Jane Brody And The American Heart Association Bravely Admit They’ve Been Right All Along

The strategy is clear now. The American Heart Association, terrified that the Wisdom of Crowds effect is causing more and more people to reject their arterycloggingsaturatedfat! nonsense, has decided to leverage what Josef Stalin referred to as useful idiots — i.e., people who can be counted on to swallow and spread the party’s propaganda.

Step one: produce a Presidential Advisory Report that concludes we were right all along about the dangers of saturated fats.

Step two: do interviews with media types who have been on the anti-fat bandwagon for years … because if we were right all along, it means they were right all along too. They’ll dutifully promote the message without asking pesky questions.

For decades, one of the biggest cheerleaders for the low-fat diet has been Jane Brody of the New York Times. Gary Taubes mentioned her several times in Good Calories, Bad Calories. I wrote a post about her battle with “high” cholesterol back in 2009. You can read the post for the full details, but these quotes capture Ms. Brody’s apparent immunity to cognitive dissonance:

Ms. Brody’s cholesterol panic began when a routine test revealed her total cholesterol to be 222. (So much for a low-fat diet keeping cholesterol down.) Since she just knows that a “heart healthy” level should be below 200, Ms. Brody dutifully stopped eating cheese and went on a diet to lose a few pounds.

But – horrors! – when she underwent another test a few months later, her cholesterol had risen to 236, and her LDL had gone up, not down. Now, you’d think someone with a functioning brain would pause at this point and wonder if perhaps the whole low-fat diet theory is load of bologna. But not Ms. Brody. After all, she’s been telling her readers for decades to cut the fat, cut the fat, cut the fat.

So she cut the fat. She stopped eating red meat, switched to low-fat ice cream, took fish oil, and increased her fiber intake. In other words, she did just about everything she’s been telling her readers they must do to prevent heart disease.

And boy, what wondrous results! Her next test revealed that her cholesterol had risen to 248, and her LDL was up yet again.

If this were a horror movie, we’d all be screaming at the screen, “Don’t go through that door, you freakin’ idiot! Everyone who went through that door ended up hanging on a meat hook!”

But Ms. Brody went through the door. Mere paragraphs after recounting how her low-fat diet failed utterly to bring down her cholesterol, she reminded her readers how important it is to exercise more and cut the saturated fat from their diets. She even informed us that a former roommate lowered her cholesterol by becoming a vegetarian. (“See, this diet made my cholesterol worse, but I know someone who had good results, so you should do exactly what didn’t work for me. Okay?”)

Finally, Ms. Brody reported that despite having some reservations, she began taking a cholesterol-lowering drug. And lo and behold, her cholesterol went down! (At this point in the story, you are allowed to scream, “Of course your cholesterol went down! That’s why it’s called a cholesterol-lowering drug!”)

Perfect example of the phenomenon described in Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Her own experience demonstrated that restricting saturated fat (which she believes is good for the heart) caused her cholesterol to shoot up (which she believes is bad for the heart). That’s the point where a person blessed with a healthy capacity for skepticism would question the entire theory. But Brody can’t question the theory because she’s been a very public promoter of it. So she dutifully took a statin and declared victory over the cholesterol monster.

Yup, if I were the American Heart Association and needed a useful idiot to explain why we were right all along, that’s who I’d choose. So let’s look at some quotes from the useful idiot’s article, which appeared recently in the New York Times.

The media love contrarian man-bites-dog stories that purport to debunk long-established beliefs and advice. Among the most popular on the health front are reports that saturated fats do not cause heart disease and that the vegetable oils we’ve been encouraged to use instead may actually promote it.

Ah, I see. The belief that saturated fats aren’t the problem is just a man-bites-dog story … instead of, say, the result of new research. Or of countless people learning through experience that low-fat diets didn’t work for them. (Hey, Ms. Brody, remember what happened to your cholesterol numbers when you kept cutting the saturated fat from your diet?)

So before you succumb to wishful thinking that you can eat well-marbled steaks, pork ribs and full-fat dairy products with abandon, you’d be wise to consider the findings of what is probably the most comprehensive, commercially untainted review of the dietary fat literature yet published. They are found in a 26-page advisory prepared for the American Heart Association and published last June by a team of experts led by Dr. Frank M. Sacks.

