Can Scientists Have A Faulty Understanding?
Can Bias Exist in a Scientists Laboratory?
The following could be an example of bias. In the 1950s Ancel Keys, of the University of Minnesota, turned his attention to determining the cause of heart disease.
He chose 6 data points that seemed to present a beautiful picture of the cause of heart disease. These data points represented information from 6 countries.
Japan was at the low end of the graph and the U. S. was at the high end. Data from 4 other countries filled in the gaps between.
He was able to show a statistical association between heart disease, and saturated fat and cholesterol. He also claimed that the statistical association showed cause and effect.
Other scientists cried foul, on two accounts.
• Data from 22 countries was available.
• Statistical correlations don’t show cause and effect.
There must be bias of some sort.
Evidence from 22 Countries
When the data from all 22 countries was included in the graph, no statistical correlation between saturated fat and cholesterol, and heart disease, was possible.
The data points were like the starry sky. Why didn’t Ancel Keys use all 22 points? What was his bias?
The other problem was that statistical correlations cannot show cause and effect. Carefully controlled food intake studies could provide information on cause and effect.
Question. Did Ancel Keys know what he wanted to find out, and chose his data points to support his position? If so, this could be obvious bias.
There were scientists who disagreed with Ancel Keys. But the steamroller was gathering momentum. Those who supported Ancel Keys cholesterol-saturated fat cause of heart disease won the day.
In the face of the valid objections to their position, why did they succeed? Bias on a larger scale?
Evidence Refuting Ancel Keys Findings
I then asked if there were other evidences of data contrary to the cholesterol-saturated fat cause of heart disease. This was almost a foolish question. It was not hard to find studies that contradicted Ancel Keys position. The studies are detailed in The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov, M.D.,PhD. p. 120-22.
Forensic scientists, Kurt Lande and Warren Sperry studied large groups of individuals who died violent deaths. They found no correlation between the amount of cholesterol in the blood and atherosclerosis in age group after age group.
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty material, including cholesterol, collects along the walls of arteries. This fatty material thickens, hardens, and may eventually block the arteries.
The process generally happens in older ages.
Of course Lande and Sperry measured cholesterol levels in individuals after they died. This problem was solved by studies in India by Dr. K.S. Mathur and co-workers.
Dr. Mathur's group measured blood cholesterol in patients just before death and up to 16 hours afterward. They found that cholesterol values for each individual were nearly the same for up to 16 hours after death.
This same group in India studied 200 people who died in accidents, but who had no disease.
They found no correlation with blood cholesterol levels and degree of atherosclerosis.
Additional Evidence Refuting Ancel Keys Findings
A similar study was done in Canada by Dr. J.C. Paterson and his group. They studied about 800 veterans who were confined to a hospital. They had blood cholesterol levels for each veteran up to the time they died.
• Cholesterol levels varied from individual to individual.
• Some individual cholesterol levels were high.
• Some individual cholesterol levels were low.
• Cholesterol levels were fairly constant for each individual to death.
Please note. As in other similar studies, post-mortem data indicated no correlation between blood cholesterol levels and degree of atherosclerosis.
In other words, in all studies, the degree of atherosclerosis could be low, medium, or high for each blood cholesterol level.
Evidence Contrary To Cholesterol-Saturated Fat Position Not Accepted
These studies should have helped put the final nail in the coffin of the cholesterol-fat heart disease controversy. But Dr Ravnskov reported these studies were seldom referred to.
When they were cited, they were either misquoted or the results explained away. Bias?
Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a frequent critic of the cholesterol lowering platform said the following after reviewing several studies.
“The great ship ‘Cholesterol-Lowering’ has ripped its guts out on the hard rock of evidence, but still it does not sink. I am beginning to wonder if it ever will.” Elsewhere he noted the sounds of goal posts being moved after each ‘failed’ study.
What enticed so many scientists to work so hard to explain away data that refutes their favored position? Had to be more than just personal bias. I’m beginning to wonder what the money trail was?
I remember the controversy. I was in graduate school at the time. For many years I accepted the prevailing dogma.
I began to think differently when a cardiologist, Dr. Peter Langsjoen, an East Texas physician, gave me a ‘prescription’ for three books.
The authors of these books had different ideas than Ancel Keys and his cohorts, based on extensive reviews of the scientific literature.
These books are: The Cholesterol Myths Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat And Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease, by Uffe Ravnskov M.D., Ph.D.;
The Modern Nutritional Diseases and how to prevent them, by Alice and Fred Ottoboni, both with the Ph.D.;
and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.
With a background in biochemistry I am enjoying understanding what I took so blindly for so many years.
The bias indicated above was not a minor inconvenience. The result was a nation led down a faulty nutritional program. To understand something about vtamin D you might not otherwise click here.
The Home Page where Nutritional Diseases are Defined