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Mar 18, 2014 10:42 AM

No evidence saturated fats promote heart disease, no evidence unsaturated fats reduce it

Experts question link between saturated fat and heart disease
Tuesday 18 March 2014 - 3am PST

A new review of published evidence challenges current guidelines that suggest in order to reduce heart disease risk, people should generally restrict intake of saturated fats - like those found in butter and dairy foods - in favor of unsaturated fats - such as in margarine and sunflower oil.

The analysis, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine by an international group led by a team at the UK's University of Cambridge, included 72 separate studies on heart risk and intake of fatty acids.

They found no evidence to support guidelines that say people should restrict saturated fat consumption to lower their risk of developing heart disease.

They also found insufficient evidence to support guidelines that advise eating more foods containing polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3 and omega-6) to reduce heart risk.

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  1. I saw this, also. And I've read accounts of the events leading to proclamations about the dangers of saturated fats.

    People will cling to the "butter is evil" myth for many decades to come, I fear.

    12 Replies
    1. re: sandylc

      There are people who will cling to unfounded "ficts" instead of objective science and, most importantly, real world clinical outcomes.

      There was never a legitimate concern about dietary saturated fat as a cause of any disease. In many cases it's a marker for a diet including Coke, fries, and deep fried apple pie and white flour buns. In others, it's a marker for terrible meat and dairy production practices that alter the fatty acid and inflammatory profiles of foods.

      1. re: sandylc

        The study is flawed. Ludicrous, to me, that people believe it.
        We know for a fact that saturated fats CLOG arteries...transfats too. People seem to want to believe good news about bad habits and as a result, Americans are dying of heart disease, the #1 killer of men and women. just saying.

        1. re: Val

          We do NOT know for a fact that saturated fats "clog" arteries; that's the entire point. I know it's tempting to visualize all of that globby fat going straight to your arteries and clogging them up, but that's no more realistic than fearing that eating blueberries will turn you blue.

          1. re: sandylc

            A better way to look at it is the fewer people eating it the less pressure is put on the price :-)

          2. re: Val

            Meta study concluded no harm from saturated fat:



            Systematic review Relationship between cardiovascular disease and saturated fatty acids (SFA
            )de Oliveira, 2012[11] "a higher intake of dairy saturated fat was associated with lower CVD risk. In contrast, a higher intake of meat SF was associated with greater CVD risk"
            Hooper, 2011[12] Reducing saturated fat in diets reduced the risk of having a cardiovascular event by 14 percent (no reduction in mortality).
            Mozaffarian, 2010[13] 19% reduction in Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) events by replacing saturated fatty acids (SFA) with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). (Note: the study included n-3 fatty acids in the PUFA group).
            Siri-Tarino, 2010[1] No significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.
            Danaei, 2009[14] Intervention studies replacing SFA with PUFA showed an insignificant relative risk (1.01-1.04) for ischemic heart disease (IHD).
            Mente, 2009[15] Insignificant
            Skeaff, 2009[16] Reduced events by substituting PUFA
            Jakobsen, 2009[17] 5% SFA replaced with PUFA: 13% decrease in events, 26% decrease in deaths
            Van Horn, 2008[18] 25-35% fats but <7% SFA and TFA reduces risk.
            Chanu, 2003[19] Significant in longer term.
            Hu, 1999[20] Eating nuts in place of SFA gave 45% reduction.
            Truswell, 1994[21] Decrease SFA and cholesterol intake, partial replacement with PUFA: 6% reduced deaths, 13% reduced events

            1. re: mcf

              Here are more specific reasons about why this study is flawed:

              1. re: Val




                "For 20 years, for instance, the Harvard School of Public Health has run the Nurses' Health Study and its two sequelae--the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses' Health Study II--accumulating over a decade of data on the diet and health of almost 300,000 Americans. The results suggest that total fat consumed has no relation to heart disease risk; that monounsaturated fats like olive oil lower risk; and that saturated fats are little worse, if at all, than the pasta and other carbohydrates that the Food Guide Pyramid suggests be eaten copiously."

                1. re: mcf

                  Data in the first article is more than 20 years old.

                  The second piece of writing is more than 15 years old.