Ms. Brody thinks the American Heart Association produced the most commercially untainted review yet? You mean the organization whose very existence depends on generous support from the makers of low-fat foods? The organization that will dry up and blow away the day after the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! theory dies?

Pardon me while I go laugh my @$$ off for several minutes …

… Okay, I’m back. Let’s continue:

As documented in the new advisory, misleading conclusions that saturated fats do not affect the risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular diseases have largely resulted from studies that were done in good faith but failed to take into account what people who avoided saturated fats ate in their place.

For example, in a study of 252 British men who had suffered heart attacks, following a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet reduced cholesterol levels by a meager 5 percent and had virtually no effect on future heart attacks. The carbohydrates they ate were mainly refined, low-fiber flours and sugars that promote weight gain and diabetes, two leading risk factors for heart disease.

In North America and Europe, the team noted, the effect of lowering saturated fat was essentially negated by people’s consumption of more “refined grains, fruit juice, sweet desserts and snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages, and other foods” that hardly promote good health.

Wait … you mean when people cut back on saturated fat, they consumed more refined grains, fruit juices and sugars? Boy, I don’t know how people could have gotten the AHA’s advice so very wrong.

Yes, it’s true: the AHA has finally stopped putting its logo on sugar-laden cereals and other sugary foods. Only took them a few decades. But let’s think about this …

The AHA jumped on the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! bandwagon after Ancel Keys joined the organization’s board. Keys, as you probably know, waged a very bitter and very personal war of words against British researcher John Yudkin throughout the 1970s. Why? Because Yudkin insisted it was sugar causing heart disease, not saturated fat. Keys replied over and over, in paper after paper, No, damnit, the problem isn’t sugar, it’s saturated fat!

Here’s a quote from Keys himself:

It is clear that Yudkin has no theoretical basis or experimental evidence to support his claim for a major influence of dietary sucrose in the etiology of CHD; his claim that men who have CHD are excessive sugar eaters is nowhere confirmed but is disproved by many studies superior in methodology and/or magnitude to his own; and his “evidence” from population statistics and time trends will not bear up under the most elementary critical examination.

There you have it. The man who steered the American Heart Association onto its anti-saturated-fat path insisted that sugar doesn’t cause heart disease and the very idea had already been disproved.

So now that cutting back on saturated fat has failed to reduce heart disease in several clinical studies, how does Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks and the American Heart Association explain away the embarrassing results? Like this:

Uh, yeah, but … uh … ya see … uh, that only happened because when people cut back on the saturated fat, they ate more sugar.

In an interview, Dr. Sacks said the advice derived from the best research “is pretty straightforward: consume few saturated fats like butter, full-fat dairy, beef and pork fat, and coconut, palm and palm kernel oils and replace them with natural vegetable oils high in polyunsaturates – corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, peanut, walnut and grapeseed oils.” Also healthful are canola and olive oil, rich in both monounsaturates and polyunsaturates.

The “best” research, of course, consists of the four studies Dr. Sucks managed to cherry-pick that support the AHA’s position. He somehow found methodological problems with all the others.

And as for this part:

… replace them with natural vegetable oils high in polyunsaturates – corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, peanut, walnut and grapeseed oils.

If you can explain to me how it’s natural for humans to consume oils from corn and soybeans, I’m all ears. Silly me, I tend to think the natural fats are the ones that don’t require industrial processing.

As for coconut oil, Dr. Sacks said, “It’s the nutritional fat du jour but it has not been proven to be healthful.”

Ah, I see. Dr. Sucks only recommends foods that have been proven to be healthy. I guess that explains this paragraph in Brody’s article:

Alas, the advisory team noted, there have been no trials to date testing the cardiovascular benefits of replacing dietary fat with “healthful nutrient-dense carbohydrates and fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes that are now recommended in dietary guidelines.”

No trials proving the cardiovascular benefits of replacing dietary fat with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes … and yet that’s exactly what the American Heart Association tells us to do. And Ms. Brody echoes that advice in her article:

In other words, if you are truly concerned about preserving good health over all, focus on a Mediterranean-style diet heavy on plant foods and unsaturated vegetable oils, with whole grains like brown rice and bulgur, fruits and vegetables as the main sources of carbohydrates.

