Mainstream Cardiologist Questions The Saturated Fat Myth

We’ve been trying to debunk the saturated fat myth for years now. Along with our contributing editor for The Cholesterol Truth, Dr. John Briffa, we’ve been sending out the message that saturated fat is not the villain it is made out to be by the mainstream when it comes to cardiovascular disease.

Easy target

When I think about it, the reason why many mainstream doctors, dieticians and nutritionists may have been targeting saturated fat as one of the main culprits behind cardiovascular disease, is probably out of pure laziness.

What’s easier to say to a patient at risk of cardiovascular disease: Cut saturate fat from your diet or cut all sugar and carbohydrates (especially refined carbs) from your diet?

The cutting saturated fat option means that patients can easily avoid foods like butter, chocolate and meat products. Job done!

The other option – cutting sugar and carbs – opens a whole different can of worms. I’m talking about a complete redesign of a patient’s diet and even lifestyle. Let’s face it, sugar and carbs are EVERYWHERE in the Western diet and avoiding them completely will probably prove near-impossible for most people.

So, it’s either laziness, or it’s a shining example of how the mainstream blindly follows archaic guidelines and ways of thinking, without ever properly questioning them.

Either way, you’ve been conned.

Recently, cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra wrote an article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) titled Saturated Fat is Not the Major Issue, in which he says the time has come to bust the myth that saturated fat consumption causes cardiovascular disease.

Of course, if you are a regular reader of the Daily Health and you follow Dr. Briffa on The Cholesterol Truth, this won’t be news to you. However, if you are new to our eAlerts, here’s a quick recap on our message regarding saturated fat:

The mainstream’s old mantra that saturated fat must be removed from our diets to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has been around for almost 60 years. Yet, countless studies have shown that this misguided advice has actually increased the risk of cardiovascular disease.

You see, dietary saturated fat is believed to increase levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – also referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol. However, LDL cholesterol consists of large buoyant particles (type A) and small dense particles (type B). It’s the dense type B LDL particles that impact cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat increase levels of buoyant type A LDL particles…

And yes, you’ve guessed it… dense type B LDL particles are impacted by carbohydrate intake.

This also explains why recent prospective cohort studies have not found any evidence to support any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. Instead, saturated fat has actually been found to be protective.

Cutting to the chase: We already know that the Western diet, which is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, is associated with increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. It’s also been firmly established that trans-fats – found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils – are the true culprits when it comes to heart disease, as they increase your LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, while lowering your levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol. Trans-fats also contribute to type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

So if you want to cut anything from your diet, start with sugar, refined carbohydrates and trans-fats. This might mean that a complete diet overhaul is on the cards, but if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease (and you almost certainly are if your diet consists of foods high in sugar, refined carbs and trans-fats), then it’s got to be done… The health benefits will be well-worth the effort you put in!

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US Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (PDF)

BMJ 2013;347:f6340

Diet Doctor, February 12, 2012

Archives of Internal Medicine 1992 Jul;152(7):1371-2

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010 Mar;91(3):535-46

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition March 2010: 91(3); 502-509