Catalyst: was the ABC enlisted to sell palm oil?

The cholesterol controversy featured on the ABC’s Catalyst program had nothing to do with science – it appears to have been designed to sell palm oil. Was the Catalyst team naive or complicit?

ABC television’s science program Catalyst recently ran two programs purporting to expose the myths about cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. In the first program the role of saturated fat in increasing risk was challenged and in the second the efficacy of statin medication for lowering coronary risk was put under the spotlight.

The programs provoked a storm of controversy, even within the ABC, because of their bias and potential to mislead. The ABC’s own health reporter Dr Norman Swan was irate, declaring on Radio National that “People will die as a result of the Catalyst program …”. Swan also conducted an excellent interview with Professor Peter Clifton on The Health Report as a means of countering the mischief caused by his colleagues at Catalyst. It’s well worth a listen.

Catalyst used to be a respected, evidence-based science program. How did it come to this?

The Cholesterol Wars

From the 1950s to the 1990s there was a lively debate among leading scientists about the lipid hypothesis i.e. whether elevated blood cholesterol increased the risk for heart disease. The history of “The Cholesterol Wars” has been beautifully recorded in a series of five articles by leading authority Daniel Steinberg (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5). Steinberg traces the gradual accumulation of different kinds of evidence supporting the lipid hypothesis until it was finally confirmed once and for all. This is the definitive history but the war is well and truly over.

Why would Catalyst even attempt to suggest that it’s all a con? And if bold enough to try, why would Catalyst rely on Dr Jonny Bowden and Dr Stephen Sinatra to convey the arguments?

Dr Jonny Bowden

Dr Bowden is not a ‘medical expert’, as Catalyst implied. He has a PhD, but it’s not from Yale or Harvard. He has a Clayton’s PhD, awarded by the Clayton College of Natural Health in Birmingham, Alabama. For a critical look at Clayton College you might like to consult the QuackWatch article Clayton College of Natural Health: Be Wary of the School and Its Graduates. In 2010, Clayton College announced that it was ceasing operations which resulted in a class action lawsuit as students sought to recover pre-paid fees. Unusually for a PhD, Bowden doesn’t appear to publish in the scientific literature but he does sell a vast array of dietary supplements via his website. He is obviously a very commercially oriented fellow.

Why on Earth would Catalyst fly a journalist to the United States to interview this man?

Dr Stephen Sinatra

When Dr Sinatra appeared on Catalyst he was wearing a white coat and taking someone’s blood pressure, suggesting he is still in clinical practice. But this is not the case so there was obviously some staging going on. However, Dr Sinatra is a real cardiologist, though he is not an expert in blood lipids and has not published any original research in the lipid field. His only publication in the medical literature relating to cholesterol and heart disease is a single opinion piece published 10 years ago in a minor journal. He has written a lot more about Coenzyme Q10 and – you guessed it – he also sells dietary supplements.

Dr Sinatra’s latest contribution to the scientific literature relates to ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding’ i.e. the process of connecting with the Earth’s primordial, healing energy to reduce inflammation and ultimately improve health by promoting electron balance in the body. Apparently, “… when you walk barefoot, free electrons are transferred from the earth into your body, and this grounding effect is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of.”

Why on Earth would Catalyst fly a journalist to the United States to interview this man?

Image: source

Not such an odd couple

Although Catalyst didn’t mention it, Bowden and Sinatra are co-authors of a book titled The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan That Will, which was published last year. One chapter reveals why saturated fat is not so bad for you after all, as explained on Catalyst. Another chapter covers how the real problem is sugar, as explained on Catalyst. Then there is the chapter that discusses how chronic inflammation is likely to cause heart disease, as explained on Catalyst. And there is a chapter on cholesterol-lowering drugs highlighting that the benefits are assumed and not proven, as explained on Catalyst.

This book appears to be the script for the two Catalyst programs and its co-authors are lead actors. But who is the producer?

Commerce at play

There is obviously a commercial interest behind this. The Catalyst programs appear to be the product of a classic public relations exercise: publish a controversial book; line the authors up as key spokesmen; wrap it up into a nice package; and present it to a media outlet. The resulting stories usually appear on commercial television ‘current affairs’ programs but not on science programs on the ABC.

To understand who is driving it we need to ask a simple question: who benefits from a challenge to the lipid hypothesis and from questioning the role of saturated fat? The answer is easy enough – industries that generate a lot of saturated fat. There are only four suspects – the meat, dairy, coconut oil and palm oil industries. But which of these would be prepared to trash public health in order to sell more saturated fat in Australia?

The meat industry’s response to concern about saturated fat has been responsible – producing leaner beasts and leaner cuts of meat so I think they are off the hook. A quick check of Dairy Australia’s website shows that this organisation has been doing its fair share to rehabilitate the reputation of saturated fat. However, Dairy Australia’s approach is at least subtle and the organisation states categorically that it had nothing to do with the Catalyst programs, so we have to take them at their word. Coconut oil marketing is pretty wacky but it looks very unsophisticated. It’s hard to imagine that this industry could conceive and execute a major public relations campaign of this ilk.

Which leaves us with the palm oil industry. Take a quick look at Palm Oil Health. Lo and behold:

  • Jonny Bowden on the radio in Florida recommending Malaysian palm oil to lower inflammation.
  • Jonny Bowden on Fox 9 News recommending Malaysian palm oil to boost brain power.
  • Jonny Bowden on the Hallmark Channel discussing Malaysian palm oil and cholesterol.
  • Jonny Bowden on One Life Radio in Dallas recommending Malaysian palm oil.
  • Jonny Bowden on TV in San Diego recommending Malaysian palm oil.
  • Jonny Bowden on the Catalyst program.

It would appear that Jonny Bowden has been employed by the Malaysian palm oil industry to assist in the marketing of its product. Australia may have been targeted because imports of palm oil have fallen by over 20% in recent years as major fast food chains in Australia such as McDonald’s and KFC have adopted healthier unsaturated fats for frying.

Questions for Catalyst

The Catalyst programs look like a marketing initiative by the Malaysian palm oil industry. Were the producer and journalist at Catalyst unaware that they were being had? Could they really be that gullible or inept? It seems inconceivable. Or did they willingly and knowingly compromise the public broadcaster and undermine public health in Australia in a bid for some ratings?

Either way, thanks to the Catalyst programs science journalism has plumbed new depths in Australia.

Image: source


119 thoughts on “Catalyst: was the ABC enlisted to sell palm oil?

  1. This is actually frightening. I agree with Glenn. Something should be done and the media is really not held responsible enough for it’s influence on the population. Especially when it is trusted broadcasters and programs spreading misleading and potentially quite harmful information.

  2. As always, another well argued insight into nutritonal buffoonery. It seems hard to believe that Catalyst was completely duped as Bowden’s qualification and commercial interests were painfully obvious within a .26 second google search.

    • Catalyst was duped by the cardiovascular surgeon who dared go against the big pharmaceutical companies lies about use of statins. Please.
      If you believe mr ” seed oil” here about catalyst selling palm oil ffs, you must be joking? ??

