THE FACTS ABOUT FATS
The June 24, 2014 cover of Time magazine proclaimed “EAT BUTTER. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” The article’s sources were recent books promoting the benefits of a high fat diet, various experts and a controversial study by Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury which had been recently published. It also chronicled the sad, unintended consequences of government recommendations to reduce saturated fat in the diet which led to overconsumption of processed carbohydrates, excess calories, and a subsequent epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
NUTRITION STUDIES CAN BE CONFUSING
Research reports on specific kinds of fat can be conflicting and confusing. Lowering intake of saturated animal fats does lower risk of heart attack. Replacing animal fat with processed plant trans fats can increase risk. Diets high in wild fish appear to lower risk but omega 3 fish oil pills seem not to help. The results of such studies in groups of people are always dependent on their risk status and usual diet. Short metabolic trials in young student volunteers cannot be compared to long term intervention studies in older, obese diabetics.
Population and cohort studies of nutrition patterns differing in fat content can also be conflicting. Studies purporting to show benefit or lack thereof from a “low fat” diet usually are not really studying a low fat diet. Several well known trials had small differences in the fat content of diets studied comparing a 30% fat calorie diet to 40%. The majority of these calories are from animal fats and a lower fat content is achieved by replacement of some fatty foods with plant based choices. A real low fat diet such as the Ornish or Esselstyn diets has 10% or less fat from plant sources only. In studies of these low fat diets, patients with atherosclerotic artery disease always benefit.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Not all fats are the same. Both animal derived saturated fats and processed plant trans fats can be harmful and should be avoided in people with atherosclerotic artery disease. Excess amounts of these are processed in the liver to produce cholesterol and triglyceride particles and contribute to inflammation. All of this damages arteries.
The bottom line? The natural fats found in plants exist in small amounts and have never been shown to cause harm. So stick with THE PLAN and follow the 4 SIMPLE STEPS to better health for you and your arteries.