Bad advice which flies in the face of common-sense, experience, and science is usually dispatched quickly, never to be seen again.
When talking about dietary fat, specifically saturated fat, the bad advice of avoiding it always seem to come back around.
The most recent implosion of common-sense came from the American Heart Association (AHA) a few weeks ago, when they released a Presidential Advisory claiming that consuming saturated fat and foods high in saturated fat, i.e coconut oil, raises your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Consuming saturated fat does NOT raise your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Most people don’t have the time or information available to grapple with claims made by the American Heart Association, especially those wrapped with a “Presidential Advisory” title (whatever that means).
Why would you question the AHA anyway? You probably wouldn’t, unless you knew better. I want you to know better. And you will after reading.
Let’s distill the evidence about saturated fat and cardiovascular disease, the AHA’s claims in their recent report, and see if we can find the discrepancies between their claims and the reality: consuming saturated fats is perfectly safe. And if you’re on a ketogenic diet, it’s healthier even moreso.
Saturated fat and cardiovascular disease risk: explaining the story.
Let’s talk about the supposed, archaic belief about the relationship between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease, also known as the Lipid Hypothesis. It goes like this:
By eating saturated fats, you’ll raise your levels of cholesterol in the blood. Increasing blood cholesterol levels will cause plaque formation, clogged arteries, and cardiovascular disease.
It’s an interesting and reasonable hypothesis to pose: but it just doesn’t work that way.
The impact of saturated fats on cholesterol blood levels is negligible. Eating saturated fats just doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels in a meaningful way: blood cholesterol is in an equilibrium, tightly regulated by your liver.
And even if eating fat and saturated fat does slightly increase your blood cholesterol levels; it’s a good thing for your health.
Saturated fat is heart HEALTHY.
The single largest, most expensive clinical study ever observed the influence of diet on cardiovascular risk factors, stretched from 1993 to 2006 and included ~50,000 women.
Their conclusions? No increased risks from eating fat. This irrevocably refutes the idea that consuming saturated fat increases risk for cardiovascular disease.
In 2016 a significant study of 42 European countries compared rates of cardiovascular disease and food consumption. Their findings? Higher levels of blood cholesterol and saturated fat intake correlated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
So, considering the overwhelming evidence that saturated fat is safe and healthy from these two enormous studies, what is the AHA talking about? Why the discrepancy between their advice to avoid saturated fat, and the hard-evidence that it’s good for you?
At this point I too am wondering how or where on Earth the AHA found these conclusions.
Let’s look at the evidence and logic used by the AHA to devise their claim that eating fat and saturated fat will raise your risk of cardiovascular disease.
For unknown reasons, the AHA devised their Presidential Advisory’s claim to not eat saturated fat by referring to only four dietary studies in support of their claims, ALL dated to the 1960s. An eternity in terms of scientific advancement.
For another unknown reason, the AHA decided to exclude any and all studies which contradicted their recommendations (of which there are thousands): this of course excludes the two iron-clad studies mentioned in this article above.
What was their explanation for the systematic exclusion? The AHA claimed with nebulous reasoning that the other studies weren’t “rigorous” enough.
A brief analysis of one of the four clinical trials
Okay, so if the AHA excluded thousands of dietary studies and included just four clinical trials when developing the claim to not eat saturated fat, you’d expect the four they did include to be pretty good, right?
One of the trials used is the Oslo Diet-Heart Study. The study was led by one investigator, Dr. Leren.
His experimental design was such that one group of people were provided years of intensive counseling and dietary advice, and the other group received nothing. After the study concluded, they found (to nobody’s surprise) that the group with years of intensive dietary counseling had lower risks of cardiovascular disease, whereas the other group didn’t.
Well obviously they would be healthier than the other group: they had years of counseling. The other group didn’t receive even a placebo. Or some kind of control. Nothing. Exactly which part of this study is rigorous?
The other few clinical trials are much the same: dubiously designed and again, absolutely ancient from the 1960s, an eternity in science.
And by the way, the participants in all of the trials evidencing the AHA’s claims were composed entirely of men. Men and women have different and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
From this perspective, the AHA document is essentially sexist.
One last thought: Mediterranean Diet
This last thought is humorous more than anything. In passing, the AHA recommends eating a Mediterranean diet as a means to preventing cardiovascular disease, justified by the PrediMed trial.
What’s interesting about the PrediMed trial, is that three years into the study, the researcher’s realized they forgot to give a placebo to the control group. Whoops! If this were a prescription drug study, would you recommend that drug to your family?
To eat or not to eat: Saturated fat
Let’s recap this article, look at the evidence and decide for ourselves about saturated fat.
The AHA released a Presidential Advisory recommending to not eat saturated fat; this claim was based upon four flawed studies from the 1960s, and excluded thousands of other dietary studies.
The largest clinical trial ever performed demonstrated that eating fat won’t raise your risk for cardiovascular disease; a significant study of 42 European countries showed that eating more saturated fat reduced your risk of cardiovascular disease; directly counter to the AHA’s recommendations. Wonder if they were cooking with coconut oil?
So there you have it! For me, not following the AHA’s advice seems to be a wise move considering the evidence, especially considering the fiery disaster that is American public health.