      • Peter, as I said to Trevor, one thing I have acquired through the work I have done is the ability spot a public relations exercise when I see it. This was PR. Regards, Bill

    • Jenna, who knows where the responsibility lies? It appears that somewhere along the line Catalyst decided to go tabloid and now they are paying the price – their credibility is gone. Regards, Bill

  3. Before anyone gets too excited about Mr Shrapnel’s remarks, they should take note of the list of clients in the food processing industry listed in the “About Me” section of his website. As a physical scientist myself, I can only look at the science and the advice coming out of the nutrition science field and shake my head. It is so warped by dollars I wonder why any of us take any of it seriously. Or do we?

    • John, I’ll repeat what I said to Rhiannon, Julian, Mike, Trevor, Gabriele and Margaret. I am not currently employed by any fats and oils company or association, and that’s been the case for the last seven months. My post was not commissioned or paid for. No-one has ever seen the content of any of my posts on this blog prior to publication. My motivation for writing this blog was concern about the shabby way the Heart Foundation was dealt with in the Catalyst program. I worked for the Foundation 20 years ago and I have great respect for it.
      Oh ye of little faith. Regards, Bill

      • Bill, your response to my post simply shows that you have no response. Sadly, you do not appear to be aware of how debased the science is in which you are clearly immersed. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

        • John, weren’t you suggesting that I had a vested interest? Didn’t I clear that up with my response?
          I don’t disagree that nutrition advice is warped by dollars – that was the whole point of my post. Regards, Bill

          • Bill, the way I understood it, the whole point of your post was that what those guys on Catalyst said was biased, and your evidence was circumstantial – which doesn’t make it wrong, but my point was that the same type of argument could be made about you and your advice. So why should anyone believe you over them? The fact that you haven’t done a consultancy with the industry in seven months is irrelevant. Anyway, it is pretty clear from the responses to Catalyst, Swan, and your blog, all of which I have read with some interest, that the overwhelming majority of responders, found that what was said on Catalyst resonated with their own conclusions. Most of us are not nutritionists, just people following the subject for whatever reason. We are voting with our feet.

          • John, people will make up their own minds. I just hope they dig a bit deeper and don’t take things on face value. The nutrition argument advanced by Catalyst is contrary to that of just about every authoritative nutrition organisation in the world. People should know that. Regards, Bill

          • When you say “The nutrition argument advanced by Catalyst is contrary to that of just about every authoritative nutrition organisation in the world.” …the whole point of the Catalyst program was that nutrition organisations (and many nutritionists) appear have been led down the garden path by big food processing and drug companies. So of bloody course the argument is contrary to the latter’s. We did not need you or Norman Swan to tell us that.

          • re “you and your advice. So why should anyone believe you over them?”

            Because Bill didn’t merely provide “advice” – he produce a reasoned argument against their positon and destroyed their credibility.

            My advice is to totally ignore people with Clayton PhDs. Very suss. I’d rather listen to people with no qualifications at all. At least that way you’d get an honest opinion.

        • The guys on Catalyst are already notorious Cholesterol Deniers. Check out Plant Positive’s series of videos on YouTube and you’ll what a bunch of hoaxers they belong to.

          • Hi Daryl. Cholesterol deniers have been around for decades and at times have been nourished by industries generating lots of saturated fat. However, any vestige of a decent argument from this quarter fell away in the mid-1990s. Given this, why would a so-called science program air the cholesterol deniers views and misrepresent the state of the science?
            Catalyst has lost the plot and gone tabloid. The ABC should shut it down and encourage its presenters to seek employment on the commercial networks 6.30pm ‘current affairs’ programs. Regards, Bill

  4. While reading this article I became increasingly uneasy in that the claims being made did not match well with the actual content of the Catalyst prorgam. First response was to click “about me” – being Bill Shrapnell a moderately well qualified nutitrionist who has done considerable work for business with a vested interest in promoting low fat diets – hmm!
    Let us now apply Ockham’s razor to Mr Shrapnell’s assertion that John Bowden is a paid representative of malaysian palm oil producers. Could it not be that Bowden, as a nutritionist, has identified this particular oil as one having no trans fatty acids and therefore one that he believes to be healthier than those that do – that is exactly what the reference mentioned in this article show. As this is a far simpler explanation of the situation than the introduction of another (un-named) party to employ Bowden to say this, Ockhams razor would suggest the former is the more likely epxlanation
    A review of the research into the relationship between dietry fat intake and coronary heart disease (CHD) concluded that, with the exception of trans fats, the level and type of dietry fat intake had no statisitcal effect on the increase of CHD. However the research does show that a diets either high in fish oils (omega 3 oils) or higher in poly unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats can lower the risk of CHD. The significant finding in this debate is that diets higher in saturated fats do not have correlation with increased CHD and as saturated fat intake and cholestrol levels are treated as mutually indicative in the research it is reasonable to conclude that higher cholestrol levels are not the ogre they have been made out to be. The signficant range of research that this review examines makes no conclusion about any dietry fat intake or blood fat level contributing to an increase in CHD. All this, quite clearly, raises questions about the ever increasing use of anti cholestrol medication in Australia. This is particularly significant in the light of the range and degree of severity of the side effects of these drugs.
    The review of research is “Dietary Fat and Coronary Heart Disease: Summary of Evidence fromProspective Cohort and randomised Controlled Trials”. This was conducted by C. Murray Skeef and Jody Miller of the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. It was published in the “Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism” September 2009. The full document is available on line.
    This debate is one that requires robust evidence. Sadly there are many asserting their own opinion presented as imutable fact. I agree the evidence is often difficult to read (the above report required very close reading) but that should not exclude it from the debate.

    • Hello Peter. I am familiar with the Skeaff paper – it’s the World Health Organisation’s review and it concludes that there is convincing evidence that coronary heart disease risk is lowered when saturated fat is replaced by polyunsaturated fat. Generally, this is also the position of the Australian Heart Foundation, the American Heart Association, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Australian Dietary Guidelines. This is the consensus and that’s the message I communicate on this blog. But that’s not the message that Catalyst communicated. In fact, Catalyst said the opposite i.e. that saturated fat was OK and that polyunsaturated fat was suspect. Now that is irresponsible. Regards, Bill

      • The National Heart Foundation is an advertising agency for the margarine industry. They have 100 scientific references on their website that all refer to trans fat. Not one that refers to saturated fat. Catalyst made the point that the evidence against saturated fat is simply not there. As for polyunsaturated fat what was stated on Catalyst was that people get too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3. There is a difference.
        I am interested in actual scientific studies than the dogma from any organisation.

        • Alexander, what are you talking about? I just went onto the Heart Foundation site and in five seconds found this:

          Healthier fats
          Healthier fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats – omega-3 and omega-6. These fats reduce the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood and increase the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. This helps to lower your risk of getting heart disease.

