• By Dana Sparks

In the Loop: A new take on old research

September 5, 2017

an old metal filing box for documents with a piece of tape that says 'Archives'
Forty years ago, Dr. Ivan Frantz spearheaded research looking into the connection between diet and heart health. Scientists recently took a new look at the research, thanks to data uncovered in Dr. Frantz’s basement. 


Last year, BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journalpublished an article challenging what has been considered an indisputable truth for 40 years: When it comes to heart health, vegetable fats beat animal fats. But new analysis of old data points to a different (and delicious) truth. While polyunsaturated fats — like those found in vegetable oil and margarine — do lower cholesterol, they do not lower the number of deaths from coronary heart disease or any other cause. In fact, the analysis found that "the lower cholesterol fell, the higher the risk of dying: 22 percent higher for every 30-point fall," according to an article on the STAT website.

Robert Frantz, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, is one of the authors of the BMJ article. He's also the link between the original research and the new analysis. His father, Ivan Frantz, M.D., spearheaded a major arm of the study that supported the earlier belief. For the younger Dr. Frantz, the paper was both a professional and personal exercise.

The elder Dr. Frantz, who passed away in 2009, "believed in margarine and not butter," according to Malcolm Gladwell, who shares the story of the Drs. Frantz on the latest episode of his podcast, Revisionist History. "He thought a healthy diet was one high in vegetable oils and low in saturated fats." But for Gladwell, this story isn't just about lipids and lab tests. It's also a story about fathers and sons and "a child's obligation to his parent." Read the rest of the story.
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This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.  

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