One More Swipe At The American Heart Association …

I hadn’t planned to write another post about the American Heart Association’s “presidential advisory” report, but I came across a couple of items that speak volumes about why the report is nonsense.

Zoe Harcombe tweeted a link to a press release by the crop science division of Bayer. It was titled Bayer and LibertyLink Soybeans Help Protect Hearts in America’s Heartland. Here are some quotes:

In an effort to support heart health and improve the wellness of rural Americans nationwide, Bayer is proud to announce its support of the American Heart Association (AHA). The effort, which runs through 2017, supports the AHA’s Healthy for Good™ movement to inspire all Americans to live healthier lives and create lasting change by taking small, simple steps today to create a difference for generations to come.

For each bag of LibertyLink soybean seed sold for the 2017 season, Bayer will contribute 5 cents to the AHA’s Healthy for Good movement for a total maximum donation of $500,000.

A donation of up to half a million dollars. Pretty good payday for the American Heart Association – which of course recommends soybean oil as a “heart-healthy” replacement for butter and lard.

In the same tweet, Harcombe points out that the AHA’s report gives soybean oil a positive mention 12 times. Not bad. That’s $41,667 per mention. If only I could cut the same deal with the producers of bacon.

So at the risk of repeating myself, it’s important for people who believe the AHA is a neutral reporter of cardiovascular science to understand this: if the Diet-Heart Hypothesis ever goes away, so does the American Heart Association. The “presidential advisory” report was little more than financial self-defense against the growing (and correct) belief that arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria was based on bogus science.

Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks, the author of the report, was quoted in several media articles as wondering why the heck anyone would think coconut oil is a healthy fat. It raises cholesterol just like any other saturated fat, ya see, so it’s got to be bad. And there are no long-term clinical studies proving any benefits.

Several bloggers pointed out that both the Kitavans and the natives of Tokelau people have a high intake of coconut fat – 50% of total calories in the case of the Tokelau people. And yet they have very low rates of heart disease. If saturated coconut fat causes heart disease, why aren’t the people who eat the most of it clutching their chests and dropping dead?

Of course, we’re just making observations here, and observational studies don’t prove anything, right? Well, it depends.  If we find a correlation between A and B, it doesn’t prove A is causing B to happen. But a lack of a correlation between A and B is pretty strong evidence that A doesn’t cause B to happen.

In the Fat Head Kids book, I wanted to give youngsters a very brief science lesson on observational studies. After all, if they’re interested in health, they’re going to be seeing a lot of Some Food Linked To Some Disease headlines as they grow up. So in a chapter on how bad science led to the current dietary advice, we explained observational studies like this:

——————————————————-

Let’s suppose Dr. Fishbones visits a tiny world called The Planet of Tragic Fashions and gathers a bunch of data on all the residents. When he runs that data through a computer, he notices a surprising connection.

Captain! I’ve discovered that residents who get just-above-the-butt tattoos are more likely to develop cancer! We’ve got to put a stop to those tattoos, Captain!

Is Dr. Fishbones correct? Do his findings prove that the tattoos are causing cancer?

That would be incorrect, Captain. Dr. Fishbones conducted what’s called an observational study. In an observational study, we look for traits and behaviors that seem to occur in the same people. We may notice for example, that people who play basketball are often very tall. So we could say playing basketball is linked to being tall. We might also say basketball is correlated or associated with being tall.

But it would be illogical to conclude that playing basketball makes people taller. As Dr. Fishbones should know, just because a behavior and a result are linked, it doesn’t mean the behavior causes the result. Just-above-the-butt tattoos may be “linked” to cancer, but it could simply be that people who get tattoos are more likely to smoke. Or drink large sodas. Or play with toxic chemicals. These other factors are what we scientists call confounding variables.

——————————————————-

Here’s what we didn’t explain in the book: if people who get tramp stamps have higher rates of cancer, it doesn’t mean the tramp stamps cause cancer … but if tramp stamps DO cause cancer, people who get them will have higher rates of cancer.