          Unhealthy fats
          Unhealthy fats include saturated fats and trans fats. Too much saturated and trans fat contributes to the build up of fatty material, called plaque, on the inside of your blood vessels and is a major cause of heart disease. These fats can increase LDL cholesterol in our blood that leads to the plaque. Lowering saturated fat in the diet will help to lower LDL cholesterol.

          Foods high in saturated fat include

          Hard and full fat soft cheeses
          Full fat dairy products
          Crème fraiche
          Chicken skin
          Fat on meats
          Processed meat such as sausages, burgers and salami
          Coconut oil
          Coconut milk
          Palm oil
          Fatty or fried take-away foods
          Packaged cakes and biscuit

  5. Clearly there are two sides to every story – including yours Bill.
    Plainly stating that one of your clients is Goodman Fielder on your website (who produces margarine and vegetable oils) to me indicates that there may be vested interest.
    You do have a good argument, but so do the cholesterol enthusiasts.

    • Rhiannon, I’ll repeat what I said to Julian, Mike, Trevor, Gabriele and Margaret. I am not currently employed by any fats and oils company or association, and that’s been the case for the last seven months. My post was not commissioned or paid for. No-one has ever seen the content of any of my posts on this blog prior to publication. My motivation for writing this blog was concern about the shabby way the Heart Foundation was dealt with in the Catalyst program. I worked for the Foundation 20 years ago and I have great respect for it.
      I disagree with you that those interviewed on Catalyst have a good argument. They lost the argument a decade ago, in the world of science that is. But what we are dealing with here is not science; it’s commerce. Regards, Bill

  6. Thanks for the heads up. I also contacted Media Watch. I am always interested controversy, but the first Catalyst episode was a travesty. It was immediately apparent that none of the proponents of the controversy were experts in the field and Catalyst was dishonest in the way they were presented on screen. It reminds me very much of Andrew Wakefield and the subsequent antivaccination furore in the media. Sadly, there were unnecessary deaths. I hope history does not repeat itself.

    • Hello Peter. Dr Norman Swan comments on Radio National we very strong: “People will die as a result of the Catalyst program …”. I’m at a loss to understand why Catalyst did what it did. Regards, Bill

      • Peter Arthur, you say that none of the proponents were experts in the field. Gary Taubes I would say is an expert in the field having researched the science for many years, and has published several of his analysis. He has been interviewed by Dr Norman Swan on ‘the health report’ , who Bill has quoted in response to your comments.
        Why do you say “it was immediately apparent they werent experts”. Was it what they were wearing, or the scene in which they were filmed ? Please enlighten us. If you havent read his articles or finding, I would do so before Immediately dismissing his views or findings.

    • Well spotted Carolyn. This reinforces my view that this book served as the script for the Catalyst programs. Was the book commissioned? And why did Catalyst take such an interest in this cholesterol/myth book? There have been lots of similar books published over the last 15 years, usually written by retired doctors. Why this book? How did they even know it existed? So many questions. Regards, Bill

    • Hi Carolyn, that’s an excellent piece of research into the backgrounds of the 5 “experts” and your concerns are completely justified.

      I’m a medical statistician, so I’m used to sifting through and finding flaws in evidence. Yet cardiovascular disease is not my area of expertise, so my views – initially at least – must rely on the consensus of other experts.

      It appears, at least in overview, that Catalyst and Maryanne Demasi in particular have been complicit in promoting a dangerous form of junk science. The issue is that (from her tweets and Facebook comments), Demasi has spent 3 years researching her story. The shows web site has numerous references to support its claims and these need to be carefully examined in turn:
      They appear to have been carefully chosen to present only the contentious view the show is pushing, which is a concern in itself.

      However, the process of science requires examining all the evidence, or at least the very best summaries that are available. Bill Shrapnel has started this with links to the 5 articles on “The Cholesterol Wars” (above).

      • I’ve started going through the references on the Catalysts site:

        First up:
        “Sucrose in the diet and coronary heart disease – Dr Ancel Key publicly ridicules Dr John Yudkin in the medical literature in 1971″
        This is claimed to address the question:
        “Does high cholesterol really increase your risk of heart attacks?”

        I could not find a mention of the word cholesterol in the article. It is about sucrose and CHD and finds no evidence of association. It’s irrelevant to cholesterol and CHD.

        • Bruce, you will notice that two issues are often discussed together: ‘saturated fat is not the problem; it’s sugar’. It’s an attempt to transfer blame, taking the heat of saturated fat. Regards, Bill

      • Second up:
        “Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease”
        Meta-analyses, if done correctly often provide powerful evidence by pooling studies. However this meta-analysis with Siri-Tarino as the first author, is not the only one on saturated fat and CVD risk:
        However, it is the only one catalyst lists, and it is listed twice – the second time at the very end of its list.

        Aside from sponsorship of the study by the National Dairy Council and sponsorship of one author by Unilever and another by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the study pools risk estimates that have already been adjusted for serum cholesterol ( This is complicated to explain, but they’ve mathematically removed the risk difference they purport to measure, and he presto, they find no difference in risk due to saturated fat consumption.

        It’s junk statistics.

      • Third:
        “Coronary Artery Disease as Clogged Pipes: A Misconceptual Model”

        That concept of “dietary saturated fat and cholesterol blocking arteries” is wrong, but so what.

        Many studies have shown that dietary saturated fat increases serum cholesterol (eg, and increased serum cholesterol is associated with increased rates of CVD (eg.

        This is all too much work when I’ve got other priorities…

      • Fourth:
        “The 4S Study”
        I’ve jumped to this one because it is particularly egregious. In part 2 Professor Beatrice Golomb stated, “Right now the evidence has not supported benefit to women, even if they have heart disease, in terms of mortality and all cause morbidity. … In fact, in the 4S trial, there was a 12% increase in mortality in the women in that group who were assigned to statin rather than placebo…”

        Almost all deaths in this study were men – 231 on placebo vs 155 on simvastatin. For women, 27 on placebo vs 25 on simvastatin – the result is NOT SIGNIFICANT. The confidence interval for the relative risk was 0.65 to 1.93. The quoted “12% increase in mortality” is the “point estimate” (1.12), it should not be represented as anything other than chance. Women did however have significantly fewer major coronary events – 91 on placebo vs 54 on simvastatin.

        More junk statistics.

  7. Hi Everyone,

    I really enjoyed listening to Dr Maryanne Demasi’s report on Catalyst about Cholesterol & I thought that Dr Abramson offered some really helpful advice during his interview when he said…

    “Exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet is the best way to prevent heart disease.”

    There’s lots of interesting information available on the Catalyst website about the Cholesterol episodes. If you’re interested in reading some of the medical details you’ll find them in the downloads section at the following weblink:

    During Dr Demasi’s presentation on Catalyst, I didn’t notice any mention of Malaysian Palm Oil during the interviews & I haven’t seen it mentioned in any of the medical literature that I’ve read so far on the website.

    In regard to the use of statins, there’s two really great comments by “Snowy” in response to Dr Norman Swans ABC Health report segment about the Catalyst episodes. The link is below;

    Kind regards,

  8. Nice piece. Catalyst should be held to account for its work here. So much positive work on changing our obesogenic environment can be undone by low quality journalism.

