in the early hours of september 24, 1955, us
President Dwight D. eisenhower suffered a
massive heart attack. the popular president
and war hero was visiting in-laws in Denver, Colorado, where he had enjoyed 27 holes of golf
before retiring early that evening with what he
thought was indigestion. although eisenhower
recovered and went on to win a second term
in office, his sudden incapacitation heightened
public awareness of the growing epidemic of
cardiovascular disease. once a rare ailment,
by the 1950s heart disease had become the
leading cause of death in the united states.
what diet, lifestyle, or other factors were
responsible for this dramatic change? People
were looking for a scapegoat, and nutritional
scientists were soon to provide one.
Researchers were already beginning to implicate dietary
fats, particularly saturated fats, in cardiovascular disease. The
logic went like this: Saturated fats such as those found in butter,
• Nutritionists have long vilified saturated fat for its propensity to raise LDL
(“bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood.
• although initial epidemiological studies associated saturated fat intake with
heart disease risk, subsequent studies
have failed to confirm the link.
• Saturated fat raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, perhaps ameliorating its
effects on LDL cholesterol.
• an unintended consequence of a low-fat diet may be increased carbohydrate
intake, which could actually raise heart
disease risk compared with a higher-fat
big fat controversy:
changing opinions about