Scott M. Grundy, MD, PhD, has received the 1997 Bristol-Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutrition Research. Dr Grundy was the first researcher to demonstrate the advantages of substituting monounsaturated fats for polyunsaturated fats in the diet. Dr Grundy’s work led to an increase in the use of olive oil and similar oils in the American cuisine. He has also made other important discoveries relating to the mechanisms that control blood cholesterol. Among his findings were those that led to the development and widespread use of statins—drugs that lower lipids in the blood.
Dr Grundy is a professor of Internal Medicine and Biochemistry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He is also director and chairman for the Center for Human Nutrition and the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the medical school. His work began in the 1960s, when he contributed to the development of the cholesterol balance technique, a method of precisely measuring the amount of cholesterol that people absorb in their daily diets and how cholesterol is processed and distributed in the human body. Ultimately, he showed that the redistribution rather than the excretion of cholesterol is the most effective way of lowering lipid levels in the blood. The redistribution occurs in response to a diet high in polyunsaturated fat. It is now known that fats increase the number of receptors in the liver for LDL cholesterol—receptors that literally pull cholesterol out of the blood and turn it into bile acids.
Dr Grundy’s work led to better understanding of how gallstones form and suggested new options for treatment. By studying Pima Indians, he linked the high rate of obesity in the tribe to their increased risk of developing gallstones.
By the 1980s, Dr Grundy and his colleagues were turning their attention to the importance of monounsaturated fats as part of a heart-healthy diet. By following the diets of large groups of patients over a long period of time, Dr Grundy’s group at the University of California at San Diego showed that monounsaturated fats lower cholesterol as well as polyunsaturated fats. High levels of polyunsaturated fats were not found in diets elsewhere in the world, and Dr Grundy had worried that they could induce problems that had not previously been suspected. His findings about monounsaturated fats led to dietary recommendations that were approved by the American Heart Association and other public health groups. Dr Grundy’s work with the statins in the 1980s pushed pharmaceutical companies to invest in research and development that led to the drug’s being approved for general marketing.
Dr Grundy received his undergraduate degree from what was then Texas Technological College and earned a combined MD/MS degree from Baylor College of Medicine in 1960.
- Copyright © 1998 by American Heart Association