    • Will, I basically agree, except obesity is NOT the problem when it comes to heart disease. The large numbers of 40 and 50 something men dropping dead from heart attacks in the 1960s and 1970s were usually NOT obese, but they smoked, ate lots of saturated fats, and exercised little.

      The Aktins style diets promoted by Bowden, Sinatra and co will probably make you thinner, but will clog your arteries.

      • Hi Bruce. I don’t support the Atkins/high saturated fat approach – yes, artery clogging. But moderate fat intake is fine, provided the majority of the fats are unsaturated. Carbohydrate intake should be moderate too, with an emphasis on ‘good’ carbs. Regards, Bill

        • Hi Bill,
          I’m trying to decouple obesity and cholesterol in peoples minds. People automatically assume that an obese person must have high cholesterol and a thin person, low. Yes – in untreated people – they are associated, but there is not a deterministic relationship. And with statins there a a lot of obese people who have very low cholesterol.

          • Hi Bruce. Two different concepts – diet quantity (obesity) and diet quality (blood cholesterol levels). Regards, Bill

          • Just let them be confused.
            There are already many ‘health at every size’ advocates who’ll shout that that cardiovascular risk involved associated with cholesterol isn’t linked to obesity.
            The problem is that they will then use that to argue that obesity is not an unhealthy state to be in if you ‘eat healthy’, ignoring all the other problems that actually ARE associated with obesity.
            Also the evidence that Obese people are not actually eating healthy, even when they report that they are tends to be ignored.

        • Why would you need to limit ‘good’ carbs? Dr John McDougall et al have gone to considerable pains to impress upon people that the vast majority of human kind have lived on starch based diets throughout history as their staple and from their own clinical experience it is an ideal healthy way to live.

  9. “To understand who is driving it we need to ask a simple question: who benefits from a challenge to the lipid hypothesis and from questioning the role of saturated fat? The answer is easy enough – industries that generate a lot of saturated fat.”

    Now let’s ask that same critical question of those who promoted anti-fat hysteria in the first place: who benefits from advice telling people to cut back on saturated fat and eat more “heart-healthy” whole grains? Well, let’s see … McGovern represented a state where wheat is a big part of the economy. The cereal-makers (one of which funded Harvard’s nutrition department) certainly loved that advice. The makers of soybean oil and other processed seed oils (which have been shown to produce inflammation) certainly benefited. In other words, the USDA’s biggest clients/overlords benefited. The revolving door between the USDA and the grain industry is so busy, they should just merge and get it overwith.

    Ad hominem attacks on a couple of the sources aside, the real question is: does the scientific evidence support the theory that saturated fat causes heart disease? No, it doesn’t. Not even close. That’s why we have a French Paradox, a Spanish Paradox, a Swiss Paradox, a Russian Paradox (low average cholesterol, screamingly high rates of heart disease), etc.

    Even the ding-dong from the Heart Foundation admitted the evidence is “inconclusive” — although it’s not really that inconclusive. In study after study in which researches tried to reduce rates of heart disease by having intervention groups cut back on fat and cholesterol, the Lipid Hypothesis failed. That’s pretty conclusive evidence that it’s wrong.

    • Hello Tom. No, the lipid hypothesis didn’t fail. It’s proven – please read the article I referenced in my paragraph titled ‘The Cholesterol Wars’. But I agree with your concern about ‘anti-fat hysteria’. The ideal diet for heart health is not low in fat. It’s a Mediterranean-type diet, built on a frame that is moderate in total fat, low in saturated and trans fats, and enriched with unsaturated fats. Regards, Bill

    • A study was conducted where 2 mental hospital wards each had their own cafeteria.
      One was put on a diet low in saturated fat.
      The other was left normal.

      After 6 years, the diets were switched.

      Lower cholesterol and incidents of CVD followed the lower saturated fat diet wherever it went.

      Things like the French paradox only show that everything is more complicated than we would like, not that saturated fat doesn’t affect CVD rates in any particular population.
      We can go to any corner of the world and find an epidemiological study proving that any diet rich in anything will have a good effect on health.

      Fortunately Bills (the classical) position is also based on non-epidemiological evidence.

  10. You can smell the anger in this article, but it is misplaced. Our body produces cholesterol because it is essential. Not because it is toxic.

    Statins undermine our bodies ability to regulate itself. You may not like the message medium, or the people. But the message is correct.

    The idea thay ABC is trying to sell palm oil is just a silly rouse to grab attention.

    • Hello Simon. Blood pressure is essential but that doesn’t mean high blood pressure is good. Blood glucose is essential but that doesn’t mean that high blood glucose is good. Similarly, blood cholesterol is essential but high blood cholesterol is not good – it’s an established risk factor for heart disease. This has been proven beyond reasonable doubt (please read the references in my paragraph titled The Cholesterol Wars). As a nutritionist it is not appropriate for me to comment on statins. Regards, Bill

        • Hello Colleen. This is a nutrition blog and I like to keep the debate focussed on nutrition. Also, I think it is also wise to stay within the confines of one’s expertise. I have been to a lot of conferences where the results of statin trials have been presented and I have read a lot of the studies. But it’s not my primary area of expertise so I prefer to let others lead debates about statins. Regards, Bill

  11. Skeptical nutritionist, you are not skeptical enough. So Bowden and Sinatra wrote a book. How is that a big conspiracy? But science aside, answer me this: how is it possible that the answer to our health problems lies in modern man made polyunsaturated oils and spreads, and a supermarket full of soulless man made low fat concoctions, and modern grains that have been modified over time for better use and yield? Show me the healthy population who have benefited from 4 decades of this faulty dietary advice. All I see is an epidemic of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Man evolved to eat animals – the whole animal, fat and all, as well as fruit, vegetables and those high fat culprits nuts and seeds. We evolved to eat NATURAL FOODS IN THEIR NATURAL STATE! And it is laughable that you think that the food industry may be the “culprit” when it is the food industry who have fuelled our current dietary guidelines. YOU are in the pocket of the food industry right now. Open your mind. PS – I see you didn’t manage to discredit Gary Taubes. But I’m sure you’ll give it a go.

    • Hello Rachel. Maybe I should call myself The Reasonably Sceptical Nutritionist. I agree with a lot of what you say. There is plenty of room for improvement in modern diets. I didn’t think of trying to discredit Gary Taubes. Is he a bit suss? Regards, Bill

  12. Hi Bill,

    Have you, or will you, disclose your own financial interests in this debate? Would you agree that some of your readers may view your above criticism to be a tad hypocritical given your own vested financial interest in this ongoing debate? Can you really be considered an independent voice when you are or have been a paid consultant to food giants Kelloggs, Unilever and Goodman Fielder as well as your work with the University of Sydney and their GI business. Clearly, all of these have strong commercial interests in this debate which has attempted to shift the focus from saturated fats and cholesterol to sugar…

    Thank you. I look forward to your response.

