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The Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Myth

Posted Jul 15 2010 2:59pm

Did you know a leading heart surgeon is calling for a ban on butter? Seriously! He explains that obesity and rising rates of heart disease are because children are starting out the day with toast and butter. Okay… are you ready for it? Say it with me folks: FOLLOW THE MONEY! Turns out, this “respected authority” is associated with a major manufacturer of … margarine. Don’t you just love it when they make it this easy? A great question posed by contributing editor Jon Herring of Total Health Breakthroughs was, “Why the butter and not the toast? Two slices of bread contain the equivalent carbohydrates of five teaspoons of sugar. And elevated blood sugar has been directly associated with heart disease.”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times… Cholesterol levels and saturated fats DO NOT correlate to the risk for heart disease! In fact, if you’ll recall, I previously wrote about the Framingham Heart Study which showed that after the age of 50 (when 90% of all heart attacks occur), lower cholesterol levels are clearly associated with a shorter life expectancy. I recently came across an article written by Mr. Herring titled The Greatest Scam in Medical History . Since he’s already done the hard work, I’ll credit him and repost a portion of his article here (emphasis and notations are mine). The entire article he’s written is worth the read, so click the link and check it out when you get a chance.

There have been about 30 long-term population studies that have attempted to link saturated fat to heart disease. Of those, only four have shown even the weakest association. And all four had major disqualifications: they were either too small to be significant, they did not isolate the variables properly, or they showed a slight decrease in heart deaths but an increase in death due to cancer.

But population studies are notoriously unreliable anyway. The gold standard among health studies are controlled, randomized trials. And not a single study of this nature has ever shown definitive evidence that saturated-fat consumption leads to heart disease. In fact, many have shown the exact opposite!

Authors of the MR-FIT trial were determined to prove the case. They enrolled 350,000 men, all of whom were considered at high risk of heart disease. In one set of participants, cholesterol consumption was reduced by 42%, saturated fat by 28%, and total calories by 21%.

What happened? Nothing. The authors referred to the results as “disappointing,” stating that “The overall results do not show a beneficial effect on Coronary Heart Disease or total mortality from this multifactor intervention.”

The Women’s Health Initiative was a huge government study, costing almost three quarters of a billion dollars. Among 20,000 women in the study who adhered to a diet low saturated fat diet for eight years, there was no reduction in the rates of heart-disease or stroke.

Then there was the Cochrane Collaboration, in 2000. This group rigorously selected 27 low-fat and cholesterol-lowering trials to review (more than 200 trials were rejected). Their conclusion was that diets low in saturated fat have “no significant effect” on heart attack mortality. Lead researcher Lee Hooper, PhD, said “I was disappointed that we didn’t find something more definitive.”

Or how about something more recent?

This month, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a review of 21 studies. The studies ranged from 5 to 23 years in length and encompassed 347,747 subjects. In the authors’ own words: “Intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease], stroke, or CVD [cerebrovascular disease].”

In 1988, U.S. Surgeon General’s office decided to end the confusion. They set out to finally prove the causal link between saturated fat and heart disease. After 11 years, the project was abandoned. The Surgeon General’s office stated that they, “did not anticipate fully the magnitude of the additional external expertise and staff resources that would be needed.” Sure! After more than a decade of trying, the government just “just didn’t have the resources.”

Scientists and researchers are supposed to have an open mind. They are not supposed to be dogmatic and swayed by politics and peer pressure. But that is exactly what the majority of scientists and doctors have proven of themselves. It is not terribly surprising. Massive industries and shining scientific careers have been built on this faulty theory.

If it were not so tragic, it would be funny to listen to them explain away contradictory findings and make excuses for why their studies don’t match their hoped-for conclusions. The most common excuses are that the “trial didn’t last long enough” or they “didn’t lower the saturated-fat intake enough.” It seems that option number three never crosses their mind… perhaps the entire hypothesis is wrong!

Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD has called the saturated fat theory of heart disease “one of the greatest and most harmful misconceptions in the history of medicine.” Dr. George Mann called it the “public health diversion of the century.”

And the problem is not just the wasted time and billions of dollars dedicated to an unscientific myth. The bigger problem is that undue focus on the saturated fat bugaboo has stolen attention from the REAL causes of heart disease. And perhaps even worse, is that many of the dietary recommendations to reduce heart disease have actually been shown to CAUSE heart disease (not to mention cancer, diabetes and obesity).

If you truly want to protect yourself from the nation’s number one killer, don’t smoke and reduce your stress levels. At least the medical authorities have gotten those two right. And when it comes to your diet, forget about saturated fat and cholesterol. Here is what you should do instead:

• Consume more monounsaturated fats from sources like olive oil, nuts, avocados and avocado oil

• Cut out the sugar and refined carbohydrates

• Consume more omega-3 fatty acids, from wild game, grass-fed beef and bison, sardines and wild (not farm-raised) salmon. And take an omega-3 fish oil supplement.

• And reduce as much as possible omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. These come primarily from conventionally raised meats, processed foods, fried foods and vegetable and seed oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, cottonseed, etc.)


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