Ancel Keys, Ph.D.
Once again I’m putting up a post out of sequence. I just found this great video on the life of Ancel Keys that I wanted to make available to all readers of this blog.
The entire thing is pretty interesting, but the part about the starvation study that I posted on several months ago is really fascinating. As I pointed out in my post, the people on this long-term semi-starvation study were on a predominantly carbohydrate diet of almost 1600 kcal/day. This kind of diet is often recommended for weight loss and health by dietitians, nutritionists and even physicians. As this film demonstrates, it indeed works for weight loss.
In my post I discussed the depression, constant sleeping and loss of libido exhibited by the subjects in this study. Here are the words of Henry Scholberg, one such subject, as recorded on this film:
And what I wasn’t expecting was the effect it would have on the mind; the total feeling of, I guess, depression, the total occupation with the idea of food. Somebody would say, “food for thought,” an expression like that, and they mentioned the word “food,” you know what I mean? I remember eing a little bit critical of guys in the early part who would lick their plates. I thought that was really pretty crude, but by the time we were into about the second month of it, I was doing it myself. You just needed every single calorie you could get your hand on. Then the other thing that we weren’t expecting was how weak we became. I remember one time I was dating this girl and we were walking home from the movie, and I said to her, “You know, if we get attacked by a bunch of hoodlums, run like hell because I won’t be able to help you.” We lost our sex drive, and I told you I was dating this girl, and I never kissed her the whole time I was dating her. So sexually we were, you might say, dead.
Remember these words the next time someone tells you that you need to go on a calorically restricted diet to extend your life. Would life really be worth living?
Among the many comments received on the Tim Ferriss post I did a few days ago were several questioning the psychological impact on people thinking they were going into a starvation study. As this film makes clear, these folks were glad to sign up because they believed they were helping the war effort. Their responses make it pretty obvious how they felt. I don’t believe they had a lot of negative psychology going in.
If you’re just interested in the part about the starvation study, go to about 8:22 in the film and finish at 14:39. I would watch the entire thing, though, because there are other insights into Keys’ psyche that I found intriguing.
For example, when he first presented his ideas on fat and cholesterol in the diet as causes of heart disease, he was publicly humiliated. Given his disposition, it is entirely in character for him to pursue the data showing himself to be correct and the rest of the scientific community wrong – even if it meant fudging the data, which he did his famous (infamous?) Seven Countries Study.
You can watch this short film below by Tom Naughton to see what I mean. In the above film about Keys it looks as though he selected seven countries based on a number of criteria, gathered the data, analyzed the data and found it to show a strong correlation between fat consumption and heart disease. The truth is that there were many more countries involved in the study than seven. Keys simply threw out the data on the countries that didn’t fit his preconceived notion. And everyone took it hook, line and sinker. Tom’s film shows this well.
There you have it. Two films on the long and productive lives of one of the main architects of the obesity epidemic. Enjoy.