    • Julian, I’m happy to repeat what I said to Mike, Trevor, Gabriele and Margaret. I am not currently employed by any fats and oils company or association, and that’s been the case for the last seven months. My post was not commissioned or paid for. No-one has ever seen the content of any of my posts on this blog prior to publication. My motivation for writing this blog was concern about the shabby way the Heart Foundation was dealt with in the Catalyst program. I worked for the Foundation 20 years ago and I have great respect for it.
      Sometimes people do things because they don’t like seeing nutrition science deliberately misrepresented in the media. Regards, Bill

  13. It is with great respect to see the comments above, but from one who has been damaged by statins permanently I can say they are a poison, and very dangerous at that. I was on Lipitor 40mg for 2 months, then 40mg of Crestor for nearly 4.5 months, I now have permanent muscle damage which precludes me from sleeping, I see every hour on the hour. My cholesterol was 6.3, never smoked/ overweight and consumed very healthy meals with good bouts of exercise, my father lived to over 100 years with no cholesterol checks in his lifetime. Can I suggest to you, the public, peruse the “STATIN DAMAGE FORUMS” for the real result of THESE POISONS. The Mayo Hospital opened a statin damage clinic in 2010 but admit their is no cure at this stage. I ceased the medication on October 2010 but the pain in my muscles has not diminished.

    • Hello John. As a nutritionist I cannot advise you on medication, which is why I focussed on the dietary aspects of the Catalyst program. Regards, Bill

  14. I must of missed it, so Palm oil was mentioned in the segment. Very interesting you mention the people interviewed on the Catalyst program have conflicts of interest, and reading through your client list, of course you don’t !!!!
    Give the public a break, people are getting tired of the rubbish pushed about what dieticians think is healthy to eat. I can see they day there will be class actions off the back of past dietary recommendations.

    • Mike, I’ll repeat what I said to Trevor, Gabriele and Margaret. I am not currently employed by any fats and oils company or association, and that’s been the case for the last seven months. My post was not commissioned or paid for. No-one has ever seen the content of any of my posts on this blog prior to publication. My motivation for writing this blog was concern about the shabby way the Heart Foundation was dealt with in the Catalyst program. I worked for the Foundation 20 years ago and I have great respect for it.
      The position on fats and heart disease I espouse on this blog is consistent with the advice of the Heart Foundation, the American Heart Association, the World Health Organisation and the NHMRC. Suggest you familiarise yourself with their recommendations and then rejoin the debate. Regards, Bill

  15. Hi Bill,
    It is great that you would point out all of the possible commercial interests of those commenting on Fats, Cholesterol, Sugars and Statins.

    What are your thoughts on this commentator -

    Clients 2010-12:
    Goodman Fielder, Kellogg Australia, Australian Oilseeds Federation and The Food Group.

    Previous Clients:
    Unilever Australasia, Unilever China, Unilever India, Australian Sunflower Association, Burston-Marsteller, Mercke, Moray & Agnew, National Heart Foundation and National Health & Medical Research Council.

    Shrapnel B. The Pro-Active Plan: the ultimate cholesterol-lowering diet. Custom Book Company, first edition 2000, second edition 2007. 45,000 copies in print.

    That tells the story of a man who has plenty to gain by criticising those who point out the truth about cholesterol, fats, seed oils, sugars and statins…

    • Trevor, I’ll repeat what I said to Gabriele and Margaret. I am not currently employed by any fats and oils company or association, and that’s been the case for the last seven months. My post was not commissioned or paid for. No-one has ever seen the content of any of my posts on this blog prior to publication. My motivation for writing this blog was concern about the shabby way the Heart Foundation was dealt with in the Catalyst program. I worked for the Foundation 20 years ago and I have great respect for it.
      One thing I have acquired through the work I have done is the ability spot a public relations exercise when I see it. This was PR, not ‘the truth’. Regards, Bill

      • “Not currently employed”. What is the relevance of this repeated reference? Does it imply that seven months ago you would have been susceptible to the same calumny that you level against the ABC, but that now you have been purged by seven months of indepedence?

        What percentage of your career does seven months represent? Is it a sufficient period to cast off the bias of decades of supporting the party line of grain and margarine?

        But whatever the relative portions of your pedigree might be, do you think that you aid your cause by making charges of corruption against the ABC? Ad hominem is the ultimate mark of intellectual capitulation. By libelling the ABC you are essentially saying that you have nothing to add to the debate. The end result is that right-minded people who were mildly persuaded by the Catalyst program will be more inclined to believe its message after reading your rant, as they would after reading Mr Swan’s “people will die” scaremongering.

        • Gregory, I don’t think anyone could accuse me of ‘supporting the party line on grain’.
          I suspect you have a strong opinion based on limited knowledge – always a precarious position, but one that can be steadied by reading more widely. Regards, Bill

  16. I watched both episodes of Catalyst carefully and don’t recall a reference to palm oil! Having a family history of heart disease I have been very interested in this issue for a number of years and have been reading books, listening to blogs and combing through pubmed. I can make reasonable sense of it all having a science degree. I have recovered my health through eating High Fat Low Carb Primal (no grains, no legumes – I am coeliac and allergic to soy and am also convinced these groups of foods are nutrient poor, gut irritating and inflammatory). I am going to stay off the statins (my doc wouldn’t put me on them anyway she says there are too many side effects and they are not effective for women) and I am going to keep eating butter and bacon. Books I found helpful: Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet and Grain Brain by Dr Perlmutter.

  17. It appears you have your own conflict of interest: “Disclosure: Bill Shrapnel consults to Goodman Fielder and the Australian Oilseeds Federation. He previously consulted to Unilever (14 years), makers of Miracle margarine.” Here’s what one expert who has no conflict of interest says: “In a systemic review of dietary fat in preventing CAD, Hooper et al. (16) point out: “Despite decades of effort, and many thousands of people randomized, there is still only limited and inconclusive evidence of the effects of modification of total, saturated, mono-unsaturated or poly-saturated fats on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality”” Dr. Weinberg was at one time the president of the American College of Cardiology. And this meta analysis, concluded thus: “A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat.”

    • Margaret, I’ll repeat what I said to Gabriele. I am not currently employed by any fats and oils company or association, and that’s been the case for the last seven months. My post was not commissioned or paid for. No-one has ever seen the content of any of my posts on this blog prior to publication. My motivation for writing this blog was concern about the shabby way the Heart Foundation was dealt with in the Catalyst program. I worked for the Foundation 20 years ago and I have great respect for it.
      You mention the 2009 meta-analysis in the AJCN. This shows that replacing saturated fat WITH CARBOHYDRATE does not lower the risk for heart disease. If you read my blog you will note that I have been highlighting this very thing for 18 months. The dietary advice should be to replace saturated fat with unsaturated fats. Regards, Bill

  18. So I guess we should also mention that you, Bill Shrapnel, consult to Goodman Fielder and the Australian Oilseeds Federation. Previously, you consulted to Unilever for 14 years (Miracle Margarine). And, you also previously worked for the National Heart Foundation. I would call this bias.

