October 25, 2013
Study Challenges Conventional Wisdom Linking Saturated Fat And Hearth Disease
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The cardiovascular risk of eating butter, cheese, red meat and other foods high in saturated fat has been overstated, and the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are being overprescribed, according to new research appearing in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal.
Study author Aseem Malhotra, and interventional cardiology specialist registrar at Croydon University Hospital in London, wrote that while “the mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades,” the fact is that “scientific evidence” has demonstrated that “this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks.”
Malhotra told Sarah Boseley with The Guardian that prospective cohort studies conducted recently had not uncovered evidence suggesting that there was a significant link between saturated fat consumption and the risk of a heart attack or other adverse cardiovascular events.
“Instead, saturated fat has been found to be protective,” he said, explaining that it could depend upon the food from which the saturated fat comes from. Dairy products such as milk, for instance, contains vitamin D. Research has linked a lack of vitamin D with an increased risk of heart disease, Malhotra explained.
Furthermore, dairy products contain calcium and phosphorus (which might help lower a person’s blood pressure), and while consumption of processed meat has been linked to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, red meat has not. The cardiology specialist said that many people mistakenly believe that all low-fat products are better for their health, though many of them could have the opposite effect due to the amount of sugar they contain.
“Last week I saw one patient in her 40s who had had a heart attack. She said she had gained about 20kg [42 lbs.] in the last six months. She had been drinking five low-fat drinks a day,” he told Boseley. However, further analysis revealed that each of the 450 milliliter beverages she had been consuming contained approximately 15 teaspoons of sugar, meaning that the woman had been partaking over 75 teaspoons of sugar each day.
“He tells his patients that butter and cheese … are better for them than low-fat spreads and that the odd steak will not hurt,” Boseley said. “Rather than take statins, he said, people with cardiovascular risks should eat a Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fruit, vegetables, fish and nuts. He pointed to a recent study that showed that adopting a Mediterranean diet after a heart attack is three times more effective in preventing further illness than statins.”
According to the Daily Mail, Malhotra’s research led him to conclude that there is a lack of evidence showing a causal relationship between eating saturated fats and cardiovascular risk, and that millions of people are unnecessarily being given unneeded medication due to what he calls the government’s obsession with lowering cholesterol.
He is not alone in his thinking, she notes, as Sweden is among the countries that have started adopting new dietary guidelines encouraging people to consume foods that are high in fat but low in carbohydrates. Other recent US studies have also challenged long-standing conventional wisdom, asserting that low fat diets are worse for a person’s overall health than one that cuts carbohydrate intake.
“The greatest improvements in morbidity and mortality have been due not to personal responsibility but rather to public health,” Dr. Malhotra told the UK newspaper. “It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that has contributed to obesity.”