So if we observe that people with tramp stamps DON’T have higher rates of cancer, we can be pretty certain the tattoos don’t cause cancer. (A researcher who didn’t want to let go of the tattoos cause cancer hypothesis would, of course, speculate that perhaps there’s a “protective factor” in some brands of tattoo ink.)

Anyway, the point is that Dr. Sucks has no actual evidence that coconut oil causes heart disease. All he could do is say it raises LDL, and therefore it must cause heart disease. But the evidence from populations who eat a lot of coconut fat (which wasn’t considered in the “totality of the evidence”) suggests rather strongly that coconut oil doesn’t cause heart disease.

But since the coconut-oil makers aren’t finding ways to funnel a half-million dollars into the AHA’s coffers, we’re told the stuff will kill us and we should switch to soybean oil instead. That’s why advice from the American Heart Association is irrelevant, if not dangerous.

Speaking of which, here’s a photo someone tweeted. It’s from back before the AHA added a low-sugar requirement for its heart-check logo. This pretty much says it all.

Bacon and eggs will kill you, but low-fat Pop Tarts full of sugar, processed flour and other bits of industrial garbage are good for your heart. That’s the kind of advice we’ve received from the AHA over the years.

Like I said, the AHA has a low-sugar requirement now. But while producing Fat Head, I bought a box of Cocoa Puffs with the AHA’s seal of approval on the box. That was in 2008. So I was curious when Dr. Frank Sacks became chairman of the AHA’s nutrition committee. Was it during the time “healthy” low-fat food like Cocoa Puffs and Pop-Tarts sported the heart-check logo?

I couldn’t find online exactly when he was chairman. But a 2008 article from the Washington Post described him as the vice-chairman at the time. I also found papers listing him as a member of the committee as far back as 2001. So yes, he was on the AHA’s nutrition committee back when they were telling us Pop-Tarts and Cocoa Puffs were heart-healthy foods.

The irony here is that in the latest report, Sacks claims the reason cutting back on saturated fat failed to reduce heart disease in many studies is that people made the mistake of replacing saturated fats with sugars and processed carbs.  Gee, I wonder what inspired them to do that?

‘Nuff said.

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50 thoughts on “One More Swipe At The American Heart Association …

    1. Tom Naughton

      Ah, thanks for the info. I don’t recall when the AHA changed its guildelines, but we know Sucks was vice-chair and a member for a long time, including when the AHA was still putting the heart-check logo on sugary crap.

      Lustig has said publicly the Diet-Heart Hypothesis is what helped get us into this mess. I also wonder how the other AHA members treat him.

      Reply
  1. Jeffrey

    “For each bag of LibertyLink soybean seed sold….”
    From their website:
    “LibertyLink® soybeans combine high-yielding genetics with outstanding crop safety through built-in tolerance to fast-acting Liberty® herbicide.”
    .
    So, Bayer gets a double-whammy. When the farmer buys soybean seeds, he must also buy the herbicide with it.
    Thousands of dollars in sales to provide one damned nickle toward fixing people’s hearts, or paying the bonus to the CEO.

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      Lets see, a brief web search shows that the AHA got over 800 megabucks [1] income, so 1/2 a megabuck is no big deal and as far as I can determine the 5 cents per bag is somewhere in the range of 1% of the price of a 50 pound bag. Which is almost certainly tax deductible.

      Nice deal for the donor, tax deductible advertising expense, maybe they get to put the heat health check mark on the soybean and inoculate bags.

      Interesting use of the term crop safety, probably a technical term for farmers.

      But there are no thousands of dollars per nickel contribution. Of course, there are many members of big farma participating in schemes like this.
      Note the entry in the financial statement for “special events” where I suppose most of the fees (aka contributions) come from manufactures of industrial food like products.

