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Friday, September 1, 2017

The 40-Year Bum Steer of the Food Experts?

For decades food scientists have been telling us that saturated fat in food is bad for your heart. You can read the same story being pitched on current web sites of some of our leading authorities. For example, a page on the site of the American Heart Association tells us that saturated fat is bad for your heart. It says:

Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Later the same page makes a recommendation:

The American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. For example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fats. That’s about 13 grams of saturated fats a day.

How much is that 13 grams? You would exceed that 13 gram limit by having three slices of pizza, or a cheese danish. For decades Americans have been told such limits are necessary for healthy eating. But a major new study suggests we have long been given a great big “bum steer” on this topic.

The new study was published in the British medical journal The Lancet, and is entitled Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. The study looked into the dietary intake of 135,335 individuals (a very large sample size for studies like this).

The study reached these startling conclusions:

Intake of total fat and each type of fat was associated with lower risk of total mortality...Higher saturated fat intake was associated with lower risk of stroke...Total fat and saturated and unsaturated fats were not significantly associated with risk of myocardial infarction or cardiovascular disease mortality.

Such conclusions are in complete opposition to what we have been told about saturated fat for forty years. The study finds that eating more of any type of fat (including saturated fat) results in a lower risk of you dying. The study finds that eating more saturated fat decreases your risk of having a stroke, by 21%. The study finds that eating more saturated fat does not increase your chance of dying of a heart attack.

It seems that our food experts have been giving us faulty advice for the past 40 years. During this time, while people have been looking for foods marked “low fat” in the supermarket, people have been shoveling in more and more carbohydrates, leading to an obesity epidemic. Carbohydrate intake was the one thing the Lancet study finds is associated with total mortality.  

Will the new study cause the American Heart Association to update its page on saturated fats, by giving a contrite admission of error like the one below?

No, that will never happen. It might be that the American Heart Association will cling stubbornly to its dubious recommendation, or perhaps it will change its recommendation. But if the recommendation is changed, you can be sure that the page will not tell people how a very different recommendation was given for several decades recently. Our scientific bureaus don't want the people's confidence in them to be shaken.