Saturated fats don’t cause heart disease after all

Oops!  Turns out saturated fats don’t cause heart disease after all . . .

How many times have you heard “saturated fat causes heart disease”?  This weakly supported medical dogma has been repeated incessantly over the last 20 years,  to the likely detriment of  our health.  How could this be? More about that in a minute.

In the meantime, a recent well-designed study published in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition informs us that saturated fat does not cause heart disease.

Researchers from Harvard and the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute took a look at 21 clinical studies related to heart disease, stroke, and saturated fat consumption.  This is what they concluded: 

“A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat.”

CARBS THAT KILL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   There’s more to the story, as indicated by the last sentence of the summary:   The authors suggest that the replacement of saturated fats with carbohydrates, a common practice recommended from the “experts”, has an adverse effect on health.                                                

Although saturated fat increases so-called bad LDL cholesterol, it actually promotes a large, bouyant LDL particle type, which is relatively harmless.  In contrast, a high carbohydrate diet promotes a small dense LDL particle type, which is quite dangerous.  Small dense LDL particles confer a risk of heart disease over 4X greater compared to large bouyant LDLs.

One can’t help but wonder how many people were killed prematurely by this faulty advice, doled out so confidently by so many over the years.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

PROFIT DRIVEN SCIENCE                                                                                                                                                                                                                         How did this all happen?  The cholesterol hypothesis achieved ascendancy as a result of a lot of oversimplified science — some of it highly questionable — along with the invention of highly profitable cholesterol lowering “statin” drugs.  These drugs are worth over $30 billion in annual worldwide sales, a figure roughly equal to the  GDP of Finland!                                                                                                                 

In addition, seed oil technology (corn, soybean safflower etc) enabled ever greater amounts of oil to be extracted, then processed for greater shelf life, losing their protective antioxidants and precious omega 3 content.                                                                                                    

The vilification of saturated fat came about mainly because saturated fat does increase LDL levels.  A loose extrapolation from this fact led to the belief — an article of faith rather than fact — that saturated fat must be bad for you.  Apparently not.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

THE FATAL SUBSTITUTION                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This study tells us that whatever you do, don’t substitute sugar and flour rich carbs for saturated fats from healthy sources — organic meats, poultry, full fat cheese, butter and dairy from free range and grass fed animals.  I also recommend you stay away from processed vegetable seed oils, including the salad dressings and processed, packaged dead foods to which they’re added.  Favor butter, olive oil (healthy mono-unsaturated fat), coconut oil and lard if you can find it.  FACT:   Lard is mostly mono-unsaturated fat, same type as in olive oil.  Processed seed oils are pro-inflammatory free radical factories — a modern industrial invention that has no place in the human body — a kind of nutritional gasoline.                                                                                                                                                             

QUESTION:  How long will it take before this research is reflected in front line clinical practice?                                                                        

Tarino and Sun et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 20, 2010 

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