Saturated Fat vs. Sugar

Within one week of my post on saturated fat two discussions supporting my position have appeared in peer-reviewed journals. The first discussion can be found here.

Observations: Saturated fat is not the major issue | BMJ

The second can be found here.

Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence

The first article was written by a cardiologist who teaches and practices at Croydon University Hospital in London. He states that advice to reduce saturated fat intake

“has led to the over-medication of millions of people with statins and has diverted our attention from the more egregious risk factor of atherogenic dyslipidaemia”

He states that recent studies “have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and risk of CVD”. He discusses sugar and highly refined carbohydrates as the culprit in causing atherogenic (artery plaque forming) dyslipidaemia (abnormal blood lipid profiles).

Here are comments by three Professors about Dr. Malhotra’s article:

David Haslam, Chair of Britain’s National Obesity Forum states the following.

“It’s extremely naive of the public and the medical profession to imagine that a calorie of bread, a calorie of meat and a calorie of alcohol are all dealt in the same way by the amazingly complex systems of the body. The assumption has been made that increased fat in the bloodstream is caused by increased saturated fat in the diet, whereas modern scientific evidence is proving that refined carbohydrates and sugar in particular are actually the culprits.”

Professor Robert Lustig (Pediatric Endocrinologist, UCSF) stated

“Food should confer wellness, not illness. And real food does just that, including saturated fat. But when saturated fat got mixed up with the high sugar added to processed food in the second half of the 20th century, it got a bad name. Which is worse, the saturated fat or the added sugar? The American Heart Association has weighed in – the sugar many times over. Plus added sugar causes all of the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome. Instead of lowering serum cholesterol with statins, which is dubious at best, how about serving up some real food?”

Timothy Noakes (Professor of Exercise and Sports Science, University of Cape Town) states

“Focusing on an elevated blood cholesterol concentration as the exclusive cause of coronary heart disease is unquestionably the worst medical error of our time. After reviewing all the scientific evidence I draw just one conclusion – Never prescribe a statin drug for a loved one.”

Here is the abstract summary of the second article cited above.

“Although early studies showed that saturated fat diets with very low levels of PUFAs increase serum cholesterol, whereas other studies showed high serum cholesterol increased the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), the evidence of dietary saturated fats increasing CAD or causing premature death was weak. Over the years, data revealed that dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are not associated with CAD and other adverse health effects or at worst are weakly associated in some analyses when other contributing factors may be overlooked. Several recent analyses indicate that SFAs, particularly in dairy products and coconut oil, can improve health. The evidence of ω6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) promoting inflammation and augmenting many diseases continues to grow, whereas ω3 PUFAs seem to counter these adverse effects. The replacement of saturated fats in the diet with carbohydrates, especially sugars, has resulted in increased obesity and its associated health complications. Well-established mechanisms have been proposed for the adverse health effects of some alternative or replacement nutrients, such as simple carbohydrates and PUFAs. The focus on dietary manipulation of serum cholesterol may be moot in view of numerous other factors that increase the risk of heart disease. The adverse health effects that have been associated with saturated fats in the past are most likely due to factors other than SFAs, which are discussed here. This review calls for a rational reevaluation of existing dietary recommendations that focus on minimizing dietary SFAs, for which mechanisms for adverse health effects are lacking.”

Of course both articles produced a stormy debate with letters to the editor from supporters and detractors, but thank God this debate has finally entered mainstream academic discussion.

These two authors have coincidentally introduced the topics of my next two blogs so please stay tuned for discussions of sugar/refined carbohydrates and coconut oil (filled with health promoting and infection fighting medium chain triglycerides)

Go in peace

Bob Hansen MD

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