The Cholesterol Myths
By Uffe Ravnskov
New Trends, 2000
How refreshing! What a delight! When your self-imposed ordeal is to read reams of bad science, written in bad English by dullards, it is like a tropical holiday in midwinter to read something that is the very antithesis.
Most of us of the sceptical persuasion were aware that the heart-diet theory did not hold water, but here is chapter and verse to prove it. It is certainly rare to come across a work of true scholarship these days and you donít get them coming out of universities, where the pursuit of grants from bureaucrats has taken priority.
The author, a medical practitioner, has done more than just explode a family of well-entrenched myths; he has demonstrated just how the establishment maintains an orthodoxy in defiance of overwhelming contrary evidence. It does so, of course, by simply ignoring any facts that are inconvenient; suppressio veri suggestio falsi.
Ravnskov takes nine myths, which are:
High fat foods cause heart
High cholesterol causes heart disease.
High-fat foods raise blood cholesterol.
Cholesterol blocks arteries.
Animal studies prove the heart-diet idea.
Lowering your cholesterol will lengthen your life.
Polyunsaturated oils are good for you.
The cholesterol campaign is based on good science.
All scientists support the diet-heart idea.
He then looks at all the evidence, not just the papers favoured by the establishment, and disposes of the myths one by one. It is a scientific tour de force, for which he will, no doubt, be dismissed as a crank. It says much of the state of the modern world when those who adhere to the scientific method are cranks, while those who flout it win Nobel prizes.
The sheer brass neck with which authors select their data is truly astonishing. The very paper that started off the whole farrago produced a smooth graph passing through data points for six countries. Ravnskov, however, demonstrates that if you add the rest of the data, which were available at the time, the scatter diagram is all over the place. He cites several cases where the summary of a paper is at variance with its contents. Subsequent authors, of course, only look at the summary or, more often, an account of it by someone else.
Two papers giving the results of trials were published in the same journal. The one whose results did not support the orthodoxy received 15 citations over the next four years. The one favouring the orthodoxy, however, received 612 citations in the same period.
These are just some of the many methods used to prop up the myths, but we have seen them all elsewhere to maintain other establishment myths (the low salt diet, global warming, passive smoking etc.) Many of them have provided the foundation for huge industries, the cholesterol one being worth billions of dollars. They enable academics to establish reputations, large departments and win prizes. They enable medical practitioners to go through the motions without having to exercise too many brain cells. The sheer weight of interest in suppressing the truth is awesome. Thanks be that there are still a few small boys who are prepared to point out that the emperor has no clothes.
© John Brignell
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