    • Gabriele, that’s not my bias – that’s my employment history. I should have updated my statement of interest before I published this post.
      For the record, I am not currently employed by any fats and oils company or association, and that’s been the case for the last seven months. My post was not commissioned or paid for. No-one has ever seen the content of any of my posts on this blog prior to publication.
      My motivation for writing this post was concern about the shabby way the Heart Foundation was dealt with in the Catalyst program. I worked for the Foundation 20 years ago and I have great respect for it. The Foundation does nutrition science better than any other organisation in Australia – better than the NHMRC.
      The Catalyst program was biased. Regards, Bill

      • “the (heart) foundation does nutrition science better than any other organisation in Australia” where is your evidence for that? You haven’t worked for them for 20 years you said. I don’t know about the research they fund but I do know that they are not prepared to consider or even read peer-reviewed, scientific studies that do not support their current guidelines (last reviewed in 2009) and that they ban people from their Facebook page who dare to include links to such studies. That is hardly the attitude I would expect from a “foundation that does nutrition science better than any other organisation”. Of course you cannot educate a closed mind.

        • Hello Kay. My comment that “the (heart) foundation does nutrition science better than any other organisation in Australia” is based on my experience. When the Heart Foundation reviews evidence it does so under strict protocols. When the evidence is summarised the draft position is circulated to a variety of experts for comments. Contrary views are considered, if based on evidence. Position papers are released when the organisation is convinced its science is sound. I have been involved from time to time in various aspects of this process, but never in relation to papers about dietary fats and heart health.
          In the 1980s and the early 1990s the NHMRC did nutrition science very well but in recent years they have allowed themselves to be distracted by ideology. Regards Bill

  19. Hi Bill,
    Great piece. You are the first dietitian/nutritionist I have come across in the media responding to this programme (including DAA). I thought this piece strangely sensationalist for Catalyst and look forward to seeing if Media Watch follows-up – I agree the media needs to be accountable for their part in the public health discussions.

    • MediaWatch is onto it and I hope they cover it. Hopefully the ABC will ensure some balanced coverage eventually. Regards, Bill

  20. Great piece Bill. I’ll recommend it to anyone who asks me about the Catalyst piece. Natural Health college? That shut itself down? Sends of suspicious alarms bell to me. Unfortunately, as can be seen by some comments above, people will believe what they want to hear, not what they need to. Also, I could question your bias….but I read your reply statement about 6 times hahaha.

  21. There are alternative views which surely are pause for reflection. The Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment have just released a report, “Dietary Treatment for Obesity”, involving 2 years of study reviewing 16,000 studies. One of their the committee members, Prof. Fredrik Nyström :

    “I’ve been working with this for so long. It feels great to have this scientific report, and that the skepticism towards low-carb diets among my colleagues has disappeared during the course of the work. When all recent scientific studies are lined up the result is indisputable: our deep-seated fear of fat is completely unfounded. You don’t get fat from fatty foods, just as you don’t get atherosclerosis from calcium or turn green from green vegetables.”

    All this to say that the main thrust of the Catalyst programs do have support from credible sources. It’s not just a bunch of tin foil hats and loony tunes as one would gather from your comments.

    Finally, for many commenting here I would suggest that their enthusiasm for the content of the Catalyst program is based on life experiencing. Shifting from the traditional food pyramid where carbs are a large proportion of the daily diet to drastically lowering these and replacing them with protein and certain types of fats.

    My personal belief is that debate, such as this, which is just an exchange of views, will be supplanted by the evidence of our bodies as more and more people choose an alternative to what we have been told for the last 30 years. Even proponents of current nutritional status quo surely at times must reflect upon why obesity rates continue to escalate and we are no seeing child obesity at unprecedented rates. I’m in my 50′s and I can tell you that an overweight child was unusual during my youth. Just look around and it is not so today.

    • Hello Ian. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Please don’t think that my efforts are in support of high carbohydrate diets. In fact, one consistent theme of my blog is to question the amount and type of carbohydrate that should be included in healthy diets.
      One of the most interesting developments in nutrition over the last five years has been the finding that carbohydrate confers the same risk for heart disease as saturated fat. The implication of this should have been ‘carbohydrate is worse than we thought’. However, those industries that generate a lot of saturated fat have been communicating the message ‘saturated fat is not so bad after all’. Have a look at Dairy Australia’s press releases (on their website) over the last couple of years – intended to shift consumer perceptions about saturated fat. Dairy Australia has also brought scientists to conferences last year and this year with a view to shifting the views of health care professionals. I don’t agree with Dairy Australia’s strategy but at least the organisation is open about their activities. Other industries generating saturated fat appear to have chosen a less ethical path.
      The different positions advocated by Catalyst and conventional nutrition science do not simply represent ‘an exchange of views’. There is a sad trend in modern journalism which states that provided two sides of an argument are presented then the journalist has done his or her job. Some things are true and other things are false. Journalism used to be about finding the truth but sadly this approach now out of fashion, replaced by post-modern slush.
      Every three years I try to attend the International Symposium on Atherosclerosis, where the role of blood lipids and heart disease is discussed extensively. In the last three conferences no speaker or questioner from the floor challenged the position that lowering the level of LDL-cholesterol in the blood lowers the risk for heart disease. There is NO debate on this issue in scientific circles.
      The ‘debate’ on Catalyst was contrived. The question I asked in my post is: whose interests are served by this contrivance? And why were these interests aided and abetted by the ABC’s science program? Regards, Bill

  22. I am concerned for all the academic minds that are closed to the possibility that drugs to lower cholesterol might be harmful to many people as was portrayed in the Catalyst program. If I were in their position of respect and authority I would be considering running for the hills before the real truth breaks forth in the hands of litigating lawyers. If a mistake has been made prescribing statins while ignoring the concern about negative side effects, litigators could have a field day with poor health advice. This could also be so if the science suggesting we need to increase our consumption of animal fats and medium chain fats is true. The results could be cataclysmic,

    For instance my husband is one among many who has tried several cholesterol inhibiting drugs with such awful results he now refuses to take anything. He is in good general health so why would he take something that makes him feel terrible and reduces his quality of life. He is at his ideal weight, eats healthy, low carb, food, home cooked from scratch. He is fit and strong and looks ten years younger than his 78 years.

    I believe obesity is a direct result of today’s nutritional advice and that has fed into our high level of heart related problems. I think we agree that diet is our best weapon in improving body composition, heart health and healthy cholesterol, Therefore why do we think we need statins sucking the life out of our livers. It would appear that reducing carbohydrate and increasing healthy fats, not seed oils or transfats, has a better impact on cholesterol levels.

    Why are you rubbishing a bunch of serious people who have looked carefully into the existing research and the science around how our bodies produce and use cholesterol? We don’t learn anything unless we pose questions with an open mind toward the answers found.

    You and other protesters of the Catalyst program would be wise to insist on a new set of research that cannot be fudged in any way. Are you not afraid that the Cholesterol Myth is true? Even if it is only part of the story you should be listening carefully.

    With respect….

