Canada Health Alliance

One Hundred Years of Diet-Heart Research: Good Science, Junk Science and Honest Mistakes

Paul B. Addis, Martin Grootveld

The extreme focus on dietary saturated fat and cholesterol as hazardous malefactor molecules, and replacement of the former with carbohydrates, has been detrimental to human health.

… We now recognize that the cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis was based on data obtained initially
on severely flawed experiments. All indications are that ‘pure’, i.e., unoxidized, cholesterol is harmless; indeed, cholesterol is one of the most vital biomolecules present in the human body. This debate brings up the topics of “good science, junk science and honest mistakes.”

… We have summarized the authors’ collaborative views on the implications of dietary PUFAs and cholesterol, especially if subjected to conditions which promote their oxidation in foods to a series of toxic, health-threatening products, particularly high-temperature frying practices. Similar considerations apply when these food lipid substrates are stored at even ambient temperature, or
when exposed to oxidation-promoting light sources for prolonged periods. The history associated with some common nonsensical misconceptions, for example the “health-promoting” properties of using PUFA-rich vegetable oils for frying processes, and the common and frequent bad press so unfairly received by the cholesterol molecule, has been critically discussed and reviewed here in some detail. Cholesterol is probably the most highly malefactor-targeted “bad-for-health” molecule ever, this despite being “innocent” of most, if not all such charges. Indeed, it certainly appears that some classical environmental poisons such as hydrogen cyanide and the herbicide paraquat receive much less attention.

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