University of Minnesota

Jeremiah Stamler on the Origins of the Diet-Heart Hypothesis

[ed. In cogitating with Gerald Shaper on origins of the so-called diet-heart hypothesis, we were unable to pinpoint in time or person a valid original attribution, not even in the writings of Ancel Keys. So we addressed a colleague, Jeremiah Stamler, whose work in the field dates from the early 1950s, from whom we received this interesting reply about a formal diet-blood lipid-disease theory.]

In retrospect, it is evident that . . . the question of a connection among them had inevitably to be posed, more or less clearly and explicitly, at least as hypothesis – even though it took subsequent decades to get the data from multiple research methodologies demonstrating the interconnections and even longer to convince most of the medical profession and health policy people about it.

People like Ancel [Keys] and myself in the post-World War II era grew up with this as background. We were not the originators of the hypothesis. This, I am convinced, reflects itself in such landmark articles as Ancel’s Mt. Sinai Hospital lecture [1952], where he displayed relationships between percent calories from fat for different countries (from FAO data) as related to their CHD mortality rates (from WHO data). There may not be an explicit formulation of the “hypothesis” there, or in other of his or my multiple publications, the reason being – I am quite sure – that it was superfluous, since we were already standing on the shoulders of those whose initial work made the hypothesis self-evident, and in fact even supplied enough data (animal-experimental, population, and clinical) to enable a statement that we may well [consider] beyond the simple stage of hypothesis formulation… (Henry Blackburn)


Stamler, Jeremiah. 14 July 2002. Letter to Henry Blackburn and Gerald Shaper. History of Cardiovascular Epidemiology Archive. University of Minnesota.