                  Both are too old to be considered as credible medical sources.

                  Taubes as a source doesn't work (not only because what you linked to his dated writing and has been superceded by current medical science), but because he reinforces your own bias towards consumption of animal fat, a consumption that Taubes shares. That's an issue you continue to dismiss.

                  I realize this issue is personal to you, and that you feel eating saturated fat has made an important turnaround in your own illnesses and suffering, as you have stated.

                  However, it is not wise, nor prudent, nor safe, for you to presume your "cure" from eating saturated fats would at all be helpful to others, in fact, it may be damaging.

                  Your advocacy of eating saturated fat -- saying that they are benign -- may actually harm others' health.

                  That caution should have gravity.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    I am going to take issue with you about the old data. Data is data, old or new. If it shows something valid, then its age doesn't matter.

                    You have mentioned mcf's "vested interest" in this issue. I am asking you to come clean. What is your vested interest? You obviously feel strongly about this.

                    It seems to me that mcf has learned through her own research what diet made her healthy. You can't argue against that. If it did, how can you argue against a low carb, higher fat diet, at least as unequivocally as you do.

                    Why is this an issue for you?

                    1. re: sueatmo

                      I've clearly stated why: Erroneous information can be harmful to the health of those who believe it.

                      That's important. See above.

                    2. re: maria lorraine

                      Are you seriously suggesting that Science is not a credible source? Data are data, it doesn't matter when they were collected. Just because a study is 20 - or 100 - years old doesn't make it invalid.

                      The issue of saturated fats and heart disease is complex, and clearly much more work needs to be done to understand the relationship - if any exists. This current Annals of Internal Medicine story adds another piece of knowledge, just like the Science articles cited above did.

                  2. re: Val

                    I'm not sure why you think that linking to random sites on the internet refutes peer reviewed journals. Not that the latter is infallible, but the former is far worse.

            2. I thought margarine was discredited years ago, isn't the hydrogenated oils (like margarine and its cousins in masquerade) that are shunned now?

              1. So I get a free pass to gorge on burgers and bacon?

                31 Replies
                1. re: smoledman

                  well just temper that with at least SOME fiber and cruciferous vegetables would ya? or I am NOT driving you to the med center for a colonoscopy. OK?

                  they make the driver stay around and it's boring. plus they are so stingy on smoking areas.

                    1. re: smoledman

                      hey keep my fingerprints off that train wreck, I'm no nutritionist, much less a forensic one.

                      1. re: hill food

                        So you're not game for the Pizza Hut Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza? The one with 5 different kinds of cheeses(it's a BIG trade secret)!

                        1. re: smoledman

                          And I'm just thrilled to not feel guilty about eating eggs!

                          There has been a recent study that heavy meat eaters tend to get colon cancer.

                          But I read a summary of the above study and rejoiced.

                          If you eat too fat, you will gain weight, though.

                          1. re: sueatmo

                            The colon cancer connection has been debunked repeatedly for all but high consumption of chemically cured meats. Which are commonly eaten on hero rolls, with deli salads.

                            Colon cancer, like breast, ovarian and prostate, is most highly associated with hyperinsulinemia, which comes from carbs, not protein nor fat.

                            1. re: mcf

                              That's a completely inaccurate statement:

                              Harvard -- Red Meat and Colon cancer

                              Although the results vary, studies from around the world have suggested that a high consumption of meat is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. In all cases the worry is confined to red meat, not chicken.

                              The best evidence comes from a pair of large 2005 studies, one from Europe, the other from the United States. The European research tracked 478,000 men and women who were free of cancer when the study began. The people who ate the most red meat (about 5 ounces a day or more) were about a third more likely to develop colon cancer than those who ate the least red meat (less than an ounce a day on average). Their consumption of chicken did not influence risk one way or the other, but a high consumption of fish appeared to reduce the risk of colon cancer by about a third.

                              The U.S. study added important information about the effects of long-term meat consumption. The subjects were 148,610 people between the ages of 50 and 74. A high consumption of red and processed meats was linked with a substantial increase in the risk of cancer in the lower colon and rectum. Conversely, the long-term consumption of large amounts of fish and poultry appeared protective.

