The American Heart Association Diet: Is It Based on a Flawed Theory?

Could the American Heart Association diet -- and diets like it, such as the ones prescribed by the National Institutes of Health and the USDA -- be premised on a bad theory? And, if so, what might this imply about the culture of science as it is generally practiced today?

American Heart Association Diet
Three Blind Mice: Have our public health authorities really all made a fundamental mistake about what a balanced diet should be?

Quantity, Not Quality

For decades, we've been taught that the alpha and omega of weight control is calorie control. Only the quantity--not the quality--of the calories that we eat matters. Pure and simple. The American Heart Association diet and other weight loss programs have hammered home this message.

We Believe What Our Neighbors Believe

Perhaps the most compelling reason why most of us believe that calories "count" is that everyone around us believes they do. From your next door neighbor to your doctor to the Surgeon General, no one disputes that overeating and inactivity will make you fat and that, conversely, diet and exercise will make you thin.

Why We All Buy into "Calories Count"

These most basic convictions of the American Heart Association diet come from a theory about energy balance, the Caloric Balance Hypothesis, which you can read about else where on this site. Suffice it to say that the public support for this hypothesis is utterly overwhelming.

However, as we have explored at length, there's an alternative theory about what controls our weight. The Lipophilia Hypothesis argues that calories don't count. The heart of the American Heart Association diet is wrong. Instead, what counts is the hormonal and metabolic environment of our fat tissue. This theory says that low-carb diets are healthiest and that the "balanced" American Heart Association diet -- with its copious amounts of fresh fruits and whole grains; and its restricted amounts of fats -- is actually unhealthy, since fruit juices and starches elevate insulin levels and thus cause us to store fat in our fat tissue.

Looking at the World Through the Lens of Lipophilia

At first glance, Lipophilia may seem like a compelling (if surprising) idea. But in order for us to feel comfortable embracing this theory, we must somehow account for how it is possible that nearly every public health expert on Earth supports the other theory. Could all these people -- many of the architects of the American Heart Association diet are utterly brilliant, no doubt -- possibly have made such a massive error about the nature of a healthy diet?

Massive Errors are Surprisingly Common in Science

One way to answer this question -- other than examining the relative merits of the two hypotheses, which we do elsewhere -- is to search for like examples.

In other words, can we find other instances of institutional blindness of this magnitude? Can we find examples of other whole communities of experts becoming biased towards bad/implausible hypotheses -- while simultaneously ignoring much better ones? If we can, that would help validate our alternative point of view.

Below, we show that the kind of institutional blindness that led to construction of the American Heart Association diet can and does occur in science and elsewhere... and with an alarming frequency:

Common Question Conventional Explanation Most People Believe Alternative Explanation That Appears to Be Closer to Reality
What Shape Is Planet Earth? A sphere. Duh. No. It is actually an oblate spheroid.
Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays? Umm... William Shakespeare Actually, no. A nobleman named Edward De Vere
Why Do Newborn Babies Get Colicky? An array of factors, like stomach pain, overstimulation, food allergies, immature nervous system, etc Not quite. For most, the absence of a '4th Trimester' in the womb is to blame.
What's More Important, Talent or Practice? Both. But talent plays a huge role. Wrong. Talent is overrated. Deliberate practice matters more.
Who Influences a Child's Development More, Parents or Peers? Parents Peers
Will Winning the Lottery Make You Happier? Conversely, Will Becoming a Quadriplegic Make You Less Happy? Yes and Yes. Obviously. No to both!
Will More Choices Make You More or Less Satisfied? Yes. The more choices you have, the more comfortable you will be that the choice you pick. No. Too much choice leads to dissatisfaction.
Will String Theory Solve the Deepest Mysteries of Physics? Perhaps! We are on the verge of a breakthrough any day now... Um. Not quite
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? And what is the cure? Overuse injury to the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Cure is rest, wrist splints, medicines, cortisone injections, and surgery Overuse injury to the much of the upper thoracic region (arms, chest, back, etc). Cure involves tissue manipulation, massage, and trigger point therapy. Does NOT involve splints, cortisone injections, and surgery, since these treatments do not fix the fundamental insults to the soft tissues.
Is Salt the Primary Cause of Hypertension? Obviously. eating too much salt causes high blood pressure. Nope. Dietary salt is not the problem. The cause of hypertension (contrary to what the American Heart Association diet tells you) is - you guessed it - dietary carbohydrates.
Should Car Seats for Kids Over 2 Years Old Be Required? Obviously. Because this will result in fewer deaths on the road. Not so fast. According to the statistics, standard lap belts apparently work as well as car seats for 2+ year old kids in terms of preventing fatalities.
What's More Dangerous, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Alcohol or Driving While Text-Messaging? Clearly DUI is far worse. Not necessarily. Driving DUI is hazardous. But driving while text messaging appears to be even more dangerous
Which Country Did the Lion's Share of the Work in Defeating Nazi Germany, the U.S. or the Soviet Union? The U.S.A. Soviet Union
Historically, Has Carbon Dioxide Caused Big Changes in Global Temperature? Yes. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that controls temperature. No. It is more plausible that the sun caused temperature changes, which in turn caused the CO2 changes


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