Historical Events

Stamler's book is published as a “professional” red leather edition by the Corn Products Company

Your Heart Has Nine Lives

While Keys and others firmly believed that polyunsaturated oils would help prevent heart disease due to their cholesterol-lowering properties, it’s also true that the AHA received millions of dollars in support from the food companies that manufactured those oils. Remember that the AHA’s very launch as a nationally influential group in 1948 depended upon Procter & Gamble’s “Truth or Consequences” radio show. Campbell Moses, AHA medical director in the late 1960s, even posed with a bottle of Crisco Oil in an AHA educational film. And remarkably, when Jerry Stamler reissued his 1963 book, Your Heart Has Nine Lives, it was published as a “professional” red leather edition by the Corn Products Company and distributed free of charge to thousands of doctors. Inside, Stamler thanks both that company and the Wesson Fund for Medical Research for “significant” research support. “Scientists in public health must make alliances with industry,” he told me, unabashedly, when I asked him about the connection. “It’s tough.”

Stamler is correct; nutrition studies are expensive and funding sources limited (although less so in his day), and researchers have long solicited food companies to fill the financing gap. Yet one could reasonably argue that the connections forged by Stamler, Keys, and others in those early days had an exceptionally outsized influence on the course of the American diet. Replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils, after all, became the backbone of the “prudent diet,” which endures to the present day.

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