    • MargieAnne, your view that reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing healthy fats has a beneficial effect on blood lipids and heart health is supported by the scientific literature and is regularly advocated by me.
      I have followed the cholesterol debate in the scientific literature for 30 years. During this period some of the critics were highly credentialed and well-intentioned people. But one-by-one they became convinced by the opposing argument and withdrew their opposition. Within the scientific community the cholesterol debate concluded over a decade ago.
      The three people associated with the book that Catalyst appears to have based its program on have not contributed a single piece of original research on diet, cholesterol and heart disease. They are not experts in the field – they were recently referred to as ‘fringe dwellers’. Before you believe their opinions (that’s all they are) please review the positions of the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and the Australian Heart Foundation. Why would these expert organizations, operating independently in three different continents, all come to similar conclusions about diet and heart disease when they meticulously review the extensive scientific literature?
      The ‘cholesterol myth’ is not a scientific argument. The concept is pushed to serve commercial interests. Regards, Bill

      • Commercial interests!!! Bizarre!! All the ‘paleo folk’ I know focus on growing some of their own food and buying good quality local food. And do it because they get healthier not because anyone gets rich!

      • Why do the Australian Heart Foundation have a similar view to the American Heart Foundation? According to a representative of the Heart Foundation Australia it is because they align their view with the American heart Foundation. so in all likliehood they just adopt what the americans say because they can’t afford to do their own detailed research. Other reasons might be the massive amount of funding they receive from Pharmaceutical companies, the Food Industry and the margarine makers. the vast amounts of money generated from the ‘TICK’ program that leads to the ‘Tick’ finding it’s way on to sugar laden, nutritionally empty foods like Nutrigrain and non-foods like margarines that might contain plant sterols but also, like vegetable and seed oil, contain high levels of omega 6 that can lead to an imbalance of omega 3 and omega 6 that is definitely not healthy.

        • Kay, Kay, Kay. Some advice: research your position first, then speak.
          You have suggested that the Australian Heart Foundation simply adopted the American Heart Association’s position on fats and heart health because the Heart Foundation can’t afford to do the work itself. This is simply wrong. The Australian Heart Foundation conducted and published an extensive review on dietary fats and heart disease in 1999. In this paper the Heart Foundation stated that the strongest evidence for lowering heart disease risk was for the replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat.
          At the time the American Heart Association was still advocating low fat diets. The AHA only tightened its recommendations in favour of polyunsaturated fats in 2009, the paper being published in 2009. Interestingly, the lead author, Bill Harris, is an omega 3 enthusiast who concluded that your hypothesis that ‘high levels of omega 6 that can lead to an imbalance of omega 3 and omega 6 that is definitely not healthy’ was incorrect.
          The Heart Foundation recently updated its position, based on its own review.
          All this work is readily available. Let’s not make assumptions. Let’s deal with facts. Regards, Bill

        • Kay,

          some more fact checking required. Nutrigrain has never had the heart foundation tick. Check on Kellogg’s website. Use webarchive if you like to see that it has not had it in the past.

  23. To say that the lipid hypothesis has “has been confirmed once and for all” isn’t very accurate to say at all. The research still appears to be far too inconclusive to say that.

    • Joe, please read the five papers by Daniel Steinberg that I referred to in my original blog under the title ‘The Cholesterol Wars’. The scientific debate is over. Now we just need to deal with the mischief from those interests that have been disadvantaged. Regards, Bill

  24. Why is no one here mentioning the dramatic contemporary rise in fructose consumption (e.g. See. Robert lustig). We have evolved to eat fats and with the exception of fruit (seasonal and low in fructose concentration compared to modern processed foods) and honey (rare and difficult to obtain e.g. stings) we have not evolved to consume massive amounts of refined sugar/fructose. When this is taken into consideration with the contemporary failure of anti fat rhetoric and resulting low fat dieting it is not hard to see why we have a problem and an obesity epidemic. However I am not advocating excessive consumption of saturated fat, simply stating that excessive intake of highly concentrated refined/added sugars is like yudkin and cleave warned, not in the interest of longevity. We have seen a backflip in recent years with the AHA first recommending sugar as a suitable snack food alternative to fat and now contending that sugar must be implicated in the development of heart disease and recommending added sugar intakes of no more than 100 to 150 cals/day (which is far less than the 240 sugar cals in a 600ml coke or the 585 in an extreme gulp, without counting the many other sources of sugar per day).

    • Hello Paul
      There have been several mistakes in public health nutrition. As you suggest, one of them was to blame fat for the obesity epidemic – I argued strongly and publicly against this. The evidence was weak and, after all, fat only contributes about one-third of calories. The ‘healthy eating advice’ that went with this i.e. to eat plenty of starch, was also misplaced. Telling people to eat plenty of anything (except vegetables) in an obesity epidemic was just plain dumb.
      But we need to be careful not to repeat past mistakes. The ‘fat’s not the problem; sugar is’ argument is flawed and is being used by saturated fat producers to take the heat off their products.
      You mention ‘the dramatic contemporary rise in fructose consumption’. This may have occurred in the United States context but does not appear to have occurred in Australia. Our data are not as good as those in the US but they do not support a significant rise in fructose consumption in the last 15 years. More data will be available in the next six months which should give us a clearer picture.
      My view is that (1) the best way to lower body weight is to reduce calorie intake below requirements and (2) the focus should be on limiting saturated fat and nutrient-poor, low fibre, high GI carbohydrate foods, irrespective of whether they are dominated by sugars or starch. This will improve diet quality. Regards, Bill

      • Really? Well maybe you should now write to the australian Heart Foundation and call them out on recommending, through their tick program nutrient poor, sugar laden cereals and a whole lot of other processed foods.

        • Kay, just because a food is processed doesn’t mean it’s bad for your health. Have you ever tried eating raw wheat? We process cereals to make them edible. In my blog I have consistently argued that carbohydrate intakes are too high but when it comes to breakfast cereals I can find no reason why refined sugar should be considered differently from refined starch. Can you tell me why a high starch cereal is good for me and a high sugar cereal is bad? High sugar is not synonymous with nutrient-poor. Regards, Bill

          • Hi bill,
            Pretty much agree with all that and thanks for the reply. The excess fructose consumption mainly occurs due to consumption of sugar (sucrose) which is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Most people think of fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup which is popular in the states, however the proportion of fructose and glucose is typically very similar in comparison to sucrose. Given current above calorie recommendations by AHA it is likely that the overwhelming majority of Australian adults ( not to mention children) are consuming well over 25-37.5 grams of sugar (at 4 calories per gram) a day. Totally agree though that 1 food should not be held completely accountable as ‘the’ causal factor of such a complex problem.

