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Broken Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Health

You won’t read it in the mainstream press. But the most significant study ever of the effect of saturated fat on our hearts appeared Wednesday.

In fact, I couldn’t find any mainstream articles about it today. Not one of the four sources that I rely on heavily for leads to new studies has carried a word about this one. In fact, another source, Google News, instead turned up articles headlined like “Reduce your intake of saturated fats or suffer a heart condition,” “Ban butter to save our hearts, says doctor,” and “Not all fats are equal – saturated fat is the real baddie.”


The new study should drive the last nail in the coffin of the supposed link between eating saturated fat and getting heart disease. Since heart disease is the most common as well as the most serious complication of diabetes, nothing could be more relevant to us.

Ever since 1953, when a physiologist named Ancel Keys, Ph.D., compared fat intake and deaths from heart disease in six countries, including the U.S., the American medical establishment has clung to an unproven belief that saturated fat was evil. But even by 1957 we should have known better, after Jacob Yerushalmy, Ph.D., established that Keys was guilty of the sin of cherry picking. While Dr. Keys used data from six country, he actually had statistics from 22 countries available. And when scientists analyzed those statistics, the apparent link between eating fat and heart disease disappeared.

The new study is a meta-analysis of the 21 existing studies of 347,747 healthy people of whom 11,006 suffered a heart attack or stroke during the course of the study. These were all the unique and relevant “prospective epidemiologic studies of saturated fat intake and the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke” that exist.

This study appears online ahead of being printed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This is the world’s most prestigious nutrition journal. The list of the study’s four authors include one of the world’s most prestigious epidemiologists, Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, in Harvard’s School of Public Health.

Richard K. Bernstein, M.D., emailed me the full-text of the study yesterday. And today an email from the Nutrition & Metabolism Society, founded by Richard Feinman, Ph.D., provided its link to the full-text online. You can read it here. Dr. Bernstein, who wrote Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, and Dr. Feinman, professor of biochemistry at Downstate Medical Center in New York, are two of the leading advocates of a very low-carbohydrate diets.

The connection between a very low-carb diet and saturated fat is clear. Eating saturated fat makes a very low-carb diet sustainable. We might be able to get by with consuming just monounsaturated fats — essentially olive oil, avocados, and a few nuts — and Omega 3 fats as well as very lean meat and poultry and vegetables that lack any starch or sugar. But that means a very limited diet.

The problem is that our bodies can use only carbohydrates or fats for energy. We have to have about 130 grams of dietary fuel per day from fats and carbohydrates together. Few people can follow a truly low-carb diet for any length of time by eating that amount of fat from olive oil, avocados, and a few nuts.

Dr. Dick Williams, a consultant to BalancePoint Health, says — and I quoted him in one of my articles — that, “Some of the best examples of monounsaturated fats are avocados, olive oil, and nuts — especially almonds, pecans, and walnuts.” But, as I will write soon in an analysis of how to achieve a favorable balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats, these nuts all have a highly unfavorable ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids.

Coming back to the new study, its conclusion of the effects of saturated fat on our heart health could not be stated more bluntly. “There is no significant evidence,” it says, “for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] or CVD [cardiovascular disease, which includes strokes].”

But the conclusion is even more damning. As a whole the medical establishment has been essentially dishonest. Research that doesn’t agree with mainstream thinking — at least on this issue — just doesn’t see the light of day.

“Our results suggested publication bias, such that studies with significant associations tended to be received more favorably for publication,” the new meta-analysis says of the studies. “If unpublished studies with null associations were included in the current analysis, the pooled RR [relative risk] estimate for CVD could be even closer to null.”

So, don’t be surprised if the mainstream press goes along with the medical establishment in suppressing the facts about saturated fat.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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