Rediscovering dietary wisdom – proving that ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’!
A review from Cambridge University, published in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, is the latest analysis to confirm the absolute lack of evidence that consuming saturated fat leads to heart disease. This meta-analysis of 76 studies found NO BASIS for the long-adhered-to guidelines that advise us to increase our consumption of poly-unsaturated fats and lower our saturated fat intake, to lower cardiac risk, and calls into question all standard nutritional guidelines related to heart health.
So how did these erroneous beliefs begin? The first major report linking saturated animal fat consumption to heart disease, upon which the persistent claim that saturated fat causes heart disease, by raising blood cholesterol levels, was based, was authored by physiologist Ancel Keys, who died in 2004. His “Seven Countries Study” was published way back in 1963. What many people don’t know, is that data was actually available from 22 countries! Keys selectively analysed information from only seven of these; the seven that held true to his initial theory! Upon later analysis, other researchers discovered that when all 22 countries are included, there is NO correlation at all, between saturated fat consumption and coronary heart disease! In fact, the full data set suggests the opposite—that those eating the most saturated animal fat tend to have the lowest incidence of heart disease!
And what does subsequent, properly carried out research, tell us?
Replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates actually increases heart disease risk. In 2012, a revealing study was published, showing that public health agencies steering Americans away from health-enhancing saturated fats, were actually doing their health a great deal of harm. The study found that dietary intake of saturated fatty acids is associated with a modest increase in total cholesterol levels in the blood stream – but NOT with cardiovascular disease. Replacing dietary saturated fats with carbohydrates is instead associated with an INCREASE in cardiovascular disease risk. So – this means that replacing saturated fats in your diet, like those from beef, butter, cheese, and other high-quality animal foods, with grain-based carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, mealie meal, and the vast range of refined, processed foods made from various grains, will INCREASE, not reduce, your risk of heart disease. In 2013, an editorial in the British Medical Journal described how the avoidance of saturated fat actually promotes poor health in a number of ways, compounding the health risks of following this completely outdated and dangerous advice. Author, cardiology specialist Aseem Malhotra explains that the mantra that saturated fat must be removed from the diet to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for five decades. However, scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risk! The aspect of dietary saturated fat believed to have the greatest influence on cardiovascular risk, is elevated concentrations of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Yet any reduction in LDL cholesterol, achieved by reducing saturated fat intake, is specific to large, buoyant Type A LDL particles. In fact, it is the small, dense, Type B LDL particles that respond to carbohydrate intake, and are actually implicated in cardiovascular disease! He supports his view with important recent studies that have not demonstrated ANY significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. Instead, saturated fat has been shown to be protective!
– based on a study of nearly 348 000 adults
Probably the most compelling recent meta-analysis that has rocked the conventional dogma, pooled data from 21 studies and included nearly 348 000 adults. The massive sample size renders these statistics VERY convincing indeed. This study found NO difference in the risks of heart disease and stroke, between people with the lowest, and people with the highest, intakes of saturated fat!
When saturated fat is replaced with a higher carbohydrate intake, however, particularly refined carbohydrate, insulin resistance and obesity are exacerbated, and triglycerides and the harmful small LDL particles increase, while the beneficial HDL cholesterol is reduced! The authors state that dietary efforts to improve your cardiovascular disease risk should in fact primarily emphasise the limitation of refined carbohydrate intake, and the concerted effort to reduce weight where it is above ideal.
And research continues to pour in, to show that the conventional dogma demonising saturated fats is quite simply – WRONG!
What is GOOD about saturated fats?
Saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources in fact provide many important health benefits. Our bodies requires them for the proper function of cell membranes and heart, liver, lungs, hormones and immune system, for our bones to be able to assimilate calcium, to create the feeling of fullness after eating, thus reducing hunger and cravings, and for genetic regulation. Human breast milk is rather obviously the ideal food for human infants and their developing bodies. Breast milk contains 54 percent saturated fat. Nature makes no mistakes! This fat is there in such high quantities because it plays a crucial role in the body’s development and daily functioning. This is still the case, even as an adult. Without saturated fats your body cannot function!
A return to good old-fashioned Whole Milk
Low-fat dairy products, and NOT full-fat dairy, are the dairy products that are actually associated with excessive weight gain in children. One recent study found that both skimmed milk and 1% milk were associated with weight gain in 9 to 14 year olds, while dairy fat was not, at all! Another study published in 2013 found that pre-schoolers who drank 1% or skimmed milk were more likely to be overweight or obese than those who drank 2% or whole milk. Let’s not forget, either, that skimmed milk is much more processed than whole milk. Valuable fats, proteins, and vitamins are stripped away. Whole milk is nutritionally superior to skimmed milk, especially for children.
So what else SHOULD we be eating?
Other important sources of health-giving saturated fats include whole eggs (NOT just the whites!), meat, coconuts and coconut oil, cheese and other dairy foods made with whole milk. In light of all this re-discovered dietary wisdom, most of us need to increase, NOT reduce, healthy natural fat in our diets, so that it constitutes at least half our daily calorie intake. This includes both animal-based saturated fat, mono-unsaturated fats from avocados and nuts, and Omega 3 fats from fish. If this sounds like a lot, remember that mounting scientific evidence supports saturated fat as a necessary part of a heart-healthy diet, and firmly debunks the myth that saturated fat promotes heart disease. Balancing your insulin and leptin levels through diet To protect your heart, you also need to address your levels of insulin and leptin resistance, which become elevated as a result of eating a diet too high in sugars and grains – not fat – with the notable exception of synthetic trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils which have been linked to increased heart disease risk even in small amounts. Leptin is the ‘satiety hormone’ made by fat cells, which regulates the amount of fat stored in the body. It does this by adjusting both the sensation of hunger, and energy expenditures. When leptin levels are correctly balanced, hunger is inhibited when the amount of fat stored reaches a certain level. To reverse insulin and leptin resistance thereby lowering your heart disease risk, avoid refined sugar and other processed foods, eat whole foods, and replace grain carbohydrates with large amounts of non-starchy vegetables, high-quality protein from meat, fish, eggs and dairy foods and high-quality natural saturated and mono-unsaturated fats from animal and tropical oil sources.