Fortunately, useful idiots in the media no longer shape public opinion as effectively as they once did. Here are few choice comments on Brody’s article left by readers:

I sport climb with guys in their sixties and seventies who are as fit as super-heroes. They, to the man, get their nutrition information from Youtube and not their doctor. This article’s laundry list of failed studies and misleading conclusions by the experts is the reason why.


I really can’t sit here and read any more AHA fraud articles about health. I find it impossible to believe NYT can’t write any other articles about the consumption of fats without citing these people who rampantly skew data.


Yes, Dr. Sacks, well over 70 years old, ignored literally hundreds of studies over the last 50 years in this latest diatribe to go back to the incorrect studies of the 1960s. News flash: In the 50 years since, science has advanced! Turns out fats are actually generally good for you, not bad for you. And saturated fats are basically neutral. This is what hundreds of better, more modern studies say.


The comments are much more informed on the subject than the author.

Indeed they are. That’s why the author is a useful idiot.  I suspect we’ll hear from more useful idiots as the AHA continues trying to save itself from the inevitable.


49 thoughts on “Jane Brody And The American Heart Association Bravely Admit They’ve Been Right All Along

  1. George Henderson

    You know those 4 “core” studies the AHA cherry-picked? Steve Hamley, who knows the diet-heart trial literature inside-out, did the math and pointed out that those 4 studies combined, sure they have lower events, but there’s no change in total mortality in the low-SFA arms.
    And that’s the studies they cherry picked.

    Steve writes –

    “A major issue here is that the AHA doesn’t conduct a meta-analysis for total mortality. This is important because whole point of trying to reduce your risk of CHD or CVD is to reduce your overall risk of morbidity and mortality. One can argue that the AHA is justified to focus on CHD/CVD since that is the purpose of the association, but what good does it do to reduce your risk of CHD/CVD if doing so increases your risk of non-CHD/CVD morbidity and mortality, such that you would be no better off?

    This is particularly relevant for the AHA’s selection of trials. While the high PUFA group in LAVAT and FMHS had a lower risk of CHD and CVD mortality (RR = 0.80 and 0.59), they had a near identical risk of total mortality (RR = 0.98 and 1.01), because non-CHD/CVD mortality was higher [8] [26]. As those trials were both many times larger than ODHS and MRCT, and therefore have a much larger weighting, the pooled RR of the AHA’s core trials for total mortality is 0.98 (CI = 0.90-1.07, P = 0.65).”


    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Which shows just how weak their case actually is. Those are the best studies Dr. Sucks could cherry-pick, and we’re still not talking about actual lives saved.

  2. Jeffrey T Ranney

    This looks frighteningly the same as Australia with their Healthy Heart campaign. This is where we are headed as a country to take advantage of food-uneducated people in the grocery store who will shop by a picture and “trust” this government bureau called the AHA.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The heart-check logo has been around in the U.S. for decades. The good news is that more and more people are ignoring it.

      1. Walter

        And the knowing avoid anything so marked. Another health claim, which owing to the laws are only allowed for unhealthy foods.

      2. JillOz

        I found the heart-check logo on a packet of margarine (!) during a stay in hospital last year. I could not believe it.
        One of the worst things I saw was an incredibly frail lady in for I-don’t-know-what eating a bowl of cereal and some toast. Oh dear.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Yeah, when my diabetic father-in-law was in the hospital, they fed him pancakes. No butter, though. That was forbidden.

          1. EST

            I think the reasoning behind that is that diabetics are already at higher risk for heart disease, so they need to be put on a low-fat diet to avoid it. If only they knew the science and not just the propaganda.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Here’s the thing: vegans can be so goofy, I can’t tell if the video is making fun of vegans or was produced by vegans.

      1. Nathan

        Yep, Poe’s Law in action. These people are beyond ridiculous. Very closely related (as in extremely overlapping Venn diagrams) to Social Justice Warriors. And equally toxic to society; though that’s a close call.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I coming around to thinking SJWs are more toxic. People who don’t buy the standard dietary advice aren’t generally attacked by the outrage mob.

