and you would have the same affect.
      A small group of hunters who perform a well thought out stalk to a quick kill should offend no one. And hunters don’t hunt to background music.

      1. ‘A small group of hunters who perform a well thought out stalk’ – not exactly. If you watched the video, you would have noticed that this ‘small group’ is often composed of about 10,000 hunters(roughly the same number of African elephants still alive in the wild state). And far from being a ‘well thought out stalk’, it is an inevitable kill as they close the vice trapping and slaughtering the animals within.

        Wondering how many meat eaters would still be interested in this food choice if they had to get their own hands dirty (i.e., bloody)? Would this still ‘offend no one’ among those writing on this site?

        1. ” Wondering how many meat eaters would still be interested in this food choice if they had to get their own hands dirty (i.e., bloody)? Would this still ‘offend no one’ among those writing on this site?”
          This is a non-issue. In almost all societies we are far removed from the killing floor. I say too bad because we are also far removed from where our food comes from.

        2. I know people that don’t have a problem being very close the source of their own food. My very own mom, who lives in a very rural area in the central Western US, just this last year went hunting for the first time with her husband. Shot an elk (they’re pretty abundant out there) and had wild game meat for quite a long time from it. She and her husband even ‘processed’ the elk themselves.

          I told her to make sure and eat the organ meats and use the bones to make fantastic and nutritious bone broths.

        3. Well, my chickens are right outside my window, and I personally supervise when beef are butchered. My mother tells me that in her day, it was considered unsafe to buy a chicken already plucked, because you didn’t know how healthy the chicken was. She bought them live, then the person selling them cleaned them while you watched. So no, harvesting animals isn’t really worse than say, digging potatoes or gathering soy … probably something most vegans don’t do either.

          Small-farm chickens and goats are great for the environment. Chickens recycle garbage and make great manure, while goats mow the grass and give great milk. Beef do best on large plots of wasteland, and letting the buffalo roam again would be a great thing for the Gulf of Mexico. Inland fish farms can produce great fish, using duckweed and algae and earthworms to grow fish.

          But I don’t think this is an either/or thing, the vegans vs. the carnivores. The ideal diet, if you look at the entire world, does tend to be plant-based, with fish, eggs, poultry, or milk, as the bulk of protein. People can’t eat all that much protein, so you have to get the calories somewhere! Traditionally, “meat”, as in “ruminant muscle” wasn’t eaten all that often, as the animals were valued more for their eggs, milk or wool. Young male animals couldn’t grow into adult males, or they become violent and fight each other.

          And I don’t think that “eating ruminant meat” is off the hook in terms of health damage. I know it’s unpopular in the Paleo crowd, but the studies about neu5gc are troubling. The stuff IS inflammatory, and it is absorbed in the body. Also, unless combined carefully with other foods, like tea or milk, iron is over-absorbed in meals that contain heme iron and saturated fat. It’s more of a problem since WW2, since “fortified” foods were invented and hookworm was mostly eradicated. Iron is *known* to cause heart disease, and iron levels in the US are higher than those in China or India or most of the rest of the world.

          It’s not surprising that there are no examples of vegan cultures, since humans really do need some of the nutrients in animal foods. But I also have not found an example of a healthy culture that eats mainly ruminant meat. The pastoral people like the Maasai drink mainly milk, and those ranchers in old Texas ate mainly beans. The Inuit eat mainly seafood, which has a very different profile. The Plains Indians ate a huge variety of food, but we don’t have a really clear record of the usual daily menu. The Paleo people were tall, but we have no idea what their hearts looked like, and mostly they died young in any case. So I guess we won’t have the data until a lot of American “mainly meat eaters” reach older age?

            1. I’m not sure what the question is? What is a ruminant, or why do I not think they are the best animal food for humans? By ruminants I mean goats, sheep, and cows. I’m not against eating meat at all, but I can’t find an example of a healthy society that uses ruminant meat as the primary protein. This bothers me a little in that the more paleo-oriented folks seem to be warning people to not eat much fish or poultry, because of “PUFA” … yet fish and poultry have been dietary mainstays for some of the healthiest people.

              1. Thank you, my question is answered but this brings up another question maybe someone can answer. Omega 3 and omega 6 are supposedly balanced on grass fed beef because cattle are normally grazing animals but how does the omegas balance on poultry and pork? Poultry are one of the only animals that grains may be acceptable as a staple and hogs are not grazing animals, they are more rooting animals that will eat almost anything a goat will eat. Are free range chickens better than the alternative? What about hogs?

                1. Chicken fed ‘grains’ are usually fed soy. In fact this is often a marketing ploy when the packaging says, ‘vegetarian fed’. This soy protein becomes part the meat and eggs of the chickens. So we’re no longer eating an egg so much as eating a soy tainted product.


                  Chickens when raised in pastured situations eat bugs, worms, insects and all kinds of other things that lay on the ground, including natural seeds and grains. I get my eggs from a small farm whose chickens are pastured (which I know for a fact because I go out there and see them for myself running around the grass and landscape). The eggs are vastly superior to anything, including ‘organic omega-3’ eggs I can get at the grocery store.

                2. We’ve standardized on fish, eggs, and chicken. The eggs we get from our chickens. They used to be free-range, but then the free-range eagles and fence-jumping bobcats started eating them, so they are “cooped up” now and going to a bigger enclosed space shortly. However, there weren’t enough bugs etc. to really keep them fed, so most of their actual calories come from leftovers from our kitchen. Actually the eggs are even better since they started getting more leftovers (I get other family’s leftovers too: some people are using restaurant scraps). Chickens prefer to be under cover, esp. when there are flying birds around, and ours spent most of the time huddled under a vehicle. They seem quite happy in their “house”. Actually they can get out at this point, but they don’t unless I kick them out to forage.

                  I’m probably one of 3 people left in the US that don’t think soy is always evil, but one of the best ways I think to feed chickens is to buy bulk seeds, then sprout them. They LOVE sprouted seeds. Also I want to raise black soldier flies as a supplement, and I do raise worms. Leftover dinner though, is still their favorite, esp. leftover bones, enchiladas, etc. The original reason we got the hens was because we didn’t have a garbage disposal, or garbage pickup, and if you compost food it attracts bears. If you have chickens, you don’t have food leftovers! They compost what they don’t eat, buy burying it in chicken litter. If it attracts flies, they eat the flies! They are amazing omnivores, and can handle a huge variety of foods.

                  We’ve raised meat chickens before, and plan to shortly when we get better housing for them.

                  Pigs I’m not sure how I feel about. On the one hand, their protein profile is a lot like a human’s, which should make it easy to assimilate. OTOH, their protein profile is a lot like a human’s, which means they carry diseases. The smallpox that wiped out the original North Americans … was carried by wild pigs. The ecoli that got in some salsa … was carried by wild pigs. The flu varieties that pop up each year … is incubated by pigs on small farms. MRSA is mainly from pigs on factory farms. Anyway, I lost my taste for eating pork mostly.

                  Fish farming, if done RIGHT, can be a great thing. I think you’ll see it more in the next decade or two. I’ve seem some really good systems, which can raise huge amounts of food. The Amazonians had huge fish farms 1,000 years ago, and fed millions of people. The Hawaiians actually harvested 3 times more fish than today, yet didn’t overfish the waters.


                  Goats are great animals, though I think the milk and cheese is probably healthier than the meat. The Maasai who are so often used as an example … use milk mainly. There are a lot of examples of very healthy people living off fermented milk. One small goat can produce a gallon of milk a day, eating scrub (or mowing your lawn for you!). And produce food for your black soldier flies or earthworms or garden too.

  41. Brian, I am with you, even without watching the video. Personally, I am reluctant to go primal and participate in any of these activities: hunting, gathering, and most certainly human sacrifices and similarly charming activities.
    Why can’t I just eat my meat and some grass and avoid sugar, vegetable oils and excess of carbs without admiring human sacrifices, let alone participating in them?

  42. An excellent account on how the low-carb saturated fat apostles online operate, it’s nothing but a religious sect with their set of believes. These low-level people perpetuate a lie and manipulation

    “Vegan propaganda”

  43. Richard, are you truly clueless to the value of cholesterol in human metabolism?
    And after more than fifty years don’t you think that a hypothesis should either become a theory or be dissolved? I’m talking about the lipid hypothesis. A good scientist looks for data that does not support a hypothesis and so far nothing supports the hypothesis.

    1. gager, seems like you have some respect for wikipedia as an information source on such matters. Also found there: ‘As of the end of the 1980s, the evidence accumulated through studies resulted in general acceptance of the lipid hypothesis and the rejection of the “cholesterol controversy”,[12][13] and by 2002, the lipid hypothesis was accepted by the scientific community as proven,[14] or, as one article stated, “universally recognized as a law.”[15]’

          1. So gager, you believe your article from Wickipedia has truth value, but the one I cited you consider “clearly biased and poorly written”. It might interest you that a number of the contributors to both articles are the same. Perhaps this is why these statements are included in the article you seem to consider credible: “Elevated levels of the lipoprotein fractions, LDL, IDL and VLDL are regarded as atherogenic (prone to cause atherosclerosis).[43] Levels of these fractions, rather than the total cholesterol level, correlate with the extent and progress of atherosclerosis. On the converse, the total cholesterol can be within normal limits, yet be made up primarily of small LDL and small HDL particles, under which conditions atheroma growth rates would still be high,” and “The vast majority of doctors and medical scientists consider that there is a link between cholesterol and atherosclerosis.”

            atherosclerosis as discussed above;[60] a small group of scientists, united in The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, questions the link.[61]

            1. You forget? I referenced the article because it states the importance of cholesterol in metabolism and the important functions in provides. It is not because it was at the wiki site and I do discriminate on opinion and facts. We are not stupid.
              The article you referenced is useless except to show bias.

