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Dr. Paul J. Rosch, 1927 - 2020

ByCrossFitMarch 6, 2020
Found in:Health

Dr. Paul J. Rosch, born June 30, 1927, passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, after complications from a fall. He was 92 years old.

Dr. Rosch was Chairman of the Board of The American Institute of Stress, Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at New York Medical College, and Honorary Vice President of the International Stress Management Association. He completed his internship and residency training at Johns Hopkins Hospital and subsequently at the Walter Reed Army Hospital and Institute of Research, where he was Director of the Endocrine Section.

Dr. Rosch was the recipient of many honors, including the New York State Medical Society’s Outstanding Physician’s Award, the Schering Award, and the American Rural Health Association’s International Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Rosch also served as President of the New York State Society of Internal Medicine and Chairman of the International Foundation for Biopsychosocial Development and Human Health. He was a member of the Board of Governors of Northwood University, The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation, and Clinical Professor of Medicine in Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He was editor-in-chief of Stress Medicine, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. in the U.K., and was on the editorial board of several relevant journals.

In addition to these accomplishments and many others, including his pioneering work in the fields of psychiatry and stress, Dr. Rosch was a member of the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS) and a fearless critic of the diet-heart hypothesis. He shared his views on this topic during an appearance as a speaker at the first of CrossFit Health’s lecture series, known colloquially as the “Derelict Doctors Club,” in 2018. He was always generous with his time and intellect, up until the end of his life.

In his editor’s introduction to Fat and Cholesterol Don’t Cause Heart Attacks and Statins Are not the Solution, a seminal collection of scientific critiques of the diet-heart hypothesis and the shoddy, biased research upon which the fat and cholesterol scare was built, Dr. Rosch wrote:

If you ask anyone “What causes heart attacks”, the vast majority,  including physicians, would undoubtedly blame high cholesterol from eating too much fat, or include this along with unavoidable influences like heredity and stress. That’s not surprising, since this dietary fat ⇨ elevated cholesterol ⇨ heart attacks scenario has been repeated over and over so many times for the past 70 years, that it has become accepted as gospel. … reducing fat intake, especially saturated fat, has been U.S. policy for the past 35 years. These official guidelines are the basis for determining the foods that will be used in the military, government cafeterias, schools, food assistance programs, industry food formulations, and restaurant recipes, as well as recommendations made by nutritionists and dieticians. And since they were also endorsed by leading authorities and prestigious organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, it was assumed that restricting fats would provide cardioprotective and other health benefits. The advent of statins, which allegedly prevented heart disease by lowering cholesterol, appeared to prove the validity of the lipid hypothesis, and statins quickly became the best selling prescription drugs ever. …

The tragedy is that none of these low cholesterol low fat recommendations had any scientific support. …

The sad fact is that this low fat diet should never have been introduced, and the consequences of this error have been disastrous. Only 15% of the population was obese when the low fat guidelines appeared in 1980. This has now increased to 35% in adults, and 17% in children and teenagers. If obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, 50% or more adults could be obese by 2030. And the diet heart idea has even had more catastrophic results. …

A recent study of physically active healthy people who took statins for 90 to 365 days reported that their risk of developing diabetes and diabetic complications doubled over the next five years compared to controls. Short term statin use was not associated with any decrease in cardiovascular events, so for healthy people in particular, statins can do more harm than good, especially since type 2 diabetes is a significant risk factor for heart disease. It would appear that the lipid hypothesis will continue to persist and prevail as long as it remains profitable for statin and low fat food manufacturers and other vested interests.

It is for this clear and bold resolution to objectively follow the scientific evidence wherever it might lead, despite the naysaying of industry forces or popular understanding, that Dr. Rosch will be long remembered by CrossFit, Inc. and its intellectual associates.

