Historical Events

NHLBI held yet another meeting on the problem of “significantly increased” death rates from cancer and other noncardiovascular causes for people with low cholesterol.

Jerimiah Stamler

In 1990, the NHLBI held yet another meeting on the problem of “significantly increased” death rates from cancer and other noncardiovascular causes for people with low cholesterol. The lower the cholesterol, the worse it looked for cancer deaths, and damningly, it looked especially bad for healthy men who were actively trying to reduce their cholesterol through diet or drugs. But there was no follow-up to these meetings, and the results did not change the enthusiasm for the “prudent diet.” The effects of low cholesterol are still not well understood.

When I mentioned all this to Stamler, he didn’t remember any part of this cancer-cholesterol debate. In this way, he is a microcosm of a larger phenomenon that allowed the diet-heart hypothesis to move forward: inconvenient results were consistently ignored; here again, “selection bias” was at work.

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