      [1]AHA budget

      http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fin/documents/downloadable/ucm_490161.pdf

      Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Ah, thanks for the info. I don’t recall when the AHA changed its guildelines, but we know Sucks was vice-chair and a member for a long time, including when the AHA was still putting the heart-check logo on sugary crap.

      Lustig has said publicly the Diet-Heart Hypothesis is what helped get us into this mess. I also wonder how the other AHA members treat him.

      Reply
  2. Jan

    So in addition to herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides for your soy crop, Bayer also makes “Cardio Aspirin” prescribed for inflammation implicated in cardiovascular disease. Isn’t that inflammation caused–in part–by processed seed oils? Win win for Bayer.

    Reply
  3. Jeffrey

    “For each bag of LibertyLink soybean seed sold….”
    From their website:
    “LibertyLink® soybeans combine high-yielding genetics with outstanding crop safety through built-in tolerance to fast-acting Liberty® herbicide.”
    .
    So, Bayer gets a double-whammy. When the farmer buys soybean seeds, he must also buy the herbicide with it.
    Thousands of dollars in sales to provide one damned nickle toward fixing people’s hearts, or paying the bonus to the CEO.

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      Lets see, a brief web search shows that the AHA got over 800 megabucks [1] income, so 1/2 a megabuck is no big deal and as far as I can determine the 5 cents per bag is somewhere in the range of 1% of the price of a 50 pound bag. Which is almost certainly tax deductible.

      Nice deal for the donor, tax deductible advertising expense, maybe they get to put the heat health check mark on the soybean and inoculate bags.

      Interesting use of the term crop safety, probably a technical term for farmers.

      But there are no thousands of dollars per nickel contribution. Of course, there are many members of big farma participating in schemes like this.
      Note the entry in the financial statement for “special events” where I suppose most of the fees (aka contributions) come from manufactures of industrial food like products.

      [1]AHA budget

      http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fin/documents/downloadable/ucm_490161.pdf

      Reply
  4. Jan

    So in addition to herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides for your soy crop, Bayer also makes “Cardio Aspirin” prescribed for inflammation implicated in cardiovascular disease. Isn’t that inflammation caused–in part–by processed seed oils? Win win for Bayer.

    Reply
  5. JennyS

    Worth noting that companies like AstraZeneca sponsor the AHA in the range of $15m. Need the LDL myth to continue for the sake of Crestor… Not to mention indigestion requiring their “purple pill”

    Reply
  6. JennyS

    Worth noting that companies like AstraZeneca sponsor the AHA in the range of $15m. Need the LDL myth to continue for the sake of Crestor… Not to mention indigestion requiring their “purple pill”

    Reply
  7. Jilly

    I love your work, can’t tell you how disappointed to find I am that you have jumped on the tattoos = bad person bandwagon, it just smacks of bigotry and pre judgement which is something I thought you didn’t do. And calling it a ‘tramp stamp’..nice to show kids that. What if their mother has one? So she’s a tramp who likely smokes and will get cancer? lovely correlation!

    Absolutely gutted to see this post and even more shocked this is in a book for children!! You are just swapping one set of preconcieved ideas for those of your own. Ruined my day.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Heh-heh … no offense to tattoo-sporting moms intended. We don’t use the term “tramp stamp” in the book. That would be a bit much for kids.

      Reply
      1. j

        tattoo-sporting mom…yikes!

        Tom, youve been called the B word..maybe you should consider running for office

        Reply
  8. Jilly

    I love your work, can’t tell you how disappointed to find I am that you have jumped on the tattoos = bad person bandwagon, it just smacks of bigotry and pre judgement which is something I thought you didn’t do. And calling it a ‘tramp stamp’..nice to show kids that. What if their mother has one? So she’s a tramp who likely smokes and will get cancer? lovely correlation!

    Absolutely gutted to see this post and even more shocked this is in a book for children!! You are just swapping one set of preconcieved ideas for those of your own. Ruined my day.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Heh-heh … no offense to tattoo-sporting moms intended. We don’t use the term “tramp stamp” in the book. That would be a bit much for kids.