In the foreword to Lipid Lunacy (forthcoming) — the follow-up book to Fat and Cholesterol, etc. — Greg Glassman observes:

The CrossFit nutrition prescription has stood in opposition to the high-carb, low-fat mainstream orthodoxy for decades. Until recently, our position was rather detached from the world of academia, governmental guidelines, and industry. In the independent course of our daily business — physical fitness training — we came to the clinical understanding that high consumption of refined carbohydrate retards fitness and degrades health while fats and proteins have the opposite effect. Millions of CrossFit practitioners have observed and benefited from this knowledge in 15,000 CrossFit affiliates around the world. …

The first edition of Fat and Cholesterol Don’t Cause Heart Attacks was a revelation to us — not because it inspired reforms to our prescription, but because it laid out in damning and forensic detail the verification of our skepticism. That book’s elucidation of the lengths taken to advance and preserve the profitable notion of cholesterol’s deadly effects has become a fundamental contribution to our understanding of the ills of modern medicine and the abuse of the public’s trust in “science.”

Speaking directly of the authors, including Dr. Rosch, Glassman notes:

The authors who have contributed to this text are defined by two personal characteristics: They are intelligent and insightful enough to recognize the decades-spanning failures of the dominant mainstream view, and they are brave enough to declare accordingly that the emperor has no clothes. In the realm of academic science, this is a distinct kind of bravery. Every incentive encourages the scientist to fall in line. Publications, academic positions, research funding — the stock and trade, the very sustenance of an academic career — are apportioned to those whose work and opinions substantiate the claims that are in vogue. Then there is the simple element of reputation: Few serious academics earnestly desire to be labeled a quack, a crank, a “denier.” And further yet, consider the sheer gall necessary to pit oneself against the pharmaceutical industry, the food and beverage industries, and the governmental bodies that have allied themselves so closely with these powerful interests.

What does it mean, then, that these varied individuals have come together into a cohort of skeptics, into what we at CrossFit have termed “the legitosphere”? What kind of scientific and moral alternative can they provide to the orthodoxy of consensus science — an understanding that lays claim to the authority of science but is reached via popularity, path dependence, and the great motivation of going along to get along? …

Our authors here form a very different kind of body. While their opinions may overlap, while many of their hypotheses follow a similar trajectory, they find themselves in a similar location precisely because they were willing to stand alone. Each independently arrived at the same place of opposition to the mainstream view, driven by their own skepticism and determination to follow the truth regardless of where it led. For these reasons, their hypotheses do not toe a definitive party line. Rather, they represent the investigations of individual minds that could not accept claims incompatible with their intellectual principles and observations. Our authors are united not by adherence to dogma but by the courage of their own convictions, which defines them as much as does their scientific acumen.

In a similar vein, Dr. Zöe and Andy Harcombe, long-time friends of Dr. Rosch, frequent contributors to, and publishers of Fat and Cholesterol, etc. and Lipid Lunacy, remember Dr. Rosch accordingly:

Paul was a great man, and not many people can lay claim to that word. He was extraordinarily intelligent, and he used that intelligence wisely — to question things that didn’t make sense. That led him into the world of cholesterol and heart disease, while he would have been even better known by others for his significant contributions to the fields of psychiatry and stress. He had breadth and depth in knowledge and never lost interest in soaking up more. He was driven and hard-working, and he never let anything slip, but it was his sharpness that really impressed. He was razor sharp, an attribute that would manifest itself in wit or insight. Either way, it made him informative and fun to be around. He will be much missed by family, friends, colleagues, and entire academic movements.

— Zöe Harcombe

I consider it a great privilege to have met and worked with Paul. Even at his youthful age of 92, he could fill a large room with energy. Always polite, thoughtful, witty, and very bright, Paul had fascinating insights on any topic that you’d like to talk about with him. He was blessed with one of the sharpest minds, and he used that gift to challenge conventional wisdom and move science forward in a positive way. He made great contributions in all areas that he decided to have an interest in, and he will be missed, of course, by his family and friends, but also by everyone who was fortunate enough to have met him.

— Andy Harcombe

Along with the Harcombes and Dr. Rosch’s many colleagues and admirers, CrossFit, Inc. and the CrossFit community were honored to know and support Dr. Rosch as an intellectual champion and friend.

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