              1. Gager, since “We are not stupid” and are aware of the important functions of cholesterol, why the need to cite a basic article on this?
                Perhaps you do discriminate between “opinion and facts” but did not seem to apply discrimination with the article you cited, since it agrees with the article I cited, which you consider “useless.”

                1. Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome probably best demonstrates the critical role cholesterol plays in healthy human physiology. Chris Masterjohn presents the best take on the role of cholesterol in heart disease.


                  I happen to think he’s correct, that there’s like a bystander role here, but not a direct ‘your cholesterol is too high’ directly causative role. Certain fractions or cholesterol carrier molecules can become oxidized because of inefficient metabolism. It’s not about reducing cholesterol it’s about improving your metabolic efficiency. Avoid foods that lead to lipid peroxidation like processed vegetable oils (PUFA’s) for instance.

                  At the end of the day, old foods can’t be causing 20th century disease epidemics. This is precisely what Weston A Price noted when he studied groups of people around the world.

  44. I am one step further, besides aknowledging the huge important of cholesterol in human body per se, I’ve actually asked how much of this good stuff is enough. You should too. It’s really easy these days, just start by watching primitivenutritions serie “The futility of cholesterol denialism”. 3 videos and you get the answer.

    Primitivenutrition teaches you why everything you had ever known about cholesterol and heart disease is utterly wrong. Welcome to the year 2012

    1. “I am one step further”

      No, actually you are 50 years behind, like the anonymous clown making these videos, who has probably used a time machine to collect the material in the 70’s. He seems to have missed most of the recent (last 15 years) research in blood lipids and associated CHD risks.

      BTW I’m still waiting for the scientific proof you promised, showing that “cholesterol causes heart disease”. Post less. Research more.

      1. Richard is wrong about cancer and low cholesterol;

        Low LDL Cholesterol Is Related to Cancer Risk

        ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2012) — Low LDL cholesterol in patients with no history of taking cholesterol-lowering drugs predates cancer risk by decades, suggesting there may be some underlying mechanism affecting both cancer and low LDL cholesterol that requires further examination, according to research presented March 25 at the American College of Cardiology’s 61st Annual Scientific Session.

        1. suggesting there may be some underlying mechanism affecting both cancer and low LDL cholesterol

          If the relationship had come out the other way, there would be big headlines saying that high LDL causes cancer. Just saying …


          1. They are covering for statins but until that mysterious underlying mechanism affecting cholesterol and cancer is discovered what remains is a strong association between low cholesterol and cancer. Contrary to Richard claims low cholesterol precede cancer by many decades.

            1. I’m not sure what you mean by “covering for statins”. The study looked at people that were not on statins to remove the possibility that statins caused the result.

              My point was that the prevailing belief that low cholesterol is good, so it must be some common cause, not the low cholesterol itself, that is the cause of this effect — in the minds of the researchers. IRL, it’s an epidemiological study, so good for raising the possibility that there is something to find, but that’s all.

              1. Well they are looking outside statins because low cholesterol has been associated with increased cancer risk and higher mortality in older population and statins lower cholesterol. That low cholesterol is good has been question by a lot of skeptic doctors with an alternative hypothesis on the role that cholesterol play on health. Until some mechanism is discovered that reveal direct cause many cholesterol skeptics can point out that it it’s not necessarily an indication of good health. What is sure is that is not like many proponent of very low cholesterol like Richard said that cancer was causing the low cholesterol.

                1. “What is sure is that is not … cancer was causing the low cholesterol.”
                  In other words, they have provided evidence that either there is a common cause for both low cholesterol or that low cholesterol itself causes cancer. Right, and it is good to have this data point.

                  Another interesting point is that obesity is associated with increased cancer and (I think) also associated with high cholesterol. Given that, I would be interested in looking at the association between the subtypes of cholesterol and cancer. For example, do people that get cancer (obese or not) tend to have low levels of the large/fluffy LDL?


        2. There could be at least one underlying problem: people who have undetected celiac often have low cholesterol, and also increased risk of cancer. Celiacs who eat wheat are also often thin no matter how much they eat, so on health profiles … and to most people watching them … they seem both healthy and often beautiful.

        3. It seems that Richard has taken a break from posting, or fallen victim to the obvious ‘dangers’ of low LDL, and thus it seems left to me to point out the obvious concerning the relationship between cancer and cholesterol.

          In the Science Daily March 26, 2012 article that compared a relatively small group of cancer patients with controls (201 and 402 cases, respectively), one of the authors “cautions the current study does not suggest that having low LDL-C somehow leads to the development of cancer,” and that the “relationship between the two exists for many years prior to cancer diagnosis.” This author, is obviously pointing to a correlational relationship and to a time frame leading up to diagnosis. In oncological research, it is pretty well accepted that cancers often take decades to develop and thus, they could have an LDL lowering effect over time. It is also important to recognize that this was simply a paper presented at a conference and until it has passed the litmus test of acceptance into a peer review journal, the quality of the research remains undetermined.

          Considering a study with somewhat more cases than the cited 2012 study in the Science Daily, a 2009 paper in the peer reviewed journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, of 29,000 Finnish men over an 18 year period, showed that low cholesterol levels did not increase the risk of cancer in a clinically meaningful way. Although less than 200 milligrams per deciliter was associated with an 18 percent higher overall risk of cancer, this increased risk applied only to cases diagnosed in the early years of the study. In other words this finding supports the idea that lower cholesterol levels are the result of cancers which have not yet been diagnosed. In the same issue of this journal, another paper reporting on more than 5,500 men enrolled in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, yielded results showing that those with cholesterol levels lower than 200 had a 59 percent lower risk of developing the most dangerous form of that cancer. In a more recent research paper in another peer reviewed journal (Urologic Clinics of North America, Aug, 2011), the results strongly point to hypercholesterimia as a risk factor for the progression of prostate cancer.

          Looking at the bigger picture, there are many studies that show a relationship between saturated fat and cancer across countries. Those countries having the highest saturated fat intake also have the highest cancer rates. There are also many studies linking the intake of animal foods and cancers. And, as in all fields of scientific inquiry, there will be research study outliers presenting a picture at odds with the generally accepted conclusions from the bulk of research. Being an outlier does not necessarily mean that the conclusions are wrong, nor does it mean that they are right. To legitimately gain acceptance in the scientific community, and thus overthrow a generally accepted theory, the competing viewpoint necessarily requires a considerable amount of supportive well conducted research. With regard to a viable alternative to the lipid hypothesis, such knowledge conditions do not exist at the present time.

          1. “Those countries having the highest saturated fat intake also have the highest cancer rates. There are also many studies linking the intake of animal foods and cancers”

            Sorry, that’s just pure, complete, unadulterated nonsense. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again. Old foods don’t cause new, modern disease epidemics. This is exactly why Weston A Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration has been so valuable. Precisely because he was at a period of the 20th Century when he was noting increasing rates of not only poorer dental health, but a commensurate decline in overall health and increases in degenerative diseases. People weren’t suddenly eating MORE of old world foods, like animal products, they were moving away from them and eating more refined, nutrient poor foods (refined wheat, sugar, etc.). The fact that we eat dramatically more sugar now then 100 and 200 years ago is a huge clue to me. In a recent lecture Stephen Guyanet, Ph.D. ( note that we now eat in 7 hours the amount of sugar in one 12oz can of soda that a person in 1822 ate in 5 days.

            The thousands upon thousands of healthy teeth Price examined, the well formed dental arches and robust skeletal structures in people eating old foods didn’t lie.

            Price did note a drop in the quality of animal products such as dairy coming from cattle raised in large population groups in Europe, compared to isolated area that hadn’t adopted modern foods and animal husbandry practices. Because he had foods analyzed for their nutrient contents and densities, he knew something was moving in the wrong direction in ‘civilized’ humans. What effect has modern animal husbandry practices had on human health? Chicken are now ‘vegetarian fed’; fed massive quantities of soy and corn, something that permeates their meat and eggs and then poisons us.

            He did not note people eating lots of saturated fats, cholesterol and animal foods having cancers and heart disease and rampant tooth decay. He found group after group after group with exactly the opposite situation going on, robust healthy people. When he noted people abandoning their traditional foods for ‘modern’ fares, that’s when the problems began.

            In the name of anti-saturated fat, anti-cholesterol, anti-animal mania, over the course of the 20th century corporations and government policies have pushed people into eating COMPLETE garbage; things like hydrogenated margerines and vegetable oils and low-fat, highly processed, low nutrient dense junk foods while being told these were healthy. Please go watch Florence Henderson bestow the virtues of ‘all natural, cholesterol free’ high PUFA corn oils for frying foods. While saturated fat from sources like butter and lard/tallow decreased steadily over the 20th century these garbage ‘healthy’ oils and margerines increased dramatically.

