“The risk from saturated fat in foods such as butter, cakes and fatty meat is being overstated and demonised, according to a cardiologist,” BBC News reports. FINALLY! The media is slowly catching on…
Advice to avoid saturated fats over the last 40 years has paradoxically increased the risk of obesity and heart disease.
While saturated fats have been removed from many products, they have been replaced with sugar to improve the taste. Research suggests, it is the consumption of sugars, rather than fats, that is chiefly responsible for the obesity “epidemic”, as well as the increase in related diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
The “obsession” with cholesterol levels has led to the “overmedication” of millions of people who are prescribed the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins.
Saturated fat has been unfairly “demonised” for the last 40 years. This was as a result of a very influential study from the 1970s, which found a link between the incidence of coronary heart disease and total cholesterol levels.
Saturated fat is believed to raise levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), which in turn raises cardiovascular risk.
But recent studies have found no significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. Instead, saturated fat has been found to be protective of the heart.
The paper says one reason for this rise in obesity is that food tastes worse without fat, so the food industry compensated by replacing saturated fat with added sugar.
Scientific evidence is now mounting that sugar is a possible independent risk factor for a condition called metabolic syndrome, a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and high levels of “bad” fats, such as triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Metabolic syndrome puts people at greater risk of heart disease, stroke and other conditions affecting the blood vessels.
Two-thirds of people admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of heart attack have metabolic syndrome, but 75% of these patients have completely normal total cholesterol concentrations.
The strongest evidence for the benefit of statins is in people who have already had a heart attack, where 83 people would need to take statins to prevent one cardiovascular death over five years.
But the fact that no other cholesterol-lowering drug has shown a benefit in terms of reducing risk of death suggests that the benefits of statins may be independent of their effects on cholesterol. Any benefit may actually be caused by their anti-inflammatory properties.
There is also a debate about the use of statins in people who have no evidence of cardiovascular disease. This is alongside ongoing research into the components of LDL and the different types of lipoproteins known to increase risk the most.
- Saturated fat intake has been found to be correlated with coronary heart disease and high cholesterol.
- The liver turns saturated fats into cholesterol.
- Most experts agree that high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol increase the risk of diseases such as heart attack, stroke and narrowed arteries.
- Saturated fat is the mostly solid type of fat found in foods such as butter and lard, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, cheese and cream, and palm and coconut oil.
Current guidelines state that:
- The average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.
- The average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.
- You should avoid trans fats where possible. These fats are mainly produced by an industrial process called hydrogenation and are thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease through increasing inflammation. They are found in deep fried foods and biscuits, cakes and pastries.
- Eat mono-unsaturated fats in small amounts. These fats are found in olive oil and rapeseed oil, as well as in some nuts and seeds. They are thought to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
- Eat polyunsaturated fats in small amounts. These include soya, vegetable and safflower oils, as well as the omega-3 oils found in oily fish.
The advice in this research suggests following a Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean cuisine varies by region, but is largely based on vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, olive oil and fish. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a better quality of life and good health, including a healthier heart, a longer lifespan and good weight management.