      Reply
      1. j

        tattoo-sporting mom…yikes!

        Tom, youve been called the B word..maybe you should consider running for office

        Reply
  9. Gerard Issvoran

    What kind of an organization promoting disease causing processes, while hiding under the banner of reversing that same process, shows why the AHA and the ADA (American Diabetic Association) are not trusted anymore.
    Tom , your efforts have had a profound effect raising awareness and education in what I call, “America’s Disease”.Metabolic Syndrome.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  10. Gerard Issvoran

    What kind of an organization promoting disease causing processes, while hiding under the banner of reversing that same process, shows why the AHA and the ADA (American Diabetic Association) are not trusted anymore.
    Tom , your efforts have had a profound effect raising awareness and education in what I call, “America’s Disease”.Metabolic Syndrome.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  11. Emily

    I’m shaking my head at the prospect of them expecting to sell 10 million bags of liberty link soybeans. Yikes! That’s a lot of soy!

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      We eat and excrete^w export a lot of soy. It’s almost as common in industrial foodlike substances as sugar. IIRC Pollan said that most of America’s protein comes from soy and carbohydrate comes from corn.

      Reply
  12. Emily

    I’m shaking my head at the prospect of them expecting to sell 10 million bags of liberty link soybeans. Yikes! That’s a lot of soy!

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      We eat and excrete^w export a lot of soy. It’s almost as common in industrial foodlike substances as sugar. IIRC Pollan said that most of America’s protein comes from soy and carbohydrate comes from corn.

      Reply
  13. Morten

    Great information. Organisations giving advice on what to eat or not should never take money from any food or chemical company.

    Just look at this:

    http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/5/1/e002891

    “Using these methods, we identified optimal intake levels of 12%E (percentage of total energy intake) for n‐6 PUFA, 10%E for SFA, and 0.5%E for TFA.”

    “This suggests that focus on increasing healthful n‐6–rich vegetable oils may provide important public health benefits.”

    “calls for stronger policy efforts to replace tropical oils with PUFA‐rich vegetable oils in Southeast Asia and Oceania”

    Some strange recommendations. Replacing good sources of fat with bad ones really is a good strategy according to jaha and 12%!! omega6 is optimal with their method of observing. One can wonder why the jaha are pointing out veg. oil, but not nuts as a good source of omega6 fats 🙂 Red palm oil is also a good source of omega 6 in tropical areas, but too “high” in saturated fat and must be replaced.

    Maybe the “American Heart Assassination” would be a more accurate name 😉

    Keep up the excellent work.

    Reply
      1. Walter

        I call them the “American Heart Assassinators.” I just noticed that to spell Assassin you have to spell “ass” twice.

        Reply
  14. Morten

    Great information. Organisations giving advice on what to eat or not should never take money from any food or chemical company.

    Just look at this:

    http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/5/1/e002891

    “Using these methods, we identified optimal intake levels of 12%E (percentage of total energy intake) for n‐6 PUFA, 10%E for SFA, and 0.5%E for TFA.”

    “This suggests that focus on increasing healthful n‐6–rich vegetable oils may provide important public health benefits.”

    “calls for stronger policy efforts to replace tropical oils with PUFA‐rich vegetable oils in Southeast Asia and Oceania”

    Some strange recommendations. Replacing good sources of fat with bad ones really is a good strategy according to jaha and 12%!! omega6 is optimal with their method of observing. One can wonder why the jaha are pointing out veg. oil, but not nuts as a good source of omega6 fats 🙂 Red palm oil is also a good source of omega 6 in tropical areas, but too “high” in saturated fat and must be replaced.

    Maybe the “American Heart Assassination” would be a more accurate name 😉

    Keep up the excellent work.

    Reply
      1. Walter

        I call them the “American Heart Assassinators.” I just noticed that to spell Assassin you have to spell “ass” twice.

        Reply

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