A few weeks ago (#241 “Fatheads” column) I discussed the importance of good fats for brain health and assured you that you would not be trading a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s for a higher risk of heart disease. Since North Americans have been bombarded with the message of “artery-clogging saturated fats” for 60 years (my entire lifetime) this merits further discussion.
Critics of the cholesterol-saturated-fats-heart-disease theory claim overwhelming evidence that not only are these nutrients not the cause of heart disease, but they are essential for good health including heart health. Here are a few of the studies they cite (source: mercola.com):
• A 2010 meta-analysis found no difference in risk of heart disease and stroke between people with the lowest and highest intakes of saturated fat
• The Framingham Heart study found that those with higher intake of saturated fats and cholesterol actually had lower serum cholesterol and body weight
• A 2010 article in Am J Clin Nutr argues that the benefits of reducing saturated fats depend on what replaces it and concludes “dietary efforts to improve the … CVD risk associated with … dyslipidemia should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrate intakes and a reduction in excess adiposity.”
In other words replacing fat in your diet with refined carbohydrates will, as I’ve explained before, lead to insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high serum triglycerides & LDL cholesterol, and ultimately heart disease. The best way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease is to reduce refined carbohydrates and maintain a healthy weight. And saturated fats can safely play a larger role in that plan.
A good source of information on cholesterol is the website cholesterol-and-health.com by Chris Masterjohn PhD. He explains the problems with the lipid hypothosis and describes the newer “Oxidized LDL” theory which more accurately models the formation of atherosclerosis. The war on cholesterol (and saturated fat) has been misguided at best. As Masterjohn puts it “the war they are waging is not the path of science. Science is not a war against molecules. It is a search for truth.”
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.