April 20, 2004 by

Phil Sokolof


Categories: Business, Media, Medicine

psokolof.jpgFor two decades, Nebraska industrialist Phil Sokolof encouraged people to live healthier lives.
Known as “America’s No. 1 Cholesterol Fighter,” Sokolof spent about $15 million of his own money on a crusade against high-fat foods. He appeared on over 100 network and cable programs and mailed thousands of letters to officials in the food industry. He bought full-page ads in newspapers across the country, and ran commercials during the Super Bowl to encourage Americans to take cholesterol-lowering drugs and avoid subsisting on a diet of greasy foods.
Sokolof’s efforts paid off. Several fast-food chains switched to vegetable oil to cook French fries. Large food processors stopped using highly saturated coconut and palm oil in crackers and cookies. Federal legislation was passed to require the inclusion of nutritional labels on all packaged foods. And Congress designated April as “National Know Your Cholesterol Month.”
Born in Omaha, Sokolof graduated from high school and traveled the country as a song-and-dance man for four years. When superstardom failed to arrive, he returned home and focused his energies on producing affordable construction components. He opened the Phillips Manufacturing Company in 1955, and built a multimillion-dollar empire.
In 1966, Sokolof survived a near-fatal heart attack at the age of 43. As his body healed, he started to learn more about healthy eating habits. Sokolof founded the National Heart Savers Association in 1985. The nonprofit organization offers free cholesterol screenings and informs the public about cardiovascular health. Then in 1992, he sold his business to give Heart Savers his full attention.
Sokolof died on April 15 from heart failure. He was 82.

3 Responses to Phil Sokolof

  1. Eric

    Phil Sokolof is responsible for millions of Americans consuming deadly trans fatty acids. At best he was misguided by bad science. His forcing McDonalds to switch from saturated fat to trans fat will have ramifications for decades to come.
    Here’s what I wrote about Phil Sokolof in June 1990:
    “Phil Sokolof completed the third round of his “Poisoning of America” campaign to eliminate “saturated” fats from the American diet. After a tremendous first-round blow to tropical oil producers and users, and a second round attack on lard (causing many processors to pull lard out of baking formulas), he blasted fast food industry leader McDonald’s Corp. in the third round by claiming that because it uses a tallow/oil frying mixture, it too is “poisoning” America. McDonald’s fell into line, as are its fast-food competitors.
    Money, scientific innocence, and a marvelous negative campaign seem to be carrying the day domestically. This only makes more pathetic the attempt of the palm oil industry to buy peace in the U.S. by the agreement with the soybean oil producers in which the soybean oil interests will tone down or end their anti-palm oil campaign and the palm oil producers will drop their incipient anti-trans fatty acid campaign. Clearly the soybean oil interests are getting a much better deal.”

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