Frits Meijler on ‘Diet-Heart’: A Naysayer’s View
When the cholesterol story came up [in the Netherlands] I knew not the least single thing about cholesterol. But there was a huge public meeting held among the top [people] of the Institute in Amsterdam, something very sophisticated with arrangements between medicine and the social sciences. There was to be a discussion on the prevention of coronary arteriosclerosis. Even the Prince of Wales, husband of the Queen of England, came. The proponent was [Dutch cardiologist] Prof. Alexander Arntzehnius. They decided they needed a Devil’s Advocate and asked me to be the opponent.
I started reading about cholesterol and coronary heart disease and found many papers disagreeing with the whole concept. And I had never before heard that we had a Dutch Heart Association and that everything was black and white to them; no nuances of gray, whatsoever. After my reading, I decided it was not scientific and was convinced that the story was much more complicated than they were telling the public.
I selected for the final slide in my argument, it was just before Christmas, a very nice picture of a famous Amsterdam delicatessen with its display of sausages and ham and cheese and everything that you were forbidden to eat by the Heart Association. I finished my talk by showing the slide [of all these delicacies], after which I wished everyone a Merry Christmas. There was a scandal! I was excommunicated, forever! (Frits Meijler)
Meijler, Frits. 2005. Interview by Henry Blackburn. Audio recording. June. Amsterdam. CVD History Archive, School of Public Health, Univ. of Minnesota.