            So right, it’s the old foods causing new disease epidemics.

            1. “Sorry, that’s just pure, complete, unadulterated nonsense.” No need to candy coat it here, so why don’t you tell us how you really feel? 🙂

              First, let me say that no argument here regarding adulterated processed foods – Nutrition 101 knowledge. However ChrisSEA, the knowledge base you adduce to make your point is more than a bit antiquated, both from a methodological and a data base perspective. Weston Price, although an important and admirable pioneer in the investigation of cross-cultural nutritional patterns, was by today’s standards, employing relatively naive research methods. Furthermore, his data samples were not representative of current conditions. At the time he was writing, the state of medicine, nutrition, public sanitation and health record keeping accuracy were very undeveloped in industrialized countries compared to the current state of affairs. Infectious diseases were still killing a sizable portion of these populations before the so called ‘diseases of civilization’ such as cancer and arteriosclerosis could take root, and the cause of deaths were often not classified correctly. Furthermore, in his understanding of the health status of traditional peoples, Weston Price was apparently unaware of their high infant mortality rates, short life expectancy, endemic diseases, and frequent lethal infections.

              It must be remembered that although Weston Price was a keen observer, he was a dentist. Dentists then and now, have typically not been trained to do research even in their own field and certainly not trained to do cross-cultural nutritional research. So although I have great admiration of Weston Price as a keen observer and humanitarian, I view his work as inspirational, but in the context of our current knowledge base, minimally informative. To hold up an attempt at nutritional science from the 1930’s as any kind of standard of truth is tantamount to saying that the Wright Brothers got it right and that current space shuttle technology is all wrong, the latter being the result of a government conspiracy trying to keep us from understanding the real nature of air travel.

              But since you put so much stock in Weston Price, it seems worth asking what diet he personally viewed as best. In 1934, Weston Price composed a touching letter to his nieces and nephews, instructing them in what he considered the best diet: “The basic foods should be the entire grains such as whole wheat, rye or oats, whole wheat and rye breads, wheat and oat cereals, oat-cake, dairy products, including milk and cheese, which should be used liberally, and marine foods.” This seems highly inconsistent with the current Diet Dictocrats at the Weston Price Foundation, and is certainly at odds with Paleo/Primal notions. Perhaps if Sally Fallon and Mary Enig had in fact followed Price’s advice they would at least have some visible markers of healthy organisms. And perhaps Stephen Byrnes, a former member of the Weston Price Foundation’s Board of Directors, who was said in an “About the Author” section of an article highly critical of vegetarianism (“The Myths of Vegetarianism”), to “enjoy robust health on a diet that includes butter, cream, eggs, meat, whole milk, dairy products and offal,” would have done better if he had taken Price’s advice seriously. Stephen Byrnes suffered a fatal stroke in June, 2004 prior to reaching his 40th birthday.

              1. Oddly enough, the co-founder of Bastyr University (into veganism and holistic medicine) also died at a young age of a heart attack, along with his son.


                I think Price was correct to look with broad strokes “how a culture works”, esp. with bone structure. You can see bone structure really easily, and our psyches recognize a healthy bone structure from a famished one, even if we don’t really understand why this happens. Thin, narrow faces that need braces, and have lots of cavities … there IS an issue, and it starts at an early age.

                My daughter had really rotten teeth until she was 6 or so, when I changed my diet, and hers by default. She is 17 now, and the FIRST person in our extended family that didn’t need braces, or have many cavities, or have joint problems. She might not appreciate her broad face, broad hips, narrow waist, and great skin and hair, but sheesh, the diet we use, works, and she is gorgeous. Her friends grew up with horrible teeth, bad hair, bad joints, depression, neurosis, etc.

                Granted our solution was not Price’s … I looked at his data and said “most of the healthy people don’t eat wheat!” and it turns out I am celiac. Also it turns out most healthy people have seafood. I agree his studies were naive, as were most back then, and those of Newton and DaVinci, FWIW. But valuable.

                It’s a mistake to look at only one researcher or set of data. Linus Pauling had a lot of good stuff to say. So did Atkins, for that matter. And the food pyramid. They are all right, and all wrong … but all the data sources together, you can find “what really works”.

                1. Regarding William Mitchell Jr., one of the founders of Bastyr College, I don’t believe that he was a vegan or even a vegetarian, and there are indications in his legal history that he had alcohol abuse problems. Having known quite a few Naturopathic physicians, I noticed that they tend not to be vegetarian. Having known a considerable number of vegans, many of them have very poor diets consisting of fragmented and nutritionally low density foods. The founder of the American Vegan Society, Jay Dinshah, whom I met in the early 60’s, died in 2000 at the age of 66, apparently of a chronic heart condition unrelated to diet. My recall of Jay is that his primary concern regarding diet was ethical and he appeared to have little interest or knowledge about appropriate exercise needs. At that time he was a young man and was quite thin and frail looking. Pictures of him prior to his death indicate that he had become overweight and most likely suffered from the typical middle age sarcopenia. He certainly didn’t look any healthier than the founders of the Weston Price Foundation in his last years. On the other hand, he didn’t look any worse.

                2. I’m wheat/gluten free also. Price also wasn’t recommending the frankenwheat we have now days. It’s fascinating to hear Dr. William Davis (Wheat Belly) talk about the way wheat has been drastically altered over the course of the 20th century into the breed we have now. So saying that Price recommended wheat is not the same as saying he recommended what is grown today, especially if it’s not soaked and sprouted.

                  1. Yes indeed, current agricultural methods are disastrous, environmentally and nutritionally. However, the Paleo/Primal adherents are not just critiquing poorly grown grains, but rather all grains. This is contrary to Price’s nutritional views.

                  2. Price was against wheat as well as sugar and vegetable oil. I would like to see a reference where Price recommends wheat.

                    1. As quoted in my earlier posting, in a 1934 letter to his nieces and nephews, Price instructed them in what he considered the best diet: “The basic foods should be the entire grains such as whole wheat, rye or oats, whole wheat and rye breads, wheat and oat cereals, oat-cake, dairy products, including milk and cheese, which should be used liberally, and marine foods.” This is found on page 492 of his book, ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration’. As you notice, as well as recommending grains, there is no mention of meat products.

                    1. From the WPF: “The diet Price used with his patients included whole milk, whole wheat, stews made from bone broths, meats and organ meats, fruits and vegetables. It was not devoid of plant foods or very low in carbohydrates. The Weston A Price Foundation and Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions do not recommend specific carbohydrate and fat guidelines. Nourishing Traditions recommends limiting protein intake to 15-20% of calories and experimenting to find the right balance of carbohydrates and fats that will be determined by ancestry, circumstance and other factors.” ( You will also notice that Sally Fallon’s cookbook has many grain recipes, including a good number of wheat ones.

                      The above mentioned quote by Price: “The basic foods should be the entire grains such as whole wheat, rye or oats, whole wheat and rye breads, wheat and oat cereals, oat-cake, dairy products, including milk and cheese, which should be used liberally, and marine foods” is from the 8th Edition of Price’s book.

                    2. But that advice is not longer really relevant considering the wheat he advocates in that single quote is no longer the primary form of wheat grown. It’s not even got the same number of chromosomes as what makes up the vast amount of wheat grown and consumed today (the frankenstein-high-yield-altered-gliadin/gluten-semidwarf variant). Not to mention most people don’t even know what sprouting and soaking are, both old world processes that were common with grains, something Sally frequently recommends to reduce the phytic acid content.

                      His statement also doesn’t preclude meat given how much he noted healthy people eating it. Getting stuck on one quote as if it throws out all the rest of his work is kind of silly. Here are just a few mentions of meat:

                      “These members of the Masai tribe illustrate the splendid nutrition provided by their diet of cattle products namely: meat, milk and blood”—

                      Regarding the people of Loetschental Valley, “The general custom is to have a sheep dressed and distributed to a group of families, thus providing each family with a ration of meat for one day a week, usually Sunday. The bones and scraps are utilized for making soups to be served during the week.”—

                      “Wherever the Indians were living on their native foods, chiefly moose and caribou meat, their physical development including facial and dental arch form was superb with nearly complete immunity to dental caries.”—

                      “He took me, for example, to several typically modernized Indian homes in the city. In one, the grandmother, who had come from the northern shore of Cook Inlet to visit her daughter, was sixty-three years of age, and was entirely free from tooth decay and had lost only one of her teeth. Her son, who had accompanied her, was twenty-four years of age. He had only one tooth that had ever been attacked by tooth decay. Their diet had been principally moose and deer meat, fresh and dried fish, a few vegetables and at time some cranberries. Recently the son had been obtaining some modern foods. Her daughter, twenty-nine years of age, had married a white man and had had eight children. She and they were living on modern foods entirely. Twenty-one of her thirty-two teeth had been wrecked by dental caries. Their diet consisted largely of white bread, syrup and potatoes.”—

                      “Muhima Tribe or Anchola, Uganda… They, like the Masai, are primarily a cattle raising people and live on milk, blood and meat… They constitute one of the very primitive and undisturbed groups… In a study of 1,040 teeth of thirty-seven individuals, not a single tooth was found with dental caries.”—

                      “A marked variation of the incidence of irregularities was found in the different tribes. This variation could be directly associated with the nutrition rather than with the tribal pattern. The lowest percentage of irregularity occurred in the tribes living very largely on dairy products and marine life. For example, among the Masai living on milk, blood and meat, only 3.4 per cent had irregularities. Among the Kikuyu and Wakamba, 18.2 and 18.9 per cent respectively had irregularities. These peap!e were largely agriculturists living primarily on vegetable foods. “—

                      “Anglo-Egyptian Sudan has an area approximately one-third that of the United States. It is traversed throughout its length from south to north by the Nile. There are several tribes living along this great waterway, which are of special interest now owing to their close proximity to Ethiopia….. These tribes, therefore, use milk, blood and meat from cattle and large quantities of animal life from the Nile River….. I was particularly interested in their food habits both because of their high immunity to dental caries which approximated one hundred per cent, and because of their physical development.”—

                      In fact he notes that those groups eating the most grains had poorer dental health. As an example In chapter 9 he notes:

                      ” Kasenyi Port, Lake Albert, Belgian Congo. These natives were members of several tribes surrounding this district who were for the most part temporary residents as laborers. The people had been living largely on a cereal diet and now during their temporary residence at the port had had fish.
                      An examination of 1,940 teeth of sixty-three individuals revealed 120 teeth with dental caries, or 6.1 per cent of the teeth. Fifty and eighttenths per cent of the individuals had dental caries.”

