Excerpt from my book Ignore the Awkward!
News from the WHO – A Dietary U-Turn
After almost twenty years of meticulous reading of the scientific reports about diet and cardiovascular disease I haven’t found any valid argument against saturated fat. Instead, there are a large number of contradictory observations, as you will learn if you go to Myth 4. But if you ask the authorities they withhold their warnings by referring to the 2003 WHO/FAO Expert Consultation. Let us therefore see what “the worlds best experts” have to say about it.
According to that paper, “the relationship between dietary fats and CVD (cardiovascular disease), especially coronary heart disease, has been extensively investigated, with strong and consistent associations emerging from a wide body of evidence”. This statement was followed by a reference to a consensus report from the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association. The only evidence presented in that report are studies claiming that saturated fat raises cholesterol, and a single study claiming that intake of saturated fat may cause myocardial infarction.
The first argument is not true, as you know already and the second is not true either. However, in the summary of that paper you can read that “our findings suggest that replacing saturated and trans unsaturated fats with unhydrogenated monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is more effective in preventing coronary heart disease in women than reducing overall fat intake.”
You would probably think that the study was a dietary trial, but it was not. It was a study of 80,000 healthy nurses who had been studied for almost twenty years. At the start of the study and every following year, the researchers from Harvard asked them about their usual diet. At the end of the study the diet of those who had suffered a heart attack was compared with the diet of those who had remained healthy. The term “replacing” did not mean that they had replaced anything; it was a result of complicated statistical calculations based on the dietary information. The truth is, that on average there were just as many heart attacks among those who had the lowest intake of saturated fat as among those with the highest; this fact appears clearly from the tables in their report. Neither has any of the Harvard-researchers previous reports shown that.
Recently (September 2009) a new WHO-report was published entitled Fats and Fatty Acid Requirements for Adults. In co-operation with FAO 28 experts had been selected to scrutinize the scientific literature about dietary fat. This time the authors have looked at all types of studies and realized that something is wrong. For instance, on page 191 two of the authors declare that ”the available evidence from cohort and randomised controlled trials is unsatisfactory and unreliable to make judgement about and substantiate the effects of dietary fat on risk of CHD–
But don’t we get diabetes if we eat too much saturated fat? This is what we have been told for many years.
No, no. On page 239 you can read that “there is insufficient evidence at this time to determine the association between diabetes risk and intake of total fat or of any particular type of fat”.
And on the same page you can read that “the data on the association between total fat intake and saturated fat intake and body weight remain inconclusive”.
Are we now allowed to feast on good animal food again without being anxious about out health?
Oh no, it takes time to change old habits. On page 60 Elmadfa and Kornsteiner declare that “there is convincing evidence that substituting SFA( saturated fatty acids) with mainlyPUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) reduces the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease)”. And they continue with the following statement: “The intake of saturated fatty acid should not exceed a MAL (maximum level) of 10%E (10 % of the total caloric intake) to keep cholesterol levels in a normal range and to reduce the risk of CHD”.
Obviously the twenty-eight authors haven’t conferred with each other because Skeaff and Miller’s figure 12 clearly shows that a high intake of PUFAs is associated with an increased risk of dying from heart disease, whereas figure 8 shows no association with intake of SFA.