  25. Hi again,
    Just wanted to add that unlike sugar, starches are polysaccharides made up of glucose molecules (glucose being the bodies preferred fuel). The fructose in sugar is metabolised differently and is quite detrimental to your liver and body. An ever increasing upcoming research base documents this with regards to the ‘toxic’ effects of sugar/ fructose with regards to Alzheimer’s, obesity, metabolic syndrome, gout, food addiction etc. I for the most part eat lean proteins, complex carbs, good fats and plenty of fresh vegetables with some fruit. I also try to keep sodium down, eat plenty of fibre and stick to natural whole foods where possible. Lastly, the fructose in whole fruit is fine due to low concentration and the extra fibre, nutrients and bulk that comes with it. It is best to not drink lots of juice or eat lots of dried fruit though ( as this alters fibre content and/or fructose concentration).

    • Hello Paul. Although glucose is the body’s preferred fuel it’s not harmless when consumed in excess. And although fructose is metabolised differently, it’s not ‘toxic’. It doesn’t even have adverse effects unless it’s consumed in excess (the 25% of daily calories as fructose used in some studies is really quite unrealistic). At moderate levels of intake it’s hard to make a case in favour of glucose over fructose, or vice versa.
      My key term here is ‘moderate levels of intake’. In my opinion there is a good case for moderating intakes of all refined carbohydrates (sugars and starch), especially if the carbohydrate-rich foods they are found in have no redeeming nutritional qualities. Many nutritionists still see white rice as a healthy choice, based on its low sugar content I assume. Yet it is nutrient-poor, low in fibre and high in GI – no redeeming nutritional qualities. Makes no sense to me. The current focus on sugar is distorting healthy eating advice. Regards, Bill

  26. In France, heart disease rates are less than 150 per 100,00, in the USA they’re more than 300. The paradox is that the French eat a high-fat diet, smoke more and exercise less than Americans. The French also live 2.5 years longer than Americans on average.
    Another paradox is that the longest living people in France are those in the Perigord, people who enjoy rich foods that are very high in saturated fats, such as geese and ducks, foie gras, pork sausage, cassoulet and cheese. As if to add insult to injury, they use goose and duck fat for cooking. More details in my piece on this subject, which only has loose connections with the Catalyst program - .

    Our health experts (along with those in the USA) completely ignored all of this, and advised people to toss out real foods like butter and eggs, and eat margerine and cereals and other stuff laden with transfats and sugar and salt. They pushed high carb diets until the fast rising tide of obesity and diabetes II caused them to slow down.
    The statin story is mostly good marketing by drug companies, and careful selection of guinea pigs for their trials. In my piece, I refer to recent study which shows that Co-enzyme Q10 supplements, which have no adverse side effects, are at least 3 times better at preventing CV events in people with heart conditions than statins. Check it out, the details are in my piece – you’d never hear about this from your doctor. Nor will your doctor tell you that statins inhibit CoQ10 production. Muscle damage and fatigue reported by statin users come as no surprise since coenzyme Q10 is an important factor in mitochondrial respiration. ‘Primary and secondary deficiencies of coenzyme Q10,’ say the textbooks, ‘result in a number of neurologic and myopathic problems.’
    A few other points:
    • The ABC program set out to present the other side of the story, the one we rarely hear.
    • About time too, since we’ve been brainwashed by doctors and health authorities for so long.
    • They’ve been bought and sold by the drug companies over and over.

    Virtually all drug researchers these days get their research grants from drug companies. The system is rigged.

    That enough for one day

    • My dear Kim [Kim is a friend of mine – we are members of the same book club, which had a spirited debate about cholesterol on Wednesday night], health experts don’t ignore the different heart disease rates in the US and French populations; they just rate this sort of evidence lowly.
      Firstly, the evidence is observational so it can never prove cause and effect. You need to conduct an experiment to do that. But it is also low level observational evidence. The thing about cross-cultural comparisons such as this is that populations differ in many ways and it is virtually impossible to attribute any health outcome to any dietary characteristic with any confidence. Also, cross-sectional evidence is of limited value. Looking at heart disease rates now and diet now is problematic because the effects of diet and other aspects of lifestyle contribute to heart disease risk over decades. At best, cross-sectional, cross-cultural comparisons are hypothesis generating.
      A better design for an observational study is for it to be conducted in a single population and prospective i.e. for the dietary information to be gathered first and for the population’s health to be followed up over a decade or two or three. The Nurses’ Health Study is a good example: it was conducted in the US (limiting cultural differences) in women (limiting gender differences) who were nurses (and therefore generally from one socio-economic stratum). Three decades of follow-up.
      Many such studies have now been conducted and a pooled analysis of 11 of them was recently published. It showed that the replacement of saturated fat by polyunsaturated fat is associated with lower risk for heart disease. This is consistent with mechanistic studies showing that this exchange improves blood lipid levels and it is consistent with the results of randomised controlled trials. This sort of consistency is rare in diet-disease relationships. The evidence in support of the benefits of this exchange is stronger than for any other dietary strategy for coronary heart disease prevention. Cheers, Bill

  27. Thanks for the measured response, Bill.
    You’re ignoring the Framingham study and the Lyon Heart study and a number of others. However, living is difficult to bend to scientific rigor, and that’s a key point here. When we compare French and American lifestyles, the answer is clear: Most French people live active lives in the country, and eat real food. The majority of Americans live inactive lives and eat too much junk, and all the drugs in the world (and they take more than anybody) haven’t made a dent in the rising rates of obesity or diabetes.
    You don’t need scientific trials to figure out what’s wrong here. As the Irish researchers said: ‘the superiority of exercise over drug therapy extends even to secondary prevention (where patients have developed disease).‘ So what does the AHA do? Change the guidelines for taking statins to make sure that twice as many Americans will be prescribed these drugs.
    Check the op-ed piece in the New York Times by Drs Abramson and Redberg under the heading Don’t Give More Patients Statins. Fascinating reading. The medical system has been terminally corrupted by its close ties to the drug companies.

    Sane people will eat real food, drink good wine and make sure they get enough exercise.

  28. I don’t know about others but personally I have never been one to take any one person’s or in this case programs views as correct without doing a little bit more looking into the issue. Surely people still have enough commonsense to do the same thing and not be influenced by just one program.

  29. No, quite the reverse. These days to avoid getting trans fat into margarine the manufacturers are using palm oil as it is 75% saturated to solidify the margarine. The Catalyst program suggested we eat butter instead of margarine. I do not recall at any point it recommending consumption of palm oil.

    • Alexander, most health authorities now recommend that trans fats be limited in the diet. But if you were trying to achieve that, why would you eat butter which has 3-5% of its fatty acids as trans fats. Dairy fat is now the major source of trans fats in the Australian and New Zealand diets. Regards, Bill

  30. As I understand it,the trans fat found in dairy is conjuncted linoleic acid that is healthy, not to be confused with Elaidic acid that is created in hydrogenated vegetable oil. If you have any scientific references that indicate otherwise, I would be glad to have a look. Have I answered your question?
    About 11years ago , I worked out that low fat dairy was giving me haemorrhoids so I switched to butter and started adding it to everything I ate. I also switched from vegetable oils to dripping and ghee for cooking. Three months later I gave smoking after 18 years of the disgusting habit. I was using cigarettes as an anti –depressant. There have been scientific studies link ng low fat diets with depression.

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