Historical Events

“A generation of research on the diet-heart question has ended in disarray,”

George V. Mann

Despite his other successes, being on the unpopular side of the cholesterol debate made a bitter man of George Mann. As he approached retirement in the late 1970s, a tone of torment crept into his papers. An article he wrote in 1977 began: “A generation of research on the diet-heart question has ended in disarray,” and he called the diet-heart hypothesis a “misguided and fruitless preoccupation.”

I last spoke to Mann when he was ninety years old (he died in 2012). Although his memory was not perfect, he seemed to have total recall for the deprivations he perceives himself to have suffered for having opposed Keys. “It was pretty devastating to my career,” he said. Finding journals that would accept his scientific articles, for instance, grew increasingly difficult, and after he spoke out against the diet-heart hypothesis, he says he was virtually barred from prominent AHA publications such as Circulation. Mann also believes that Keys’s sizable influence at NIH led to the cancellation of Mann’s longtime research grant. “One day,” recalls Mann, “the woman who was the study section secretary asked me to step out in the hall. ‘Your opposition to Keys is going to cost you your grant,’ she said. And she was right.”

How could one man’s ideas rule the field in such a way? Mann explains, “You have to understand what a forceful and persuasive person Keys was. He could talk to you for an hour and you would utterly believe everything he said.”

-Nina Teicholz - page 67

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