On the surface, Dr. Fred Stare was a nutritional hero, founder of the Harvard School of Public Health in 1942 and advocate of healthy eating at a time when nutrition science was in its infancy. Dig deeper, however, and you will find that he was a pivotal figure in promoting the consumption of sugar, a well-paid defender of the soft drink industry, as well as an “expert” who helped demonize dietary fats and cholesterol.
Dr. Stare publicly fought against movements such as natural and organic foods, labeling them “alarmists” and “frauds.” He was, ironically, a critic of food faddism and “nutritional nonsense.” Stare vigorously defended the processed food industry and the use of food additives, preservatives, and pesticides. He famously advocated drinking Coca-Cola as a “healthy between-meals snack” and using liberal quantities of corn oil. One of his books, Panic in the Pantry, even proclaimed “Eat your additives, they’re good for you.” His work was funded by companies that included General Foods, Kelloggs, the National Soft Drinks Association, even cigarette maker Philip Morris. He published studies demonstrating that increased consumption of dietary fats raised cholesterol levels, thereby helping build the low-fat, low-cholesterol dietary message.
We now know that food additives can exert crippling health effects and that measures of cholesterol are poor reflections of cardiovascular risk. Total cholesterol, in particular, the measure that Stare primarily focused on, is virtually useless, being a combination of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides (VLDL cholesterol) with poor predictive value for future cardiovascular events. After all, measuring cholesterol was not originally intended to identify it as a cause of heart disease, but as an indirect means of quantifying the lipoprotein particles that cause coronary atherosclerosis, of which cholesterol is just one component. In other words, cholesterol resides on particles that, depending on their surface conformation, recognition protein content, triglyceride content and other features, can bind to and infiltrate the walls (intima) of arteries, thereby provoking a cascade of inflammatory events that lead over time to atherosclerosis. This phenomenon is not driven by cholesterol, though the lipoprotein particles causing this phenomenon can be crudely quantified by measuring cholesterol—cholesterol is a bystander, not the cause. It’s the characteristics and number of lipoproteins that really matter, not cholesterol. Dr. Stare was right: You can reduce crude measures of total and LDL cholesterol by reducing dietary fat—but also reducing HDL cholesterol and raising triglycerides, increasing insulin resistance and HbA1c, and triggering an explosion in small LDL particles and de novo lipogenesis and VLDL particles. Basing conclusions on flawed biomarkers like total and LDL cholesterol allowed Stare to make wildly unhealthy claims about diet that we now know are wrong.
In short, the efforts of Dr. Stare and others to demonize dietary fats and cholesterol was part of a well-funded campaign to shift the blame for booming weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and coronary disease away from sugar (and related foods such as wheat and grains containing amylopectin A) onto fats and cholesterol. The demonization of fats and cholesterol was therefore largely a marketing campaign, one based on weak science, flawed markers of cardiovascular risk, and demagogues like Stare willing and ready to take industry money. Remarkably, even today, many decades later, we are still mired in a campaign of misinformation due to people like Dr. Fred Stare. Most practicing physicians still adhere to the idea that dietary fats and cholesterol cause obesity and heart disease, prescribing low-fat diets and statin drugs to “reduce cholesterol,” efforts that are little better than bleeding you with leeches.
To truly address risk for cardiovascular disease, rather than waste your time and money with fats, cholesterol, and drugs to reduce cholesterol, you should:
- Address the dietary causes of small LDL and VLDL particles—simply, wheat/grains and sugars, foods that never belonged in the diet of Homo sapiens. Amylopectin A and sugar consumption drive liver de novo lipogenesis that, in turn, raises blood levels of triglycerides as very low-density lipoprotein, VLDL, particles that are themselves atherogenic (atherosclerosis causing), as well as leading to formation of small LDL particles. To reverse this entire constellation of abnormal lipoproteins, turn off liver lipogenesis by consuming no wheat/grains or sugars—it’s that simple, no prescription drugs required, virtually no cost.
- Address the causes of insulin resistance—vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine, all of which are lacking in modern life due to practices such as living indoors, drinking filtered water, failing to eat organ meats, etc.
- Address disrupted bowel flora—Exposure to antibiotics, prescription drugs like stomach acid-blocking and statin drugs, emulsifying agents in ice cream and salad dressing, synthetic sweeteners in diet sodas (Yes, Dr. Stare: food additives can be harmful), and other factors have shifted bowel flora away from healthy species and towards Enterobacteriacea like E. coli, Klebsiella, and Citrobacter that then ascend up the ileum, jejunum, duodenum, and stomach, launching a 30-foot length of living and dying microbes unleashing their byproducts into the bloodstream—endotoxemia. Endotoxemia drives weight gain, visceral fat accumulation, insulin resistance, higher blood sugars, coronary disease, and a long list of other health conditions.
All the strategies of the Wheat Belly and Undoctored programs accomplish this with no need to be bothered with the misinformation of Dr. Stare and cholesterol.