                              These two studies are impressive, and they don’t stand alone. A meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%.



                              Eating Meat May Raise Colon Cancer Risk

                              May 23, 2011 -- Red meat and processed meat may increase the risk of developing colon cancer, according to a new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund.

                              The report, which builds on the two groups' 2007 Continuous Update Project, points to solid evidence that eating less red meat and avoiding processed meat altogether can slash colon cancer risk.

                              When this advice is combined with other diet and lifestyle changes -- such as consuming less alcohol, boosting fiber intake, exercising, and maintaining a healthy body weight -- it could prevent 45% of all colon cancer cases, or more than 64,000 cases of colon cancer each year, the report states.

                              Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in the U.S., excluding skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.

                              "The good news is that we have some control over our colon cancer risk," says Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology, Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick. Bandera was a member of the expert panel that analyzed all of the available literature on colon cancer risk, diet, exercise, and weight.


                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                But they are lumping "red and processed meats" together. Even to dumb little me, that's like the previous generation of studies lumping margarine and butter together. How stupid.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  You confuse the fact that something made it to print with scientific accuracy. It's not true, the data and methodology do not support it.

                                  Wasn't "Harvard" (a school, not a researcher) on the HRT bandwagon for all 25 years, proclaiming it protected us form all sorts of ills it was actually causing?

                                  Read Taubes; it's in the book.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Studies blow like the wind, but for argument sake, let just say a Harvard study showed a link between increased sexual activity & increases in certain types of cancer. Does that mean we all should or would abstain ;-(

                                    1. re: Tom34

                                      I think in that case you would do what you wanted to do anyway!

                                      But, in terms of accuracy in medical "headlines," you look for a confluence of opinion across many current peer-reviewed, journal-published studies, not a single study that goes against the tide. You look at who funded the study, conflicts of interest listed, and if the study has since been found to be superceded. All those factors apply to the many inaccuracies in this thread purported to be "truth."

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        The one thing that is most unreliable is "composite opinion."

                                        That explains a lot. Read the data and methodology to see if they support the opinion and don't make declarative statements until you do.

                                        That's what got women 25 years of cancer, dementia and heart disease, protected baby murderers in the case of SIDS, and on and on.

                                        Taubes read all the studies and is an expert at analysis.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          Even if he didn't have a personal bias, relying on Taubes as any sort of single backup source for your claims, doesn't pass scientific muster.

                                          Even though Taubes' writing is "researched," the information is being filtered through Taubes' lens, which is clearly clouded by his own mindset/behavior. We can all cherry-pick info that's in agreement with our existing bias.

                                          The sources you've cited aren't even close to being sufficient, in terms of being credible, reproducible science.

                                          When many groups of scientists research the same issue, independently, and come to the same conclusion repeatedly, that's worth a great deal. Your saying it isn't is complete hogwash.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            You have no way of knowing that; unlike Gary Taubes and folks like me.

                                            Gary Taubes' diet followed his research, not the other way around.

                                            Gary Taubes is an award winning science journalist. Read the book.

                                          2. re: mcf

                                            "The one thing that is most unreliable is "composite opinion.""

                                            Actually, quite the opposite. Several studies indicate that a large group yields more accurate decisions than one highly trained individual. I completely agree with maria - science runs on consensus. When dozens or hundreds of studies all point in the same direction, then that most likely is the likely scenario.

                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                              consensus has been bought by pharma and other businesses and reinforces corrupt ahd harmful practices in what passes for medical science.

                                              Witness the diabolical stupidity promulgated on diet, nutrition, statins and routine HRT poisoning giant swaths of the population due to "consensus" based on profits, not public health.

                                              If there exists any objective, uncorrupted scientific research, consensus would be valuable there. right now, it's the death knell of public health and good practices.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                I work in public health, and come from a physiology research background, working mainly on metabolic rate. I read objective, uncorrupted scientific research on health every day.

                                                As others have said, it is important to consider potential conflicts of interest when reading the scientific literature. And I completely agree that pharma has run amok.

                                                All of said, there is still much to be understood about heart disease.

                                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                                  I wasn't suggesting there are no uncorrupted studies, only corrupt and bought consensus guidelines.

