by Brian Shilhavy
Health Impact News

As I mentioned in my year-end review of 2010, attitudes towards saturated fats took a dramatic turn in 2010. The study that garnered the most media coverage was the one done at the Department of Atherosclerosis Research of the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, CA, and that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The title of the study was “Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease.” The researchers who conducted the study seemed to be concerned that the dietary guidelines proposing a reduction in saturated fats was resulting in a higher intake of carbohydrates, which negatively affects health. The study was significant because it was a review of several other studies covering a period of 5 to 23 years of follow-up on 347,747 subjects. Their conclusion: “A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”

We are not even half-way through the month of February in 2011, and we are seeing numerous articles appearing that are challenging the negative views towards saturated fats. The dairy industry is finally starting to catch on to the fact that saturated fats have been improperly maligned, and a report written by Melanie Nimrodi of the Global Dairy Platform yesterday made its way through the press. The article was titled: “Changing views about saturated fat and cardiovascular disease.” You can read it on Health Impact News here. She writes about some of the studies published in 2010 from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that reducing saturated fats does not prevent cardiovascular disease as well as a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition which reported that the substitution of certain polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats actually increased risk of coronary heart disease. She then relates these studies to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were just released on January 31st, and that state “Moderate evidence shows that intake of milk and milk products is linked to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents. Moderate evidence also indicates that intake of milk and milk products is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and with lower blood pressure in adults.” I have often wondered over the years why the dairy industry never took a better stance towards the health benefits of saturated fats. Maybe this is a sign of things to come in 2011 from the dairy industry. I would rather see them spend time on this issue than attacking small-scale raw milk producers.

Another report on the saturated fat in dairy was published this month with research coming out of the University of Copenhagen suggesting that milk might actually help maintain good cholesterol and stave off bad cholesterol, due to a potential relationship between milk’s saturated fat and high calcium content. The results are published in the February issue of the British Journal of Nutrition. Read more about this study on Health Impact News.

Paula Owens, a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience, also published an article yesterday entitled “Three things you may not know about heart health.” This is what she had to say about saturated fat:

Saturated fat is actually healthy for your heart. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that women who regularly eat the highest amounts of saturated fats have the least amount of plaque buildup in their arteries, and had a healthier balance of HDL and LDL cholesterols. Healthy saturated fats not only decrease your risk of heart disease and improve your lipid profile; they prevent osteoporosis, kill Candida, boost immune health, are healthy for your brain and nervous system and help balance hormones. Excellent sources of “healthy” saturated fats include cage-free, organic poultry and eggs, coconut oil, grass-fed beef and buffalo, real butter, organic nuts, unpasteurized, raw milk and wild fish.

You can read her full article here.

Stanley A. Fishman wrote an excellent blog post yesterday about the importance of the quality of saturated fat, in his article “Add Grassfed Meat to your diet: it has healthy fat!” Mr. Fishman does a nice job summarizing the nutritional benefits of grass-fed meat over meat from feed-lot mass-produced factory animals. Could it be that much of the negative research regarding saturated fats in the past had more to do with the quality of saturated fats, rather than saturated fats as a class of food? It is always dangerous to demonize a whole food group, particularly one that has been part of human nutrition throughout the history of man. Maybe the problem is not the food group, but the way we now produce it.

Then of course there is coconut oil, the one food that has the highest amount of saturated fat in nature. Fortunately, most of the press on coconut oil these days is positive, unlike the days when we first started publishing the truth about coconut oil back in year 2000, when it was rare to be able to find it anywhere in America due to saturated fat phobias. As I reported earlier this week, Dr. Janaki Gooneratne, the head of Food Technology at the Industrial Technology Institute in Sri Lanka, had a report published this past Sunday where she studied the effect of coconut oil on cardiovascular disease for a large segment of population in Sri Lanka, where coconut is second only to rice in their native diet. Dr. Goonerante believes that this extensive research is one of the first studies of this magnitude on dietary coconut oil ever conducted anywhere in the world, and her conclusion was that coconut oil had no CVD effects on the population in Sri Lanka. Read my report on this study here.

So how long will it now take for the FDA to stop lumping saturated fats together with harmful trans-fats and stop requiring that the percentage of saturated fats be listed on all food labels, while polyunsaturated fats are not? It will take some time for attitudes to completely change over from viewing saturated fats as evil (people in general don’t like to admit they have been wrong for so many years!), but the lipid theory of heart disease is teetering on a foundation with no basis, and that foundation is crumbling at an accelerated pace here in the early part of 2011.

Editor’s addendum: I just found another great article published this month covering the issue of saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats as per the USDA Dietary Guidelines written by Denise Minger at Raw Food SOS. Her article is perhaps the most comprehensive I read so far this year and is worth checking out!

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