                    3. “But that advice is not longer really relevant considering the wheat he advocates in that single quote is no longer the primary form of wheat grown. It’s not even got the same number of chromosomes as what makes up the vast amount of wheat grown and consumed today (the frankenstein-high-yield-altered-gliadin/gluten-semidwarf variant).” You seem to be missing the point ChrisSEA. The kind of wheat that both Price and myself is speaking of has been grown properly. Industrially grown modern wheat is not fit for human consumption, but neither is industrially raised meat products. No individuals with relevant knowledge about nutrition, whether vegan or omnivore, would willingly consume such toxic products. So for the reasons you seem to be dismissing most wheat grown today, these same reasons can be brought forth to dismiss most animals raised for food today. We should be comparing apples with apples, don’t you think?

                      As far your statement about “Getting stuck on one quote as if it throws out all the rest of his work is kind of silly,” making some distinctions regarding the target audience would be useful for reflection. All the quotes you listed about meat eating are from his book and reflect the findings (not recommendations) to be presented to the public. The quote about eating grains with no mention of the need for meat, was written to his relatives. Do you imagine he would be more concerned about giving the best nutritional advice or implicit suggestions to the public, or to relatives for whom he appeared to have genuine affection?

                    4. “…. Industrially grown modern wheat is not fit for human consumption, but neither is industrially raised meat products.”
                      Wheat, (grass seed) is energy dense but nutrient poor. For that reason I view wheat to be consumed when all other food is not available. Since modern wheat is not for you, some how you equate that with modern meat, without reason. As with most of your arguments it does not follow. Grazing beef finished with grain allows extra fat in the beef. My kind of meat. Also, lamb, poultry, and pork is all available from the local farmers market at reasonable prices. It works well.

                    5. I think my arguments do follow, gager, but it seems that you are not following them. However, perhaps I was being unclear, so allow me to try again. You wrote, “modern wheat is not for you, some how you equate that with modern meat, without reason.” What I said was “Industrially grown modern wheat is not fit for human consumption, but neither is industrially raised meat products” – the “reason” is that both are inferior products – get it? On a personal level, when I eat meat, it is grass-fed organic and when I eat grains, it is organic. So the main issue for me is how the food is produced. However, I tend to see grains as more of a bland filler and not really necessary for my nutritional needs, and thus rarely consume them. I also, from experience, don’t buy that meat is necessary for my nutritional need, and when I consume it occasionally, it is primarily for hedonic reasons.

                    6. Thing is, while Price was WAY ahead of his time in what he did, he didn’t really get a comprehensive view of what was going on. The Maasai do NOT live primarily on meat and blood. They live on milk, and their iron levels are so low that westerners have wanted to give them iron pills. But when they get more iron, they get malaria and lose that awesome good health. As for the Swiss … some time before Price got there, they had a 20-30% rate of goiter in the young recruits, which the Swiss cured by sending in truckloads of iodized salt.

                      Since Price concentrated mainly on skeletal deformities, he picked up on dietary issues that affected the skeleton, which are likely Vit D and Vit K issues. That is very different from the issues that might, say, cause cancer or CVD. From looking at the skeletal evidence, it seems that wheat-eating cultures are extremely prone to the skinny faces and weak teeth issues, which I think are because wheat interferes somehow with Vit D and/or K. You can’t tell from skeletons though, or from looking at people, whether or not their hearts are healthy.

                      As for wheat and whole grains … he correctly identified that whole wheat was a whole lot better than white flour. I don’t think anyone in his time could deal with the idea that wheat *by itself* might be bad. But none of his “healthy people” actually had a wheat-based diet. The Swiss were the closest, with a dairy/rye diet, but rye is really low in gluten. Wheat was a problem in Price’s day, and it was a problem for the Egyptians and Romans too, albeit ours is likely even worse.

                      Price also thought that it was the “lack of nutrients” that made “white flour and sugar” bad. Yet, the Asians appear to do rather well on white rice. Billions of them. And other countries do ok on cassava, which is similarly processed to remove pretty much everything except the starch.

                      Price identified “marine foods” as really good for people. That was a kind of radical idea at the time. “Fish” was poor people food, and you might as well have been recommending chitterlings or haggis. I don’t think he would have recommended the London seafood either, which was from rather polluted sources.

                      I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes you have to stand on the shoulders of giants to reach the stars. Price was one such giant. But he’s not a god, and not to be worshipped. He would have laughed at such an idea, I think.

                    7. Ok, but what affects the teeth affect the heart. Vitamin D and especially K(2) is incredibly important for heart health. That Price found a relationship between dental health and overall health includes heart health, especially what we’re learning about the role that K2 (but not K1) has in preventing heart problems.


                      This is borne out in the Masai, especially during their Muran phase, when milk was indeed their mainstay food for a period of 15 to 20 years. Stephen Guyenet really has some fascinating research on this.


                      I think ultimately the issue here is not whether Price recommended meat or not to his relatives, it’s that he found cholesterol rich foods (like full fat dairy) had special protective effects on health. We know a lot of that now has to do with the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K2.

                      This is why I drink raw grass fed dairy almost daily, in addition to pastured eggs.

                    8. I think there might be something to that, though I’m not sure that the key is “cholesterol”. Dairy and egg based diets seem to work rather well, even for rats. Both foods have been “designed” by nature to feed a young animal. There is a lot that goes into that, not just one ingredient!

                      Oddly though, both dairy and eggs are highly allergenic, and I can’t process dairy myself. Though my kids can, who were raised on a better diet.

                    9. Cholesterol (and saturated fat) isn’t the issue, that was exactly my point. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. Despite Richard and Brian’s repeated assertions to the contrary. Price postulated the existence of an ‘activator’ substance which hadn’t been identified at the time, and it’s now believe to be K2. And specifically K2, not the K1 for which is primarily from plant sources. So essentially government food policy, based on the food pyramid and anti-saturated-fat absurdity, pushed people away from eating K2 foods, then low-and-behold we end up with epidemics of heart disease over the course of the 20th century, all the while Florence Henderson selling us ‘all-natural, healthy cholesterol-free’ vegetable oils. Couple that with a push to eat ‘healthy-whole-grains’ and substitute what Price was seeing healthy people with with a genetically modified form of wheat that is unfit for consumption essentially, and you get a disaster.

                      I think your children are very lucky to have a mother who figured some of this out in time to feed them correctly. I’ve spent a very long time repairing the damage myself having followed the governments food pyramid (low-fat, high grain) before I finally woke up. My digestive system was so screwed up I was allergic to everything, eggs, dairy, you name it, I was allergic to it. Luckily I found some alternative healing approaches that have worked for me and I can eat those things again. But wheat is one my body just lets me know in no uncertain terms is an unfit food for me so I stay clear.

              2. “….To hold up an attempt at nutritional science from the 1930′s as any kind of standard of truth is tantamount to saying that the Wright Brothers got it right and that current space shuttle technology is all wrong, the latter being the result of a government conspiracy trying to keep us from understanding the real nature of air travel.”
                Once again you try to equate things that are not related.
                The Wright brothers tried to prove that “powered” heavier than air flight was possible and they succeeded. It still holds true today. Price was looking for a relationship of diet to health and he succeeded.

                1. Sorry, you are missing the point here. I am not equating aviation events to nutritional observations – I am drawing an analogy. I am pointing out that there has been historical progress in both fields and to accord a privileged status to work in the infancy of a field is sentimental, naive and certainly not science.

                  And yes, Price “was looking for a relationship of diet to health and he succeeded” – and so have most who have thought about it, from my grandmother to Linaes Pauling. A “relationship” does not necessarily have truth value.

                  1. “…- I am drawing an analogy.”
                    Oh please, I recognize the attempt at an analogy but it’s not working.
                    “…I am pointing out that there has been historical progress in both fields and to accord a privileged status to work in the infancy of a field is sentimental, naive and certainly not science.”
                    You must be ignorant in science and how science progresses. There is nothing naive about first discovery. In fact first discovery is the path to progress. Science is method. And it is all science from Aristotle onward.

