Switch signals on fats–again

It turns out that government health experts don’t really know much about fat. Despite having so much to say about it over the years. Maybe that’s because they have so much of it between their ears.

In the 1960s, government experts somehow convinced us that saturated fats–found in meat and butter–are bad for our hearts. They told us to replace saturated fats with “healthy” polyunsaturated fats found in corn, safflower, and soybean oils, for example. This became the conventional wisdom for good health. And many of us dutifully followed this advice.

But it seems this advice was wrong after all.

Yes, the body uses saturated fats to make cholesterol. And, yes, the body makes its own cholesterol. It is a building block for all hormones and all cells in the body. Plus, we know–or should know by now—that our body does not convert cholesterol from the food we eat into the cholesterol found in our blood.

Plus, it turns out that polyunsaturated fat, while it may lower cholesterol, doesn’t benefit the heart all that much. If at all.

This past February, mainstream media outlets began buzzing about “new” findings on polyunsaturated fat, published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers found that polyunsaturated oil actually increases the risk of heart disease. This appears to occur even though it lowers your cholesterol. And, the fact is, your cholesterol numbers appear less and less relevant to the development of heart disease.

As usual, these “new” findings on the dangers of unsaturated fats aren’t really all that new.

Experts long overlooked a study conducted in Australia from 1966 to 1973. For this study, one group of men with heart disease increased their intake of polyunsaturated fats to 15 percent. At the same time, they reduced their saturated fats to less than 10 percent of calories consumed.

After 39 months, this group lowered their cholesterol levels by a lucky 13 percent. But the luck did not hold. In fact, these men were also more likely to die. Particularly from heart disease.

Now hold on a second…

The government wanted us to cut out the saturated fat to lower our heart disease risk. But why would we cut out saturated fat–and replace it with polyunsaturated fat–if that doesn’t lower heart disease risk and increase longevity? Without those results, isn’t the whole idea useless?

This Australian study is so “old,” that the New York Times had to unearth it. And the NIH is finally paying attention. And they should. Given that their theories from decades ago are not panning out.

We still don’t understand how cholesterol contributes to heart disease. In fact, we still don’t really know whether it contributes at all. And, I led the team that analyzed the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data in the 1980s. This analysis linked higher body weight with higher cholesterol levels. Yet now we see that carrying a few extra pounds seems to help people live longer than those who weigh less.

And it has been very difficult to link increased saturated fat intake, at least during adulthood, with higher cancer rates. Yet the government spent millions of tax dollars trying to prove such a link.

It does appear that synthetic trans fats are particularly risky. You find these fats in processed baked goods.

But there is no adequate evidence to suggest that vegetable oils are some kind of panacea against heart disease. Nor are butter and meat the “heart-attacks-on-a-plate” that they have been portrayed to be.

Polyunsaturated vegetable oils may promote inflammation. And more and more scientists identify inflammation as the root of cardiovascular disease. As well as many other chronic disease.

This may be one reason why modern research now shows that many traditional herbal remedies that reduce inflammation also reduce heart disease and cancer!

Before all the government meddling, most diet experts said that a “normal” diet contained 15 percent of calories from saturated fats. After all the wasted years and research dollars, it appears we still have nothing better to recommend.

But the politically correct nannies have not yet caught up to the science. Or perhaps they are just making one last stand before fed up taxpayers finally throw them out. Mayor Bloomberg, “eat your heart out.”


1. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/eat-your-heart-out/

2. http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/06/omega-6-fats-linked-to-increased-risk-of-heart-disease/

3. Ramsden CE, Zamora D, Leelarthaepin B, et al. Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online February 6 2013