February 2008 Letters to the Editor
Mail from the last issue of Minnesota Monthly
After the thoughtful interview I had with writer Susan Perry, I was dismayed to see her slanted article in your January issue. The headline, “Food Fight: Is a famed Minnesota doctor to blame for America’s obesity epidemic?” implies a major scandal: One of Minnesota’s outstanding scientists is somehow responsible for Americans tendency toward lack of activity, consumption of fast foods and 32-ounce soft drinks, and gaining body mass at alarming rates.
Keys did not “champion a low-fat diet.” The idea of a “Mediterranean Diet,” which is widely recognized as a major contribution to public health and healthy eating, can be largely attributed to Keys’s work and writings. [But] it is not a low-fat diet.
I indicated to Perry, but she failed to report, that Ancel Keys was the principal scientist to show that good health, long life, and low rates of heart attack and cancer were compatible with a wide range of fat intake by humans. Apparently this fact did not fit the angle of your article.
Far from “begrudgingly” agreeing that different fats had different effects, Keys spent 10 years of his life researching that issue at the University of Minnesota in careful diet experiments.
Puzzling, too, is the claim by Gary Taubes—and repeated by Perry—that Keys “maneuvered” himself onto committees that didn’t agree with him and imposed his views on others early in the “diet-heart debate.” This is a novel, ill-informed view to those of us who were present when his findings and arguments were vigorously examined and debated. He was hardly “idolized,” and new generations of colleagues and researchers developed the evidence with integrity and independence. This work of a half-century and the major body of evidence accrued is curiously overlooked by both Perry and Taubes. They focus rather on Keys’s earliest ideas about quantity rather than quality of fat—ideas that he submitted to rigorous study and already had refined by the late 1950s.
Your article not only does a disservice to Keys and his colleagues and to the University of Minnesota, but to overweight Americans hungry for real facts and intelligent solutions to their dilemma.
Henry Blackburn, MD
Emeritus Professor of Public Health
University of Minnesota
A Taxing Read
Regarding “Movie Madness II” (January): Does writer Michael Tortorello really think that “snowbate” is the only tax-incentive program in the state to attract new business? Does he know how much the state pays out to the airline industry? Or how much it subsidizes transportation? Does this mean transportation is not efficient or sustainable in Minnesota? Tortorello should have done better research and dug deeper, rather than just quoting the Taxpayers Association without questioning its logic and conclusions.
I really enjoyed your article about what people make around the Twin Cities (“Who Makes What,” January). But why were real-estate agents not included? The media spin is that we make a ton of money, but in reality the national average hovers around $40,000. Including agents would have been informative to readers—letting them know we are not rich and showing them we are just trying to earn a living like everyone else in your survey.
A Bunch of Blockheads
You blockhead! In your article about the new Charles Schulz biography in the December issue (Talk, The 5-Minute Guide), you used the incorrect spelling of his last name several times. It’s S-C-H-U-L-Z, no T—a phrase I’ve had to repeat almost every day of my life.
Good grief! We regret the error.
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