          1. Emily

            We hippie-dippies on the left are starting to very seriously clean house. Of course, we can’t get rid of the nutjobs (any more than right-wingers have been able to get rid of theirs, like the actual Nazi running for congress in Illinois), but we can marginalize them. And trust me, it’s happening. The media’s simply slow to pick up on it because of course they are.

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              There are nutjobs on both sides, but I believe the left has a more serious housecleaning job to do at this point. The right’s nutjobs aren’t teaching in universities or starting riots on campus when a speaker they don’t like is scheduled.

            2. j

              Will be very hard for the left to clean house also due to the fact that their elected representatives are (still) too busy peddling identity politics and false, ridiculously outlandish Putin collusion narratives. Cant believe anyone with a brain takes them seriously..lol.

            3. Emily

              Instead they’re in government or running for it. The Illinois Nazi was disavowed by the Republican Party, but Roy Moore was supported by them.

              If both sides don’t take their own housecleaning seriously, we’re in serious trouble. If people continue to dwell solely on the sins of the other “side” — which are legion, people being people — and use them to ignore and/or excuse their own, we’re in trouble. Charlatans will keep winning this shell game.

            4. j

              Ah yes..Roy Moore..Because people are guilty until proven innocent..especially around election time..ha gimme a break! XD

  3. Tom Welsh

    “That’s the point where a person blessed with a healthy capacity for skepticism would question the entire theory”.

    You’re far too polite, Tom.

    That’s the point where anybody able to think logically would dismiss the entire theory.

  4. Tom Welsh

    As far as I know, natural saturated fats from healthy animals that have been fed natural foods are the healthiest fats of all. Together with essential proteins, perhaps the healthiest foods of all.

    After all, saturated fats are the only foodstuffs that are completely immune to free radical damage – so they don’t need to be protected by antioxidants.

      1. Walter

        Which of course have never been proven healthy, and are new introductions to the human or any animal diet. This is in contract to animal fats which have been used from before our ancestors were human, or even genus Homo.

        It was brave for those people to make those statements actually it takes hubris or chutzpa, on the order of the boy who murdered his parents and asked for mercy because he was an orphan. IIUC, both the Greek and Jewish use that illustration of their respective words.

  5. Orvan Taurus

    Not I was going to feel any less guilty about that big plate of bacon I had for ‘breakfast’ (work nights… so.. time breakfast, meal is supper. Relative time plays hob with naming conventions) but now… I still don’t. In fact, I think it’s time for dessert: some cheese.

  6. Dr Jay Wortman

    Great post, Tom. I was at a conference in Barcelona a few years ago where Sacks presented on the benefits of increasing protein. This was early data from his 2-yr low carb trial. The increase in protein was offset by a reduction in CHO. I got up to the floor mic to say that perhaps the benefits were actually the result of lowering CHO not increasing protein. He launched into a scathing diatribe against low-carb, attacking Atkins (who I had not mentioned) and disparaging people like Westman who had done some trials at that point. It was shocking to the extent that many people approached me afterwards to express their surprise at his outburst. This was when he was in the midst of doing an RCT on low-carb vs low-fat. Biased, or what! Is it any wonder that his results were equivocal?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      And of course, his “low carb” diet wasn’t even low-carb as you or Westman or Atkins would define the term. Since Sacks is a member of the Whole Grains Council in addition to being an AHA dietary committee member, I think we can safely assume he’s hostile to the idea of restricting carbs.

    2. JillOz

      Hi Dr Jay,

      if you use abbreviations like CHO can you please include the term that is being abbreviated for us laity? Thank you.
      Incidentally I visited your blog several years ago and found it very informative and interesting.

  7. Josh

    Have you not heard of alternative facts?

    Alternative facts are the reason we ate all those healthy for the hard sugar bomb cereals, and, yes, high trans-fat margarine.

    Calm down and drink your almond or soy milk so as to improve your brain functions. Later you can explain to us how to milk a soy bean. I’m sure it will be enlightening.

