The Demonization Of Saturated Fats
March 6, 2014

Break Out The Butter! Editorial Rails Against The Demonization Of Saturated Fats

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

According to a newly published editorial from a British Medical Journal publication, saturated fats have been mistakenly “demonized” over the last 60 years.

Writing for BMJ Open Heart, Dr. James DiNicolantonio, an associate editor at the journal, said a diet low in saturated fat doesn’t necessarily lead to a lower risk of heart disease or a longer life.

“There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has any positive effects on health,” DiNicolantonio wrote. “Indeed, the literature indicates a general lack of any effect (good or bad) from a reduction in fat intake.”

In the editorial, DiNicolantonio argued a diet that replaces saturated fats in a person’s diet with carbohydrates or omega 6-rich polyunsaturated fats is based on incorrect data from the 1950s.

"We need a public health campaign as strong as the one we had in the 70s and 80s demonizing saturated fats, to say that we got it wrong," said DiNicolantonio in a podcast that accompanied the editorial.

In the podcast, DiNicolantonio said he wanted to look at the data on which the “vilification” of saturated fats and many international health guidelines are based.

“One of the lines of evidence that these recommendations are based off of is from a man named Ansel Keys,” DiNicolantonio said. “He published a paper in 1952 where he showed that the more fats calories one ate – the higher the risk of death due to degenerative heart disease. The problem is – he only basically graphed for six countries when data were available for 22 countries.”

By ignoring the data from 16 countries, Keys didn't consider information that fit into his initial hypothesis, DiNicolantonio claimed.

“Fortunately though, five years later two authors published the full data set and the association (between saturated fat and heart disease) was greatly diminished,” he said.

However, President Eisenhower’s heart attack in his 50s reinforced the negative connotations surrounding saturated fats, DiNicolantonio said.

The journal editor also said that previous researchers have pushed the flawed theory that because these fats boost overall cholesterol – they must also amplify heart disease risk. This led to recommendations that said decreased intake would naturally suppress obesity, diabetes, and metabolic affliction.

DiNicolantonio cited emerging arguments in favor of refined carbohydrates as the main dietary factor behind the boost in obesity and diabetes in the US as evidence that previous recommendations are flawed.

While a low fat diet may reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol, DiNicolantonio said there are two kinds of LDL cholesterol: pattern A and pattern B. Switching to carbohydrates might amplify pattern B LDL, which is more harmful to heart health than pattern A LDL. The exchange also creates a more damaging overall lipid profile, DiNicolantonio said. In addition, multiple other analyses show that a low carb diet is much better for weight reduction and lipid profile than a low fat diet, while sizeable observational analyses have not identified any definitive proof that a low fat diet slashes cardiovascular disease risk, he said.

While some guidelines that aim to cut saturated fat consumption advise raising polyunsaturated fat intake, a recent evaluation of published trial information indicates that exchanging saturated fats and trans fatty acids with omega 6 fatty acids, without a matching rise in omega 3 fatty acids, appears to improve the chance of death from cardiovascular diseases, DiNicolatonio said.

He concluded that best diet to increase and sustain heart health is one with less refined carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods.