Unsettled science: New study questions link between heart disease and saturated fat

In my lifetime I have seen dietary advice supposedly based on “science” go through multiple iterations, so much so that I have little trust in any of it. Eggs, coffee, and other delights were demonized, only for subsequent studies to say, in effect, never mind. But one constant has been the advice to avoid saturated fats. Now that is under question, too. Anahad O'Connor writes in the New York Times:

...a large and exhaustive new analysis by a team of international scientists found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased heart attacks and other cardiac events.

The new findings are part of a growing body of research that has challenged the accepted wisdom that saturated fat is inherently bad for you and will continue the debate about what foods are best to eat. (snip)

…new research, published on Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, did not find that people who ate higher levels of saturated fat had more heart disease than those who ate less. Nor did it find less disease in those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including monounsaturated fat like olive oil or polyunsaturated fat like corn oil.

“My take on this would be that it’s not saturated fat that we should worry about” in our diets, said Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, the lead author of the new study and a cardiovascular epidemiologist in the department of public health and primary care at Cambridge University.

More suspicion is now placed on carbs and sugars:

The smallest and densest form of LDL is more dangerous. These particles are easily oxidized and are more likely to set off inflammation and contribute to the buildup of artery-narrowing plaque. An LDL profile that consists mostly of these particles, known as pattern B, usually coincides with high triglycerides and low levels of HDL, both risk factors for heart attacks and stroke.

The smaller, more artery-clogging particles are increased not by saturated fat, but by sugary foods and an excess of carbohydrates, Dr. Chowdhury said. “It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines,” he said. “If anything is driving your low-density lipoproteins in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.”

The logical conclusion is to practice moderation and variety in your diet. And exercise. Common sense, in other words.

And for all those word banners out there, give up on “bossy” and focus on “settled science.”

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