  8. JillOz

    Tom, the entire staff of the new York Times has “apparent immunity to cognitive dissonance”.
    I see unfortunate evidence of this quite frequently with respect to the jihad against Israel which they have yet to acknowledge even while participating in it!

    Not surprised they apply this to health matters too.

    Unsurprisingly, they applied this to the famine in Soviet Russia and Ukraine, which, under the “journalistic” stewardship of one Walter Duranty, disappeared completely!

      1. JillOz

        Off topic for this discussion, but if you’re interested in how the KGb treated useful idiots and more, check out Yuri Bezmenov’s videos on youtube.com. There were two main ones explaining how they infiltrated the US. He himself is (was?) exKGB.

  9. Jeanne

    A bit off topic, but has anyone else had this experience?
    Some years ago I had an A1C of 6.0, pre diabetic, so I started asking my doctor to prescribe for routine blood glucose testing supplies and an A1C every 6 months to make sure I was on track. Since that time, my A1cs have been consistently 5.2 or so.
    I had an on the job injury this week and ended up in the ER. When the triage nurse looked up my info, to my shock, I had DM2 in my history! I emailed my doctor asking how that happened since I was never more than pre diabetic at that one point in my life, and was it to justify having my insurance pay for blood testing supplies?
    I hate the thought that I have that diagnosis in my chart, since I worked so hard to avoid it, in fact.

    1. chris c

      The opposite happens here in the UK – or did a few years back, when well controlled diabetics were being told they were “no longer diabetic” or “were never diabetic” and deregistered. Well it improves the statistics. Not so good when Type 1 diabetics with A1c below 6 were told they were “no longer diabetic” and had their insulin prescriptions cancelled. Yes it actually happened, and in several cases NOT by their doctors but presumably by some accounting clerk doing data mining.

      In your case maybe the doctor is paid according to how many diabetics are on his list. Just a thought . . .

      Anyone else think it’s time to change the memes? How about “heart healthy saturated fat” and “artery clogging whole grains”? Have you SEEN what happens to your drains if you put oatmeal down the kitchen sink??? Proof that the same thing happens to your arteries . . .

      1. Walter

        Newcomers should know this is a spoof on an advertisement that showed fat liquid in the refrigerator but solid in the drain. Thus, if you accept this proves that fat will clog your arteries. This is idiocy on the scope of “Tide comes in and tide goes out and no one can explain it, hence the Universe is being run by the Hebrew war god.

        IIRC this is addressed in one of the “kids” video and a previous post by Tom. But don’t put spaghetti down the drain especially through a garbage grinder.

        Apparently, it’s true that any grain down the drain is *Trouble*, which proves that it will clog your arteries.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          That’s how I proved vegetables will clog your arteries. They clog the drain, so they’ll clog your arteries. Ice cream, on the other hand, is fine if you follow it with a hot liquid.

        2. Namu

          If your arteries clog because they are at room temperature, you needn’t worry: it just means you’ve been dead for a couple days already anyway 🙂

  10. Walter

    Cocoa Puffs were I think the favorite breakfast cereal of Calvin. (Calvin and Hobbs is *still* in reruns.) Imagine that generation on Coco Puffs. Had it been legal it would have been a thing. Original Coco-Cola had it, just for example and there were many patent medicines and drinks with it.

    1. Dianne

      Actually, I think Calvin was fond of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs — which was likely a comic-strip version of Cocoa Puffs. He was well aware that they made him hyperactive.

  11. BostonKeto

    A few years ago I followed the advice from my Doctor and the staff nutritionist, and embarked on the AHA DASH diet. Yep, low fat, high carb, and I gained 30 lbs in 4 months. Needless to say I have since lost the weight (and kept it off) living Keto, and have a new Doctor as well. The AHA DASH diet will make you fat, and I now call it the DASH to Diabetes Diet!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      And nutritionist would probably accuse you of lying about your food intake if you said the low-fat diet made you gain weight.

      1. chris c

        BTDT. Follow that logic to its inevitable conclusion. Obviously we were all secretly eating low fat diets from when we evolved until low fat diets were actually invented. Then we all secretly stopped eating them. What other explanation could there possibly be? (Add in a reference to the Insulin Fairy about now)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.