The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease
|“Saturated fat does not cause heart disease”—or so concluded a big study
published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
For years we have been told that saturated fat is bad for us because it raises cholesterol and causes heart disease. During the anti-fat crusade, people loaded up on “fat free” candies, doughnuts, and grains.
The American Heart Association (AHA) said do not eat fat. The FDA put out its food pyramid that recommended we load up on grains. Dr. Atkins put out the Atkins diet that showed cholesterol was lowered when eating fat (but no carbs) and people lost weight. BUT HE WAS NOT THE AHA expert.
We got fat!
The new study stated that “The very cornerstone of dietary advice for generations has been that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat should be avoided because they clog our arteries.” It noted that for many diet-conscious Americans, it is simply second nature to opt for chicken over sirloin, canola oil over butter.
“The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.”
Women and Fat. There is growing evidence that women on diets low in saturated fat actually increase their risk of having a heart attack. The “good” HDL cholesterol drops precipitously for women on this diet (it drops for men too, but less so). The irony is that women have been especially rigorous about ramping up on their fruits, vegetables and grains, but they now suffer from higher obesity rates than men, and their death rates from heart disease have reached parity.
In fact, high total cholesterol levels in women over 50 were found early on to be associated with longer life. This counterintuitive result was first discovered by the famous Framingham study on heart-disease risk factors in 1971 and has since been confirmed by other research.
So what to do? We have never advised our clients to eliminate meats from their diet because the science did not support this. We do recommend that you not load up on meats. Vegetables and berries are key components of a healthy diet. We like meats that do not have added hormones and antibiotics. There are some that need to avoid fats but for most of us, it is not an issue. Moderation is still a key.
Much of this information has been quoted from an article by Ms. Teicholz. She has been researching dietary fat and disease for nearly a decade. Her book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet,” will be published by Simon & Schuster on May 13.