A Mental Exercise

I was going to try to design a poll, but let's just get on with it. Do your own personal poll; discipline yourself to create an actual list of probable causality, in oder of most likely to least likely. If you think the causation is likely multiple factors, then place two or more categories next to each other, like 1, 2, 3. In other words: in order of priority, of likely cause.

The most certain vector for approximating the level of heart disease is a data point relatively easy to obtain: death from myocardial infarction ("heart attack"). It's well established that heart attacks are typically caused in first-order by heart disease (generally used to describe a number of related conditions). Naturally, everyone is thusly focussed on second-order causes: what causes heart disease?

Let's take in some statistical data. Myocardial infarction was almost non-existent in 1910 (heart attacks were unheard of). By 1930, deaths from MI had escalated to 3,000 per year. That would constitute a thousands of percentage increase, approaching infinite, the lower the actual number of deaths in 1910. It began to taper off in terms of percentage increase, so that by 1960, there were 500,000 deaths from MI per year. That's very important to understand, as health authorities proclaim that their low-fat diet prescriptions are lowering the rate of death from heart disease.

Now, here's the changes in consumption of various food groupings from 1910 to some point in the recent past, like a few years ago.

  • Food category A: 100% increase
  • Food category B: Moderate decline 
  • Food category C: 100% increase
  • Food category D: 50% decrease 
  • Food category E: 70% decrease 
  • Food category F: 437% increase 
  • Food category G: 280% increase 
  • Food category H: 46% increase 

  Now, in what order would you assign most likely cause, A – H? I'll give you the actual food groups in a post tomorrow, as well as references.


  1. Lute Nikoley on October 26, 2008 at 17:48

    Could life average life span have something to do with the fact that there were not many heart attacks in 1910? I believe the life expectancy in those days was far lower than the age most people experience heart attacks in the past 50+ years. People on average didn't live long enough to have a heart attack. I could be wrong about that, but seems logical.

  2. Brock on October 26, 2008 at 19:43

    I'll be interested to see tomorrow's post, but multivariate correlations don't establish causations. Food B could have some vitamin that prevented MI, or Food H could be the sole cause (humans might have a high sensitivity to change in variables relative to Food F). Etc.

  3. SB on October 27, 2008 at 06:44

    Answer to be taken with a pinch of salt.
    1. F
    2. E
    3. G

    Are you getting these numbers from "Real Food" by Nina Planck?

    "as health authorities proclaim that their low-fat diet prescriptions are lowering the rate of death from heart disease."

    I believe this is because of better medical care. I remember reading that the rate of heart attacks hasn't gone down.

  4. Adam on October 27, 2008 at 07:32

    E would be the reduction in saturated fat
    F would be the increase in grains
    G would be the increased use of vegetable oils

    I believe the increased occurrence of heart disease would be the intravascular inflammation caused by heavy grain consumption coupled with increases in vegetable oil consumption.

    Our circulatory system is designed to have moderate levels of fat flowing through our veins, arteries, heart, but what we were not designed to experience is the inflammation that causes fat to "stick" or "clog" our arteries.

    I once read that the composition of arterial blockages average 75% unsaturated fat and 25% saturated.

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