Life Extension Magazine®

FDA Standing in The Way of Progress

The long battle for low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diets.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Life Extension Editorial Staff.

image Many Americans still believe the Food and Drug Administration protects their health. The misconception exists because most people don't know or remember the FDA's sordid history. The Life Extension Foundation has established an FDA Holocaust Museum to document the FDA's 50-year reign of terror against the health of the American public.

We call the website the FDA Holocaust Museum because it exposes how an incompetent and corrupt bureaucracy has caused millions of humans to needlessly suffer and die. One historical example of the abuses go back to the 1950's and the FDA's then-position on dietary fat and cholesterol.

Back then, there was quite a controversy as to what was causing so many people to die of heart attack. Scientific studies published in the early 1950's linked high dietary fat and cholesterol with an increased risk of heart attacks, especially sudden-death heart attacks. However, the FDA refused to consider these studies valid.

When cereal companies used these scientific findings to try to persuade Americans to consume a breakfast high in fiber and low in fat-cholesterol, the FDA insisted there was no relationship between dietary fat-cholesterol and heart attack, and that it was illegal to promote the health claims of foods low in saturated fats. When cereal companies defied the FDA by continuing to promote their low-fat, low-cholesterol cereals as a way of preventing heart attacks, the agency conducted raids and seized thousands of cereal boxes as "misbranded foods," since the labeling defied the agency's position on dietary fats. The FDA considered it a crime to suggest that a high-fiber, low-fat breakfast might be safer than the traditional American breakfast of bacon, eggs and buttered toast.

The FDA's incorrect position on this one issue alone contributed to the unnecessary, premature deaths of the many Americans who died from heart attack and stroke, caused in part by the consumption of too much fat and cholesterol. In the 1950's and 1960's, it was common for men over age 40 to suffer sudden heart attack between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. The typical high-fat American breakfast predisposed these men to a significantly increased risk of sudden death, but the FDA made it illegal for cereal companies to inform the public about scientific findings that showed that less fat was healthy.

In May 1964, the FDA again went on the record to warn food companies that the following phrases would be considered misleading:

  • "Low In Cholesterol"
  • "Ask Your Doctor"
  • "Better For People's Health"
  • "Are You Concerned about Saturated Fats?"

The FDA was concerned that these statements would "mislead" people to believe that low-fat and low-cholesterol foods might be effective in treating or preventing heart and artery diseases. Since many physicians were beginning to advise their cardiac patients to eat a lower-fat diet, the FDA went on the offensive by publically stating that it was misleading if a food company even suggested that people "ask their doctor" about what food to eat. Reading this Orwellian gibberish exposes how the FDA makes simple issues terribly complicated.

It was not until the 1980's that the FDA began to admit, grudgingly, that a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet may have been associated with heart attacks all along. Today, doctors partially attribute the declining death rate from heart attacks to the fact that Americans are eating a more sensible diet lower in fat and cholesterol than in the past. Yet, as recently as 1992, the FDA forced the Kellogg company to stop using the name Heartwise for one of its fiber cereals.

We now know that eating lots of fat and cholesterol causes an immediate increase in the risk of an abnormal arterial blood clot that can cause an acute heart attack or stroke. Microscopic video angiography shows that for many hours after eating a high-fat diet, blood cells are very sticky and do not easily move through capillaries. The effect of eating high-fat diets also causes an acute reduction in arterial elasticity. All of this can cause a sudden heart attack or stroke. As for the long term problems, excess fat and cholesterol consumption can cause atherosclerosis in some people.

The problem we face today is that the FDA is responsible for evaluating complex new molecules that hold the key to an indefinitely extended life span. When you see the bureaucratic quagmire the FDA created over the simple issue of dietary fat, you may realize that significant medical breakthroughs will only occur when the FDA's regulatory roadblock is abolished. Americans pay for FDA ineptitude with their taxes and their lives.

The Abstracts section in this issue contains excerpts from the Federal Register from 1959 and 1965 showing the FDA's incorrect position on this important health issue. The FDA said there was nothing wrong with a high fat-cholesterol diet. The FDA was wrong...dead wrong, and millions of Americans suffered and died from heart attacks and strokes because of it.