We'd criss-crossed the continent for our previous 5 interviews, but our 6th placed us right in the heart of Jeremy's home state of Illinois. In our sights was Dr. Fred A. Kummerow, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. We can thank Fred for the now widespread understanding of the harms of trans-fats, after he tirelessly crusaded against them for 50 years. Fred had also mentored Professor Chris Masterjohn, wunderkind of cholesterol and lipid research.
After a mini road-trip down to Urbana the night before, we met him at his home for a little filming and lunch. At 100 years-young, Fred (or Kummy as we affectionately call him), is the oldest of our interviewees. He’s in a wheelchair now, but only because of an injury while partaking in a daily swim at 97. We were struck by how nice his skin looked at that age, almost zero “age-spots” (possibly related to his avoidance of polyunsaturated fats but more on that later).
We had a tense beginning (we learned you don’t keep a centenarian waiting), though he soon warmed up to us and we had an enjoyable lunch. He follows a fairly routine diet of an egg, fruit, meat, milk, and vegetables, avoiding fried food, PUFAs, and trans fats.
We conducted our interview at his lab in the Comparative Biosciences Department of the College of Veterinary Medicine. The lab was built during the early days of the Cold War, and because of limited funding and his unpopular research, hasn’t changed since. We chatted about his early research and experimentation which linked artificial trans-fats to heart disease and his life-long battle with the FDA to get their use regulated. We touched on the never-reported side of his research, that polyunsaturated fats (including fish oils, flax, soy, canola, etc..) are just as bad. He also illuminated many of the misconceptions of the role of cholesterol in physiology, including it's protective effects.
Even at this age, he’s still on the cutting-edge of research, working on a novel treatment for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's related, related to the ills of the above-mentioned fats.
It’s a novelty being called “kids” in your 30s. Thanks Fred.