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Illinois Professor Who Pushed for Trans Fats Ban Dies at 102

A biochemist and long-time professor at the University of Illinois has passed away at the age of 102. Fred A. Kummerow spent his lifetime studying trans fats and hydrogenated oils, and declaring them the true causes of heart disease, The New York Times reports. For his entire life, he maintained that saturated fats — whole butter, cheese and meats — are not the demons they were made out to be. Thankfully, Kummerow lived long enough to be proved correct.

Now, he’s gone down in history as the man who busted the cholesterol myth, and I am thrilled to say I’ve interviewed him at length about his work. In a nutshell, what Kummerow proved is that heart disease is often the result of trans fat deposited in veins and arteries, which can cause sudden death due to blockage, as opposed to saturated fats, which government and industry promoted for decades.

In 2009, he filed a citizen petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a ban on synthetic trans fats, and when the FDA failed to respond, he followed up with a lawsuit. It took some time but, in 2015, the FDA announced partially hydrogenated oils (a primary source of trans fat) will no longer be allowed in food unless authorized by the agency, due to the fats’ health risks.

Unfortunately, U.S. dietary guidelines still cling to outdated misinformation about saturated fat, wrongly accusing it of raising LDL and contributing to heart disease, when in truth, science has clearly exonerated saturated fat. In summary, industrially processed, highly refined vegetable oils do not reduce your risk of dying from heart disease. Rather, they increase it.

And, saturated fats do not increase your risk of dying from heart disease, either. Moreover, reducing cholesterol is not necessarily a sign of improved health; it may actually increase your risk of death — and we have Fred Kummerow’s persistence and tenacity to thank for getting this knowledge to the forefront.
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