                    1. Again you are misunderstanding my point. Yes, first discovery is often naive. Let me be more concrete, by reminding you of what early peoples such as the Greeks construed heavenly bodies to be, namely gods and goddesses. As they discovered a new one, this was a ‘first discovery’. We now know that such an understanding of heavenly bodies is naive. And no, it is not ‘all science from Aristotle onward’ – most thought efforts were historically not driven by rational methods, and even less were driven by the scientific method.

    2. Richard you basally want us to believe that as the 20th century wore on, and heart disease and other degenerative diseases became more and more prevalent, that people were eating MORE of traditional foods in lockstep. But that’s not the case. Again, Weston A Price saw what was happening. Just the fact alone that butter was being displaced by margarine should be a big clue here.

  45. I already posted you the most comprehensive trial ever, which you briefly referred as something that’s been “debunked” (just like the Ancel Keys study..LOL)

    The Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial results. I. Reduction in incidence of coronary heart disease.

    Anyway, since it didn’t do for you, we’ll continue:

    When you have “debunked” this in detail, let me know, I’ll have plenty of more for you.

    Joint effect of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol on the risk of coronary heart disease

    1. Richard wrote: “I already posted you the most comprehensive trial ever […]”

      Wait a minute. You mean this was your best shot? No kidding?

    1. And your hero Ancel Keys himself said in 1990: “There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit.”

      Richard, you’re the hero of junk science.

      1. Yes, and science has shown that Keys was wrong in this issue. Simple as that. Hillebo which Minger referred as awesome, certainly did not miss his chance confirming the lipid hypothesis.

        I personally do not give two cent which drives blood cholesterol, cholesterol or saturated fat. It’s all the same.

        1. “science has shown that Keys was wrong in this issue”

          Science? Reference please?

          “Hillebo which Minger referred as awesome, certainly did not miss his chance confirming the lipid hypothesis”

          Hilleboe, did he now? Reference please?

          “I personally do not give two cent which drives blood cholesterol, cholesterol or saturated fat. It’s all the same.”

          Mmmh… I don’t think you entirely realise what you’re actually revealing about yourself by writing such a sentence.

          Still waiting for the proofs you promised.

          1. Primitivenutrition gives plenty of reference. Check out the response for Minger, four videos in total . Hillebo cholestrol views was in one of them. The point was to ridicule how Minger portrays Yerushalmy and Hillebo as the good guys and Keys as the bad, while attempting to create a soap opera for her readers.

            1. “Primitivenutrition gives plenty of reference. Check out the response for Minger, four videos in total ”

              I’m not going to look at videos (I much prefer to read anyway) from an anonymous clown, just because you’re too lazy to give me a straight answer.

              We’ve all been gathering by now, that you don’t like to play fair, but you’re just shooting yourself in the foot by not even replying to direct questions. The audience here is not exactly composed of hillbillies, you know. You won’t impress them with high school rethorics.

              Your credibility was already very low, but it’s getting lower by the second.

              So…. do you have actual answers to my questions?

              Where is the promised scientific proof of your claim that cholesterol causes heart disease?

              I’m also wondering: how old are you, Richard? (not that I’m expecting a honest reply to this question anyway….)

              1. I think Richard is being dishonest. I think his agenda is to convert people to vegan at any cost. Ethics be damn, the ends justify the means.

                1. “I think Richard is being dishonest”

                  Of course he is being dishonest. I’ve simply been trying to make it entirely plain for the casual reader who could still be fooled. Most regular contributors here know better and can spot such baloney from kilometers away, of course.

  46. Denise, you’re my hero.

    I’m all for standing up for yourself when you feel you’re right, but there is a danger of becoming a zealot if you forget that being right depends on good science and good arguments (and with it a willingness to be wrong).

    Here you out of your way to de-vilify (is that a word?) Ancel Keys when you could easily, as many of us did, write him off as part of the problem.

    Furthermore, you went out of your way to respond to PlantPositive’s demeaning YouTube videos in which he:
    1. Admitted he didn’t understand what you wrote
    2. Clearly hadn’t read what you wrote
    3. Responded with a series of ad-hominem attacks on you

    Most of us would have written him off as a jerk, but you patiently tried to explain the issue to him.

    You a model of good scientific discourse in dark time and a saint of the functional paleo movement.

    1. “a saint of the functional paleo movement.”

      OMG this compliment is even more embarassing that mine.*LOL*

      I hear you, Terry. But let’s not take the risk to have Denise getting too full of herself. We need her to stay as lucid as she’s been up till now. 😉

      1. Vegans have the knighted professor in epidemiology Richard Peto, the inventor of meta-analysis, the statistic wizard in China Study, professor in Oxford. Vegans have William Clifford Roberts, the chief editor of American Journal of Cardiology. Vegans have George Lundberg, the former editor of Jama.

        Paleo has Minger, a protégé of Weston Price Foundation, a foundation that never mentions that mr. Price actually promoted high carb diet based on whole-wheat. And unlike Minger, the above mentioned gentlemen have not been accused of scientific dishoneusty and plagiarism.

  47. Minger wrote:

    “And although research on vegans is limited, some studies suggest they have a significantly higher mortality rate than vegetarians and health-conscious omnivores”,

    She forgot to mention that the overall reported death for vegans for the 20 year follow-up was 23 person. What a case. And missed her chance to a) stress that the researchers fully adhered to the lipid theory:

    “Vegetarian diet was associated with a reduced RR of 0.70 (95% CI, 0.41-1.18) for ischemic heart disease, which could partly be related to avoidance of meat”.

    b) illustrate that the scientist considered a health conscious omnivorous diet (used as a control group) as something which contains very small amount of animal foods, very contrary to her views c) inform that vegans non-speaking countries (Germany) are not genetally even aware of the need for b-12 supplementation (not everyone is blessed to live in the States).

    Minger recommends people to follow Kurt Harris archevore diet, a “get your cholesterols on the 300mg/dl range within weeks” -diet

    Does this sound we would have a sincere people showing scientific integrity here,

    High cholesterol = die young!

    Relationship of baseline serum cholesterol levels in 3 large cohorts of younger men to long-term coronary, cardiovascular, and all-cause mortality and to longevity

    Minger, is it fair to say that you are not a sincere and good person? And that you are manipulative plagiator.

    1. I suspect that your brain is suffering malnutrition. That might explain your blathering nonsense. Try eating some animal protein with a heavy dose of saturated fat. Good for the cure.

  48. Richard. You have been led to water but have clearly chosen that you don’t want to drink. You have shown many times that you are just interested in repeating the same platitudes without backing them up.

    By the way, I’ve been following a diet similar to Kurt Harris’ archevore diet for many years now (a little over a decade) and my blood lipids are all terrific by the way. So have millions of others I’m sure, so please – enough with the talking out of your “you know what”.

    Add me to the quorum that seems to be forming to have you banned.

  49. Those on the very left of bell-curve can eat Kurth Harris diet and have their cholesterol under 150mg/dl, 90% cannot.

    Sorry Denise Mingy, if I’ve went to personal-level, I’ll watch my language in the future. However, I think you should sharpen up and join the team good people and stop your anti-vegan BS crusade.

    1. Having a total cholesterol of under 180 has a higher death rate from all causes especially cancer. Cholesterol has the function of protecting against inflammation and cancer.

      1. LOL…..Give me a break. Man you need to break with that destructive religion of yours. Cancer causes low-cholesterol, not the other way around. Also, old sick people see their cholesterol plummeting, once its been high most of their lives.

        William Castelli the chief scholar of Framingham study.

        “You know, we know that if I can get your total cholesterol down around let’s say 100 to 130 or so, and I have maybe not quite a billion people on the earth like that, and those people cannot get atherosclerosis. You know in the China Study, for example, when Chou En-lai was dying of cancer he started a study in China just like the Framingham Study. The only difference was it was in 880,000,000 people so it was a little larger than the Framingham Study. But you know they found these villages in China where you couldn’t get a heart attack or you couldn’t get diabetes and the women couldn’t get breast cancer and you know their total cholesterol were 127, but the chances we could ever get Americans down that low with diet and exercise are not good”.

        “KIRK HAMILTON: But what would the diet be if you didn’t have drugs and you could get everybody to do exactly what you wanted diet-wise in the United States? How would you reverse the heart disease?”

        “DR. WILLIAM CASTELLI: Well you’d have them on a pure vegetarian diet and not getting fat on the vegetarian diet.”

        1. Based on the data at hand, cholesterol cannot be too low. Impossible. The requirement for LDL in body are ridiculously low. Everyone with cholesterol over 150mg/dl is in high risk group and should consider statins Hey…just listen Loren Cordain, not a single of his hunter gatherer groups have cholesterol over 150mg/dl, meat eaters can rarely achieve this without parasite. And parasites are paleo.

          The very moment you have your doctor suggesting statins on you, keep in mind that you actually were warned).

          “….Only pure vegetarians for practical purposes do not need statins, most of the rest of us do”

          William C Roberts, 2009, the chief editor of American Journal of Cardiology

          1. “Everyone with cholesterol over 150mg/dl is in high risk group and should consider statins”

            Another scientific proof you’ll never bring to the table: do statins actually save lives? They don’t. Never had, never will. Prove me wrong, witch hunter. You can’t.