                                                  Not just pharma, whole industries, from dialysis to joint replacement and amputationa,weight loss surgery, depend on the bad "consensus" opinoions that medical officials put their names to and punish and ostracize their peers who don't follow ironically labeled "best practices."

                                          3. re: maria lorraine

                                            "I think in that case you would do what you wanted to do anyway!"

                                            I think most people will continue to do the same in moderation with red meat.

                                            1. re: Tom34

                                              But other people will use the information to gorge* on red meat and saturated fat, as if the faulty claims in this thread have given them permission. That's the danger.

                                              * or simply eat too much

                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                Anyone who "gorges" on anything has other issues beyond this one.

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  I think that just about all studies would back you up on that one!

                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                    Or, "eats more saturated fat than is healthy."

                                                  2. re: maria lorraine

                                                    I hope so, maybe they'll stop eating corn and grain all day like feed lot animals and getting sick along with them. :-)

                                                    The truth is, folks who eat fat and protein as a higher percentage of diet, tend to eat less due to how satiating it is. And how much it limits appetite the rest of the day, unlike high carbs, which promote overeating.

                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                      Agree with you that corn and grain are issues. Finally, some common ground after all your misinformation.

                                                2. re: maria lorraine

                                                  How many studies did it take to condemn saturated fat in the first place?

                                2. re: smoledman

                                  No free pass.

                                  The study found some saturated fats harmful but not all of them.

                                  Animal fats are still harmful and contribute to heart disease because you can't separate out the good saturated acids from the bad ones.

                                  The palmitic and stearic acids in animal fats and palm oil are still bad. Heptadecanoic acid [margaric acid] appeared to lower heart risk, but you can't ingest it alone and not ingest the bad fats it occurs with.

                                  Word to the wise.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    You have to separate fats from feedlot production from unpolluted sources of saturated fats before reaching any conclusions.

                                    I've reduced my CVD risk markers from highest decile to below average on a high sat fat diet for 15 years.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      That's not in the study.

                                      None of this is about the source of animal fats or any other saturated fat.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        I thought we were onto a much broader issue of saturated fats and myriad studies.

                                        I have edited my posts to remove personal snark.

                                        I really don't see any point in us engaging on this point anymore, it's beyond redundant already.

                                  2. re: smoledman

                                    yes, just skip the bun, fries, Coke and fried apple pie. :-)

                                  3. As someone who ignores these sorts of studies, pro and con, I would love to believe that what these researchers say is true, but it is just one study, even if it is based on 72 other studies. What I mean is that no/few other researchers have reached this conclusion, so why, suddenly, should we believe this study?

                                    Enjoy your meat, fat, milk and cheese but eat a balanced diet and ignore all these studies!

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: gfr1111

                                      I think the original declaration against saturated fat was based on much less.

                                      EDIT: But agree 100% about the balanced diet.

                                      1. re: gfr1111

                                        This is neither new nor sudden nor unique. This was written about years ago by Dan Taubes in his book "Good Calories, Bad Calories," in which he looked at most of the studies going back to the original Framingham study, which made the original (incorrect) assumption/ connection, and he did a pretty good job of puching holes in all of them, all thoroughly researched and sourced and based on the published work of other respected scientists.

                                        But he got shouted down by those who just didn't want to believe it. If this is the first time you're hearing about it, that's why. But it's not the first time it's been said, nor the first time the myth has been debunked.

                                          1. re: smoledman

                                            Yes, thanks for the correction. Don't know how I messed that up -- it's been a while since I read it.

                                        1. re: gfr1111

                                          Here's a review of many studies:

                                          If you choose to believe all the erroneous studies on sat fat that came before, why stop there?

                                        2. What is there evidence of?

                                          Maybe researchers can find evidence that Bigfoot tastes better grilled than sous vide.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            There's a lot of evidence of ideology and no credible science behind the original low cholesterol/low fat debacle.

                                            And look around you at the results. Now diabetes and other drug makers are reaping the financial benefits of the low fat high starch failed experiment.

                                            Some of the countries with the highest intakes of saturated fats are also among those with lower incidence of cardiovascular mortality.