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Is Butter Really Back? Heart to Heart with Cardiologist Joel Kahn

By February 1, 2015January 31st, 202419 Comments

America’s #1 killer, heart disease currently kills 1 out of every 3 Americans; 70% of Americans are obese and getting fatter; and Studies forecast that by 2030, 50% of Americans will be diabetic or pre-diabetic.

The great irony in all of this is that, as Dr. Kahn so astutely points out, 80-90% of all chronic health problems can be resolved via pretty simple diet and lifestyle alternations.

The tricky part is translating these lifestyle alterations from theory to practice. I understand that it can be difficult for many, particularly when there is so much confusing information out there concerning about heath, nutrition and diet. So confusing in fact, that it becomes incredibly challenging for even the most savvy consumer to separate fact from fiction and truth from hyperbole.

Just because good news about bad habits makes for tempting clickbait doesn’t mean the information is reliable — its usually not.

To help sift through all of this, I once again sit down for a heart to heart (pun intended) with cardiologist Joel Kahn, MD — you can listen to our first conversation (RRP #44) here.

A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Michigan’s prestigious Inteflex program (a 6-year undergraduate / graduate program that developed doctors fresh out of high school), Joel has served as Clinical Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at Wayne State University School of Medicine since 1993. He’s authored over 130 articles on heart disease, is a frequent lecturer on heart disease and its prevention, has performed thousands of cardiac procedures, and has been advising patients on heart healthy programs for over 20 years.

Not only does Dr. Kahn know what he is talking about, his basic message is elementary: if you want to experience true long-term wellness, then you must focus on implementing sustainable long-term preventive protocols into your lifestyle. This starts and ends with diet and active lifestyle.

The specific thrust of this conversation focuses on separating truth from marketing with respect to certain zeitgeist trends in nutrition science. To wit:

Is butter really back?
What are the health impacts of a low carb / high fat diet?
What are the risks (and benefits, if any) of trendy practices like putting butter and oil in your morning coffee?
Is everything we thought we knew about saturated fat truly wrong?
Who was Ancel Keys and what is the import of his nutritional studies?
What is the true impact of dietary cholesterol on arterial and heart health?

Finally, and most importantly, what specific dietary and lifestyle protocols does this veteran cardiologist recommend to maintain optimal heart health in a culture in which heart disease has become a wildly out of control pandemic?

You’ll want to tune in to find out.

Amazingly informative, this is straight talk from a solid guy. An awesome and trusted and educated and experienced and entertaining guy I am proud to call my friend.

I sincerely hope you heed the call and enjoy the conversation.

Peace + Plants,


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Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson. Thanks boys!


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  • Tommy F says:

    It’s great to see so many of these authentic plant-based doctors coming out. Even prescribing their patients spinach! The marketing of our industrialized overprocessed-food society is so strong, that truth appears more like fantasy to a culture obsessed with the convenience of the SAD (standard american) diet. As society is apt to celebrate good news about bad habits, the tendency of most is to bend truth, to fit crooked beliefs. But
    cancer and heart disease are signs, that the truth will not bend. Straightening out ones diet (vegan/plant-based), to align with the truth of how we’re sustainably intended to eat in these human bodies, is really something to celebrate. Compassion for all beings and oneself…

  • Will Kriski says:

    Yeah that low fat in the 80s argument is so lame. We kept eating more fat back then but they use that to say low fat didn’t work. So lame!

  • sarah says:

    Rich, if this guy is your friend, you have to tell him that he needs to find a more substantive way to criticize Denise Minger besides just mentioning her age. He did this the last time he was on as well. We get it — she’s not as “august” i.e. “old” as TC Campbell. But his dismissal of her and her very-reasonable-seeming criticisms makes him appear ignorant and arrogant.

  • lee says:

    Hi Rich, not sure if my comment went through or not so I’m trying again:
    I feel that Joel Kahn needs a more substantive critique of Denise Minger besides pointing to her age. He did this on your last podcast as well. For someone who claims to be interested in science, he should engage with just that: her science, not her age. Yes, Campbell may be older and more “august” than her, but science doesn’t bend to one’s age. This talking point comes dangerously close to being propaganda on his part, and, ironically, is a childish way to approach her criticism. (By the way, you’re a little guilty of doing this yourself when her name comes up in podcasts.)

  • jonathanfales says:

    Many very notable Doctors disagree with Dr Kahn’s point of view. Who are we suppose to believe? They are all selling a book or a research hypothesis that they want funded so again who do we trust? If Doctor Kahn had it his way we would be mandated and taxed into submitting to his opinion. Dr Peter Attia and others would be forced to leave wild game meat off the menu. That seems very dictatorial. Not a good first impression. I’ll pass on Dr Kahn thank you.

  • Joel Kahn says:

    jonathonfales I appreciate your comments. How many times did I reference research? Ornish? Esselstyn? Adventist Health? North Karelia? All of us can go to and check out vegan nutrition vs paleo nutrition. the amount of data is 10X more for vegan health benefits. I am not biased, I am science based. Then throw in greenhouse gases, animal cruelty with CAFO, and you have to eat mainly or completely plant based Thanks

  • Joel Kahn says:

    Lee I cant do better than in terms of analyzing Denise Minger. There are a series of blogs or You Tubes Your preference. She does not hold water.

  • Mario says:

    Hi Rich,

    I appreciate how you lead off with focusing on what’s in common between the different approaches that are often in the weeds with details. I often feel caught in the middle as I have a hard time knowing who’s experts are correct etc.. Some of the items I like about the paleo related podcasts I listen to is they often invite dr.’s, phd’s doing the research currently. A couple good examples are Dr Dominic D’Agostino a PhD who researches in Keto related items. Or Dr Terry Wahls whose protocol is interesting as well.

    Kahn has great points but I think some of it get dismissed due to the age of the research, way too many things have changed within our societies since the 50’s to be able to continually go back to that research. I also think Dr Kahn mentioning the American Heart Association as being the authority makes me nervous knowing the relationship between medicine/docs, big pharma and the numerous medical associations. Not a conspiracy theory or anything but worth thinking about.

    Thanks for all your work, I started listening because I was one one end of the pendulum but have moved along in my journey thanks to your podcast.

    Keep up the good work,

  • Chris Russell says:

    Is there a link to the new book about Dead Executives? (sounds like a punk rock band)


  • Farmer Diddley says:

    When is “Dead Execs Don’t Get Bonuses” going to be available? I can’t find it anywhere?

  • elansunstar says:

    Great to hear this from a heart specialist. As a raw vegan for 48 years I follow all the data on the increase of (opinions) about saturated fat including plant fats. If future research in the year 20,560 AD asked the question “What did humans consume in the year 2015?” there would be those who said this and those who said that….Paleo is based on assumptions about what a diverse range of climates and humans consumed…and generalized that…One method of getting true results based insights is from looking at those who use these extreme diets and study their physiology and results. I am seeing Low Fat raw vegans achieve some amazing body results. One thing we must be honest about though is the fact that “cholesterol is a Hormone” and its relation to overall hormone health is not to be dismissed …but that does not mean consuming animal saturated fat. I do find that the positive results of using coconut oil for brain health needs to be considered…

  • The Vegan Vampire Lestat says:

    Like this alot. Awesome to see someone questioning the validity of grass fed butter being somehow supremely healthy. In all honesty, I think it’s just the perpetuation of ideas coming from a coffee addict trying to justify and argue that there is a way to drink coffee daily that is truly energizing…what a load of addict bollocks. David Asprey is a joke in my eyes. The guy knows how to market and appeal to the masses, I ain’t buyin for a second any of his ideas. Bout time someone stood up to those claims.

    Daily coffee use, I don’t care if you are using klamath blue green algae for creamer and he shou wu for sweetener, your adrenals are getting drained, there is no building of energy here, we are just pulling from the jing store and burning up kidney yang.