            Talk talk talk like a parrot, that’s all you are able to do. You’re so out of your league and so unaware of it. Sophomoric. Investigate the meaning.

            You could take a hint from the way someone like Brian handles a discussion with a conflicting point of view. That’s the way rational, adult people do it.

            But you’re obviously unable to take a hint of any sort. Who cares, you’re as good as banned from here, it’s a matter of hours, maybe minutes. Goodbye, witch hunter.

              1. I am sorry Denise but I am ending my subscription to the updates. I will miss several commentators, but most of them seem to have left a long time ago anyways. I will distill the best and put it in a separate file. People like this Richard character is what is wrong with America

              2. SOPHOMORIC
                1: conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature

                The OVERCONFIDENCE EFFECT is a well-established bias in which someone’s subjective confidence in their judgments is reliably greater than their objective accuracy, especially when confidence is relatively high. For example, in some quizzes, people rate their answers as “99% certain” but are wrong 40% of the time..

                Deliberate FLAMING, as opposed to flaming as a result of emotional discussions, is carried out by individuals known as FLAMERS, who are specifically motivated to incite flaming. These users specialize in flaming and target specific aspects of a controversial conversation, and are usually more subtle than their counterparts. Their counterparts are known as trolls who are less “professional” and write obvious and blunt remarks to incite a flame war, as opposed to the more subtle, yet precise flamers. Some websites even cater for flamers and trolls, by allowing them a free environment, such as Flame-Wars forum.

                Denise, really it’s more than time to muzzle the beast.

                In my opinion, as someone who’s been a moderator on many forums, you shouldn’t even give more than a single warning to people who give signs of flaming or post the same link more than 3 times without anyone asking for it (which is spamming). Banning such individuals should be your first choice after a first warning, NOT your ‘last resort’ one. It’s not a question of tolerance or the lack of it, not at all. It’s a question of keeping your blog an inviting place by keeping the trolls and flamers away so that normal people can have actual exchanges.

                My two cents.

          1. Right, opinions. I would love to see what kind of conflicts of interest Mr. editor has also. Considering the conflicts of interest those setting ‘healthy’ cholesterol levels have (financial ties to the pharmaceutical/statin industry) I wonder how anyone can take anything they say as serious.


            Conclusions: The prevalence of financial conflicts of interest and their under-reporting by members of panels producing clinical practice guidelines on hyperlipidaemia or diabetes was high, and a relatively high proportion of guidelines did not have public disclosure of conflicts of interest. Organisations that produce guidelines should minimise conflicts of interest among panel members to ensure the credibility and evidence based nature of the guidelines’ content.

        2. “LOL…..Give me a break. Man you need to break with that destructive religion of yours. Cancer causes low-cholesterol, not the other way around.”
          Richard you are really a tiresome POS. Correlation is not causation. I did not say a cholesterol reading is the cause, I said a cholesterol reading lower than 180 has a higher death rate from all causes. Ijut.

          1. @Heidi,

            you are religious sect members. You would not change your mind even while having your symptom-free, first (and last) heart attach….sudden cardiadic death.


            do you think your postulation on cholesterol has any relevance to anything related to health. Yes, we know that sick people who also take statins have low cholesterol, which further plummets gradually while the condition of the patients goes down. But what the heck this have to do with people who keep healthy cholesterol levels, under 150 mg/dl with lifestyle factors and accoding to data are immune to many diseases. In Japan during the fifties, under 150mg/dl was the norm, year 1950 there was 18 autopsy reported death from prostate cancer in the whole nation. Just to give you one example.

            1. It is important to take context into consideration. There are multiple factors that contribute to the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation, so just saying that cholesterol itself is problematic and leaving it at that isn’t exactly what we want to be doing.

              There are some eggs that do not increase the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation They are higher in antioxidants that protect LDL from becoming oxidized, and lower in polyunsaturated fat, a potential oxidant within LDL.

              So right away the mantra “cholesterol bad” ought to be thrown out the window. It depends on context, right?

              Isn’t it also plausible that the degree to which one cooks a polyunsaturated fat influences the degree to which it is oxidized? Obviously oxidized polyunsaturated fats will increase the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation, or modify other constituents of eggs. I tend to only eat soft-boiled eggs, and some people only eat raw egg yolks, which I don’t know if I’m prepared to do! But suffice to say there are numerous things to take into consideration, including the oxidative environment of the blood stream. Reducing the amount of oxidants in the blood stream will also have an impact.

              So you see the issue is kind of complex, and blanket statements aren’t warranted. This is kind of why I like to post studies and discuss things, not post videos, because videos are an extremely limited way of discussing things. On you Youtube no less! Not the best place for learning, I’ll tell ya.

              So you see the issue is kind of complex, and blanket statements aren’t warranted. This is kind of why I like to post studies and discuss things, not post videos, because videos are an extremely limited way of discussing things. On you Youtube no less!

              1. deniiiiise, why can’t we edit our comments? Get Disqus or something with a community element. There will be so many benefits. Also for some reason things stopped scrolling down when I typed and I couldn’t see what I was typing, so I had to copy and paste into a word document but then something messed up when copying and pasting.

                We raccoons do not have an affinity for technology. This is a plea for change.

                This is a p

              2. I think you’re right. I’ve been saying this, that the quality of the feed that are given to chickens alters the quality of the eggs that come from them. That and also the chickens themselves. Chickens that are ‘vegetarian’ fed are usually fed soy. This soy alters the fatty acid profile of the eggs towards PUFA heavy fats. I am very lucky to get eggs from a small farm, I’ve interacted with the chickens having been there from time to time and know they are well taken care of, truly free range, pecking around the grass and bushes, etc. The quality of the eggs are amazing, deep rich orange color. Not the tepid yellow color of commercial eggs. I like scrambled eggs and I usually begin scrambling the eggs white first, then add the yolks after the whites are more cooked so the yolks stay ‘wet’. I should also note that I have mentioned that in the name of this ‘cholesterol and saturated fat are bad’ nonsense corporations and governments sold HUGE amounts of PUFA rich ‘vegetable oils’. Florence Henderson probably made a big chunk of change selling corn, safflower and sunflower oils for high heat cooking. The commercials, available on YouTube, extol the virtues of these ‘natural, healthy, light’ oils for frying foods. The use of vegetable oils rose dramatically over the past half century while traditional fats like butter and lard have decreased over the same period. But according to the saturated-fat-is-bad people, it’s the saturated fat that has to be avoided.

  50. Heather repeated several times the following wisdom:
    “From looking at the skeletal evidence, it seems that wheat-eating cultures are extremely prone to the skinny faces and weak teeth issues”
    Well, I am pretty sure that there are ethnic differences and people with the same diet living next to each other have skinny or round faces. I also am pretty sure that “roundfaceness” is a sign of idiocy.

    1. What Price did was to convincingly document … in thousands of photographs … how the facial features of tribal peoples changed when they started eating “white flour and sugar” and other “Western” foods, although I don’t think he really figured out the WHY of it all. What is interesting is that if you look at the ancient European skeletons, the skulls are nicely proportioned, with plenty of room for teeth, and wide hips that make it easier to have babies, and few cavities. What we see in that same European stock now are kids that don’t have room for their wisdom teeth or even their regular teeth, and can’t have straight teeth without braces.

      You can see the same divide if you look at some immigrant groups, esp. from somewhere like Korea. The parents … even though they often grew up in poor villages with not enough to eat … have wide faces and healthy teeth. The kids that grew up eating American food … have crooked teeth, acne, and narrow faces, but are taller.

      Now, in our family, I have a narrow face, lots of filled teeth, and needed braces. Ditto for my husband. But our kids, who never got much typical American diet, have wide faces and well-spaced teeth, and no cavities.

      So yes, there could be ethnicity involved. But if you look into it, you can easily see the evidence. What is really odd is that except for Price, all the dentists I’ve talked to think “crooked teeth” is just a genetic anomaly.

    2. Are we setting up for a battle between the ‘Roundfacenesss’ and the ‘Skinnyfaceness’ factions? 🙂 And of course the relevant question, is which one,if either is most vulnerable to the evils of wheat? Since Asians are predominantly of the former and there are more of them, basic arithmetic gives it to the former.

      1. Certainly it’s not a war. It WAS the focus of Price’s study though, which is the point. Narrow faces (narrow sinuses, narrow dental arch) is associated with “modern” societies, and it’s easily studied in skeletons. He went all over the world, took thousands of pictures and measurements. Within the boundaries of what he could do at the time, it was as much of a “study” as what is being done in the laboratories with lab rats. I’m kind of surprised that WAPF hasn’t taken up the banner, and done their own set of studies on the issue.

        And yes, I think it likely has something to do with wheat, based on who is affected. The first examples of these narrow skeletons seems to be the Egyptians … look at the bust of Nefertiti for a good example. Compare the ancient Egyptian skeletons to, say, the tribes living on mainly corn and beans, in Mexico or Arizona, or the rice-eaters in Asia. It’s probably safer to look at the skeletons, and measure the sinus openings or dental arch, so there isn’t any confusion with “fat”. But exactly what is causing it? It might be wheat intolerance, or it might be K2, or it might be something else entirely.

