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The Eisenhower Paradox

What follows is from a book written by Gary Taubes titled: GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES. The entire book explores why we eat the way we do and why Americans are heavier and less healthy than we have ever been. This page is good “food” for thought.


President Dwight D Eisenhower “was assuredly among the best-chronicled heart attack survivors in history.” His first heart attack was September 23, 1955. His cholesterol was below normal, 165 mg/dl, “a level the heart-disease specialists today consider safe.”

“After his heart attack, Eisenhower dieted religiously and had his cholesterol measured ten times a year. He ate little fat and less cholesterol; his meals were cooked in either soybean oil or a newly developed polyunsaturated margarine, which appeared on the market in 1958 as a nutritional palliative for high cholesterol.”

Eisenhower’s last cholesterol test as president was January 19, 1961 his last day in office: it was 259 mg/dl. “From the end of World War II, to the late 1960s, while coronary heart-disease mortality rates supposedly soared, per-capita consumption of whole milk dropped steadily, and the use of cream was cut by half.

We ate dramatically less lard (13 pounds per person per year, compared with 7 pounds) and less butter (8.5 pounds versus 4) and more margarine (4.5 pounds versus 9 pounds), vegetable shortening (9.5 pounds versus 17 pounds), and salad and cooking oils (7 pounds versus 18 pounds). As a result, during the worst decades of the heart-disease ‘epidemic,’ vegetable-fat consumption per capita in America doubled (from 28 pounds in the years 1947-49 to 55 pounds in 1976), while the average consumption of all animal fat (including the fat in meat, eggs, and dairy products) dropped from 84 pounds to 71.”

“The Masai nomads of Kenya in 1962 had blood-cholesterol levels among the lowest ever measured, despite living exclusively on milk, blood, and occasionally meat from the cattle they herded. Their high-cholesterol diets supplied nearly three thousand calories a day of mostly saturated fat.”

In the Framingham study (launched in 1950), “As the men aged, those who succumbed to heart disease were ever more likely to have low cholesterol (as had Eisenhower) rather than high cholesterol. The cholesterol/heart-disease association was tenuous for women under fifty, and nonexistent for women older. Cholesterol has no predictive value, the Framingham investigators noted in 1971. This means women over fifty would have no reason to avoid fatty foods, because lowering their cholesterol by doing so would not lower their risk of heart disease.” “This never became common knowledge, because it was never published in a medical journal.”

Yours in Health,

Mark W. Earnhart, D.C.


Last modified onTuesday, 29 July 2014 20:34