Friday, 2 April 2010

The 'saturated fat causes heart disease' myth must die now!

Most of us have grown up with the 'truth' that saturated fat causes heart disease, and along the way another belief built up that saturated fat (and fat generally) makes you fat.

Well, the success that many millions of people have had with losing weight on a high-fat low carb diet such as the Atkins Diet has convinced them that the second belief is a myth. And since low carbing (REAL low carbing, that is), is founded upon eating a healthy diet, which Dr Atkins and many others have explained includes saturated fats, low carbers have generally tended to regard the first 'truth' as a myth, too.

Over the years evidence has grown that the claim that saturated fat causes heart disease was founded on bad or even no science at all. Dr Atkins and the many other proponents of low carb diets were apparently right all along. However, this seems to have passed by unnoticed by most providers of healthy eating advice, focusing as they usually do on a low fat diet. Powered by its own momentum, the low fat myth has careered on despite the evidence that it is based on false beliefs.

Thankfully, landmark studies demonstrating that these beliefs are indeed just myths are now starting to appear in mainstream medical journals. An example is a recent paper entitled "Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease", which appeared in the highly respected American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Its conclusion was "There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease". Other studies appearing in equally well respected journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine have produced similar conclusions.

The evidence surely cannot be ignored for much longer. We must be approaching the 'tipping point' where suddenly, opinion changes. It will be interesting to see who is the last to change their tune - agricultural concerns, food manufacturers and calorie counting weight loss organisations, who have vested interests in the low fat-focused status quo, or mainstream medicine and healthy eating advice authorities, who depend upon the painfully slow machinery of government health departments to tell them when they may start believing something different.

3 comments:

ET said...

As a very overweight child, I tried desperately to eat healthy to lose weight. When I tried to stay away from fat, I always turned to sugar. Guess who stayed a fat kid?

The dancing partner to "saturated fat causes heart disease" is "lowering cholesterol reduces heart disease". Two years ago, by eating a lot of polyunsaturated fats and avoiding saturated fats, my total cholesterol dropped to 97! I was so proud of myself because all the men in my family have heart attacks and strokes before they hit 50.

The I read "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and it turned my world upside down. I now consider saturated fat a health food. Data from the World Health Organization's BHF-HEARTSTATS data shows that overall mortality (death from any cause) is lowest when cholesterol is between 200 to 220. Mortality slowly rises as cholesterol goes above 220. However, mortality sharply rises as the level drops below 200. Death from any cause is 4 times more likely at a total cholesterol of 150 than it is at 220. Saturated fat is also the best way to raise HDL cholesterol. Since embracing saturated fat, my HDL has increased from 42 to 76 and I've gotten my total back up into the optimum range.

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