        The skull does develop before the baby is born, obviously. So do the teeth. Babies that are born of celiac women, often are born with discolored or damaged enamel. We don’t know the effects of the other forms of wheat issues.

        Studies on bones is a good way to get quantitative data on people, even those who lived thousands of years ago. As isotope analysis and archeology gets better, we are getting a better idea of what exactly people really did eat back then. I’m not sure we have tools to measure heart issues though, except in mummies. Hm. Looked like Oetzi had heart problems, even on his 5,000 year old diet (whole grains and grass-fed venison?). And bad teeth too.

      2. The funny thing that ethnic groups which have been on wheat longer tend have skinny faces, unlike some far North ethnic groups which tend to have round faces.
        I am now pondering the following issue. If we are switching to cannibalism, I’d like to be sure that the “food” I’ll get won’t be less tasty than the one I have now. Here’s the problem: I am pretty sure that my enemies are not tasty, and I am reluctant to eat my friends. You see the problem?

        1. Yes Anna, I sympathize with your dilemma, and your concerns are not unrealistic. Perhaps you have been following a similar thread of thought as myself. That is, considering that within roughly 20 years, the oceans will be far too toxic to provide food, and the thin layer of remaining topsoil will be gone, as will most of the oil supplies (which makes the current food supply possible for most of the human population). This of course means mass starvation and the real possibility that cannibalism will not only be likely, but government sanctioned, as it was during a period in medieval China when families could legally sell their children to be slaughtered for food. Given this as one possible future, it becomes a worthwhile exercise in planning to consider who one will eat, taking into account both taste and nutritional factors. Considering that our tastes in western countries are oriented more towards eating vegetarian animals, it seems that vegetarians/vegans would be the logical choice. Not only are they lower on the food chain, which means a lower concentration of heavy metals and other toxins which are found in higher density in carnivores, but they are less likely to be capable of putting up much resistance during the kill, and will typically be spending their days mindlessly grazing with their heads down, thus making the hunt much less energy expensive. The downside to making the vegetarians a food choice, is that many of them are likely to have more saturated fat in their bodies resulting from grains (especially wheat) forming the staple of their diets, which would concern those followers of Loren Cordain, but not be a problem for those who have adequately misunderstood Weston Price’s dietary recommendations (read WPF founders and many in the Paleo/Primal fold). Another big problem with the vegetarians is that unless we cull those from the herd that have designed their tasteless plant diets intelligently, they are likely to have an Omega 3 deficiency. With the strict vegan group who have failed to supplement with B12, we will have to be mindful of possible mental disorders, which introduces unpredictable variables into the hunt.

          So, Anna, you see that your dilemma is more complex than simple food choices related to taste and friendship. Thus I would advise you to do an inventory of both your friends and enemies and make the necessary adjustments with the above factors in mind. You will notice that I have omitted the vast majority of the population as viable food choices, as they consume the toxic Standard American Diet. When the time comes, they will be easy to identify and avoid as food choices, by their obvious physical markers (morbid obesity), extensive knowledge of television programs and political orientation (usually right wingers). Our main concern with them at that time, will be to make sure that we don’t become their food choice, as they do not and will not discriminate regarding what they eat. Best to stay out of their way and let them reduce their own herd numbers, which should be at a mercifully speedy rate in the U.S., where gluttonous greed has long since replaced mindless patriotism as main defining quality of the national character.

          I hope this helps, and I wish you luck.

          1. Actually, Brian, I was referring to something else – to the ideology, ideology of the illiterate who didn’t have an hour of history in their lives and preach return to the wonderful life of no Golden rule when everyone of course loved each other and earth and birds. Sure. I am inclined to start a donation to send them to some basic classes.
            Frankly, a return to this charming period doesn’t appeal to me.

            1. I take it Anna, that these ‘illiterates’ are your ‘enemies,’ whom you think would not be ‘tasty’? Well, I think one could make a dent in their obvious deprivation of the benefits of a Liberal Arts education by some well chosen classes (however, not sure that would make them more tasty). But at least they would, with at least a C- passing grade on these courses, be less likely to pollute the air with sound waves spouting platitudes about some imagined Golden Age. In the nutritional world, such nonsense is often heard among some members of both the Paleo and Vegetarian crowds. Among the Paleo types, such drivel often takes the form of imagining a noble, healthy and perfectly proportioned individual – the veritable Crown of Evolution, sometimes with names such as Grok. Among the lunatic fringe of the vegetarians, we find those whose consciousness has been indelibly colonized by biblical fables of people of vibrant health and longevity into the 100’s of years, who happily coexisted with all life forms and subsisted on fruits.

              A variant of this modern day Rousseauvian silliness, can found in those of little education, who assign privileged truth value to outdated scientific efforts from the mid 20th century and before, mainly because it supports their limited understanding. Such work is easier for them to grasp as it doesn’t challenge their modestly endowed mental arena with the knowledge of sophisticated current research methodology.

              1. Brian, I was thinking about mentioning the charming Jean-Jacques with his tendency to drop children here and there, abuse everyone and write the most unreadable novels. Yes, it goes back to him.
                My delicate and intelligent stomach 🙂 responds brutally to all New Age (whatever it is) idiocy and to all the nonsense you describe so well. I really can’t stand it. It’s tragic that history isn’t taught. In this country it was deliberately killed with absolutely tragic consequences.
                I am sorry I was confused by you original comments. And yes, I am an omnivore.

                1. If you mean by ‘original comment,’ my posting re cannibalism, this was a run at the fine art of satire (although filled with Pearls of Wisdom). 🙂

                  Where has Richard gone? He seems not to still be on the ‘Forks and Knives’ post either – has he been banned, or just got tired of jousting? Feeling like I now have to do his part also, and not being a vegan, this will be somewhat difficult. It’s dirty business but someone needs to do it, so I guess I will just have to step up to the plate. Things are so quiet here – even gager has ceased his efforts at being logical- do you think he and Richard have both met their Maker for each being on their own particular wrong side of the Lipid hypothesis? I am feeling that maybe it is time to go onto the ‘Forks and Knives’ post and stir the pot and annoy some folks there. 🙂

  51. “But if you look into it, you can easily see the evidence”
    If you look into it, you can see anything you want. Personally, I have a cat’s narrow face (I was born with it) and my mother had a round face (she was born with it). So?

      1. Gager, it isn’t me who confuses. Read above about skinnyfaced parents and roundfaced children. Why choose a RESPONSE for preaching?
        Oh, studies … Who needs reality when we can have studies?

  52. Please create a new site similar to this one but where you tell people who are using illegal recreational drugs that they are good for them. We all want to hear that our bad habits are good…

    1. Chuck, that wouldn’t be the least bit logical. Illegal recreation drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines produce significant oxidative stress on cellular constituents. It’s pretty clear from doing a cursory scan of the evidence that it would be lame to attempt something you’re kind of suggesting with more than a hint of snark.

      Whereas foods like raw, full fat milk raise glutathione levels, helping to protect you from oxidative stress (such as lipid-peroxidation). Saturated fats (and to a degree mono-unsaturates) also protect from oxidation because of their stable chemical structures.

      In the name of anti-saturated fat and cholesterol messages people have been pushed into eating highly process and biochemically unstable vegetable oils which are quite prone to oxidation, both inside and outside the body.

      You may want to go comment in forums with people who are likely to be less swayed by juvenile comments.

      1. Good comment, Chris.
        We live in an Orwellian world – some chemical nonsense is called food, eating of real food such as butter and eggs (which have saved who knows how many lives throughout history) is called addiction.
        It’s a mad, mad world.

  53. Hi Denise, I’m a newcomer to your blog (found you in the references section of Dr. Briffa’s book ‘Escape the Diet Trap’) and I’m loving your humor and rigorous research methodology. In one swift post you’ve put a lot of so-called scientists, health journalists and nutrition bloggers to shame. If you don’t mind me saying, that’s some astounding confounding you’ve got going on here!


    Cancer-Fighting Goodness Found in Cholesterol, Study Suggests

    ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) — A Simon Fraser University researcher is among four scientists who argue that cholesterol may slow or stop cancer cell growth. They describe how cholesterol-binding proteins called ORPs may control cell growth in A Detour for Yeast Oxysterol Binding Proteins, a paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

    The scientists came to their conclusion while trying to understand how cholesterol moves around inside cells in the fat’s journey to cell surfaces where it reinforces their outer membrane.

  55. The high-fat consuming countries are all northern European majorities. The countries that are considered low-fat, are southern European or temperate climates, where fresh vegetables are more prevalent.


    Is it Genetics? Tomatoes? Chili peppers? Wasabe?

    Wha’s up?

    1. How about the climate itself – you know … the sun, the water you can actually swim in, the “nature” you can actually be in and not to look at through a frozen window, more relaxed way of life and yes, more vegetables.
      Nobody negates that vegetables are healthy. In other words, what is your point?