    Dave Asprey can take his nootropicky bulletproof wares to the uninformed, buzz seeking masses where they belong. Don’t for a second think you are a health pioneer Asprey, you are a coffee addict my friend desperate for mental enhancement and a mood boost, trying to get rich off the masses in the process.

    Sorry for the rant. I don’t disrespect Asprey, I just shoot from the hip and tell it how it really is.

  • DiC says:

    Loved the Podcast! Was not offended at all at the mention of Minger’s age…It was a quick podcast, (Dr Garth awhile back on his Facebook page breaks down her article)…I bet people whom are upset by the mention of her age are in the “want to hear good things about their bad habits” camp. Loved the simple suggestions for heart health. Will read and recommend all of Dr Kahn’s books. Thank you!

  • Joel Kahn says:

    Out soon will let rich know. Thanks!!

  • DG_Allen says:

    Anyone can find rebuttals to Denise Minger online. Her age is relevant, as are the supporters of her work. WP Foundation is far from objective. Thank you Dr. Kahn for some straight dope on heart health. If you listen to the heard association recommendations, eat fruits and veggies, exercise, don’t smoke etc. it’s all common knowledge and includes of many different dietary patterns – except for the SAD which is mostly junk food. I’m trusting my heart to that knowledge.

  • GaryC says:

    Dr. Kahn,
    I was wondering if you could comment on the work of Dr. Kummerow. His findings seem to go against popular belief though he has been on the front line for eight decades. Here is a short portion of an article I found.

    Schleifer’s article includes a summary of Dr. Fred Kummerow’s lipid research, which is detailed in my previous interview with him. Dr. Kummerow’s work clearly demonstrated that it’s not cholesterol that causes heart disease; rather it’s the trans fats that are to blame. He was one of the first to make this association, and the first to publish a scientific article on it, in 1957.

    Since then, research has repeatedly refuted the correlation between high cholesterol and plaque formation that leads to heart disease. Despite that, the saturated fat/cholesterol myth persisted far longer than seems reasonable, and in my view, industry resistance had an awful lot to do with that.

  • tmac1 says:

    Joel: I loved the podcast. Thanks for sharing your expertise with Rich. He is a blast to listen to.

    Your emphasis on prevention not high tech fixes is fantastic. I have only recently (2012) been fighting to spread the word about plant power to many if not all of my internal medicine practice here in Portland Maine.

    The North Karelia study is inspiring as it was a comprehensive program unlike anything the US has done. It was not simply doctors encouraging patients in the once a year annual exam, but farmers, the markets, the media , the local and regional government all supported changes in what was grown and eaten. I feel like this “wrap your arms around” a smallish but substantial population is what is needed. USA is too big to do on national scale.

    One point on the calcium score, I am always skeptical of widespread expensive screening tests as primary care doctor. The reason is I often get stuck with the lung nodule or the enlarged lymph node that needs biopsy follow up , the so called incidental findings. Before we recommend every single 40,50 or 60 year old gets a Cardiac CT test we need to look at all the downstream costs as well. Ideally as you point out if people are treated with lifestyle interventions they will never develop heart disease!!! You might like to read up on screening tests with Dr H. Gilbert Welch from Dartmouth . His latest is Over diagnosis: making people sick in the pursuit of health: This video was shot at Dr McDougall retreat a few years ago

    Tom McInerney

  • Richard Halluk says:

    Hey Rich – why not put Peter Attia on your podcast for equal time. You’re an open minded guy – looking for paradigm busters . . .

  • JPindiorski says:

    I belonged to a group started by cardios (Jody Rodgers) from Downriver Cardiology (Trenton, MI). which followed the Dean Ornish program guidelines. It allowed non fat dairy, no oils, exercise, yoga, group therapy. Stayed on it almost 4 years and it worked wonders. It now allows some fish, like salmon. His protocol showed fantastic results in most participants during my time spent there. Wondering your thoughts on the allowing of non fat dairy and salmon.

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