  56. More fat. more vegetables? Its all so confusing

    A Denise based diet would be very appealing and I suspect both healthy and non fattening 🙂

    1. Denise’s particular significantly plant-based diet, might come as a little too high in sugar (though probably nowhere near as bad as someone who routinely drink sodas or so-called “energy” drinks). Because of this she may come at risk of developing hypercholesteromia and hyperlipidemia…

      “Fruit–and juice, especially–carries a high sugar content, and consuming too much of it rapidly raises the blood sugar. The body compensates to the sugar high with a surge of insulin from the pancreas–and the insulin, in turn, stimulates the liver to manufacture more cholesterol. (the text refers to this study: It may also elevate triglyceride levels.” p. 71 of _Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn (other sources exist online for this).

      Of course, sugar comes as just one aspect of fruit consumption. The fiber in fruit can also play an important role. I suspect more vegetables would work out better for her. Also, I suspect she could benefit from some lightly cooked food. Tomatoes have more lycopene when cooked. Other examples exist:

      1. Doug, I get your main point, but you left out the sentence that preceded the Esselstyn quote in your post: “It is also best to avoid drinking pure fruit juices.” This recommendation is because of the nutrients and fiber found in the pulp and skin, compared to the fructose concentration found in the juice, an aspect that you mentioned as well. Thus, Esselstyn’s characterization of the glycæmic response to fruit as a “sugar high” is misleading, because 1) he was referring only to “too much” fructose, and 2) in fact, the glycæmic load of most fruit is medically categorized as “low”.

        Of course, any food consumed in excessive amounts can be problematic. I have no knowledge of how much whole fruit Denise eats every day, but a few servings would be fine by any standard.

  57. “In fact, Keys was pretty much ridiculed for the weakness of his fat/heart disease theory by other scientists at the WHO meeting, and whenever his graph was cited in medical journals later on, it was usually paired with some criticism.”

    The idea that fat comes as a key factor in the development of heart disease certainly didn’t originate with him. Daniel Steinberg’s _The Cholesterol Wars_ p. 39-41 imply this (J. Groen proposing that the unavailability of animal fats during the war had caused a decrease in blood cholesterol which had in turn caused the observed decrease of risk of heart attacks, 4 different metabolic ward studies which started in 1952 which *experimentally* carefully demonstrated if saturated only gets change in a diet, then blood cholesterol levels rise). Raymond Reiser’s paper from 1973 here:, references a book by Bloor from 1943, which might contain information as to when this idea first existed.

  58. The data clearly show that speaking English is what kills you, n’est ce pas? ;-p

    This post and the one after it don’t show up on Blogger. I thought you’d died! *sad face*

    1. I always say that geeks shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Today, it’s time for some elaboration. Of course, the author of this idiocy is some illiterate geek. Now what should I start adding?
      I think that each geek should get 5 psychiatrists/psychologists working on his (usually it’s he) complexes and 5 educators explaining simple things, such as “You should know that there are many countries in the world. You should know that people speak different languages. It’s time for you to try to learn a different language. For the next decade you’ll be repeating in … language “M Y N A M E I S … You can do it. By the end of the decade you will be able to say it.”

  59. Hello Denise,

    I went through your research. I really appreciate people that are in it for their health, and for the health of others. I read not to long ago about Americas omega 6 to 3 epidemic. Omega 6 causing inflammation and even constricting the blood vessels. While omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory, making your arteries able to let blood flow freely.

    In America in the 1920’s heart disease was rare. But the people didn’t eat the high omega 6 butter, that is at our grocery store today.
    They ate butter that was lower in omega 6 content. Beef and meat today that you buy in the grocery stores are horrible in nutrition. But Weston A Price, a dentist studied people in primitive areas, and found the people ate a diet high in animal fats. He notice that they prized the fats and organ meats of the animals. These primitives ate a high cholesterol diet, with no signs of atherosclerosis. Just like Keys said “the cholesterol content of human diets is unimportant in human atherosclerosis.”

    Their animals were raised healthy on grasses, instead of grains like our cattle. Grasses keep the omega 6 to 3 ratio in a cow around 3 to 1, while grain fed cattle have about a 20:1 ratio. These primitives teeth were almost cavity free compared to the Americans. They were free of diseases and were a very happy people with little crime in their towns. The Eskimos ate 80% of their calories as animal fat and were free of Heart Disease. The others ate around 60% or so of animal fat with no heart disease.

    Today grass fed and range free mean nothing. The meat industry grass feed and then feed corn to cow 60 to 90 days, which strips the meat of nutrition, and increases omega 6. Make sure your meat you buy is 100% grass fed, and your chickens/eggs are pastured, where they can go out in the fields and pick like their supposed to.

    I found this info on awesome website. Also

    On the Weston A Price website, you can actually learn how to remineralize your teeth. Which it works, because last year I ate balckberries and my teeth stained. This year I ate them and there was no stains on my teeth, showing I have a covering of mineral filled enamel on them.

    You either pay a good price for nutrition now, or you pay for it later, with disease and dental work.

    1. Kristina, I appreciate that you have read a lot of interesting (but already well-known) things on popular Websites, but when parroting them you need to learn to be more accurate in your own conclusions. For example, your claim that feeding grain to cattle “strips the meat of nutrition” is silly, since a change in the ratio of essential fatty acids is not the same thing as removing meat’s nutrition. Is the protein eliminated or even reduced? Are the vitamins? Is the iron? The creatine? Of course not.

      In addition, even in true grass-fed beef there is only a relatively small amount of omega-3, because the overall fat content in grass-fed meat is much less than in grain-fed. Had you read the explanatory information about this on the Eat Wild site that you refer to, you would figured out that a 3-oz serving of pure grass-fed beef would have only about 65 mg of omega-3, which is better than nothing but still a paltry number. (The reduced omega-6 is a benefit, of course.)

      Besides, with no US entity overseeing and verifying commercial claims of “grass-fed” products, there is no guarantee of buying such food, unless purchasing directly from a rancher known to you personally.

  60. Denise, Plant Positive absolutely humiliated you. I have been a diligent reader of your blog for several years now. Not anymore. You are intellectually dishonest. You also said in his comment section that you eat 90% plants and 10% meat, which is ironically in line with what T. Colin Campbell recommends. Hypocrite much?

    1. I have already made similar comments to Tom in a previous posting. However, unlike him I tend to overlook the inaccuracies of Denise’s theoretical critique and applaud her actual behavior, which is consistent with eating a plant based diet (90-10). I am guessing that even Plant Positive would approve of her actual direction.

      1. Anyone interested in finding out the long term consequences of avoiding animal-based foods would be interested in listening to this interview with John Nicholson.
        He was a vegan for 26 years whose health became increasingly worse over that period. He’s since written a book, ‘The Meat Fix’ about how his health improved by reintroducing animal based foods.

        1. This evidence is anecdotal and thus proves nothing. I know many long-term vegans who do very well health wise, and those who do not. The same can be said for carnists.

          I have tried to follow good research findings and my own experience. The tipping point for me was a recent CIMT assessment which indicated that my vascular age was several years greater than my chronological age – this means considerable plaque in the arteries. This is consistent with my ecent results of borderline high LDL and TCH. For most of my life I have eaten a diet in the range of primal and WPF, but with very few grains and legumes. During the past few months I have cut most animal products and have dropped my LDL and TCH by 32 points and increased my HDL by several points. Research shows that by reaching a low LDL and staying there for several years, atherosclerotic plaques typically reduce.Of course this personal evidence is also anecdotal, and by itself proves little . However, this anecdotal evidence is consistent with the bulk of nutritional and medical research.

          1. it’s pretty easy to hand waive away people’s actual health outcomes like this and then focus on laboratory markers. This is what ‘modern’ medicine has done for us. But his story is not unique. It’s quite easy to find people talking about trying veganism and having worsening health. There’s a point where ‘anecdotes’ are meaningful. Besides, even though he ate no animal products, and to put it in his own words, ‘I waddled around, sweating and short of breath, battling extremely high cholesterol…’. In fact he was on statins because of this, yet he was on a low-fat vegan diet.


    Strange, in a world where the most ridiculous dietary studies are plastered across the front pages of the newspapers, and get top billing on the BBC. You know the type of thing…. Eating red meat regularly ‘dramatically increases the risk of death from heart disease’ A typical headline from the Daily Mail.

    But when a ten year study looking at cholesterol levels, overall morality, and heart disease comes out….Silence. I wonder why? Perhaps it has something to do with the results. (See below)

    A friendly journalist asked me if I had seen the paper from Norway which looked at cholesterol levels heart disease and overall mortality. Amazingly, as I have sensitive antennae for such things, I had not heard of the HUNT 2 study. Not quite so amazingly, no-one else seems to have heard of it either.

    The graph on the left looks at overall mortality vs. cholesterol levels. The one on the right looks at ischaemic heart disease and cholesterol levels in both men and women.

    As you can see, for women the story is very straightforward indeed. The higher the cholesterol level, the lower the risk of overall mortality. With regard to heart disease alone, the highest risk is at the lowest cholesterol level. For men there is more of a U shaped curve, but overall mortality is highest at the lowest cholesterol level.

    This was a ten year study done in Norway, looking at fifty thousand people – with no pre-existing heart disease. So what we have here is five hundred and ten thousand years of observational data.

  62. Pingback: Relentless Roger
  63. Plant Positive tracked down the full text for “Atherosclerosis: A Problem In Newer Public Health” and made a new video showing Keys’ rationale for selecting the six countries he did. You should retract your incorrect statement “Keys cherry-picked six countries and never told us why.”

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