Monday, October 28, 2013

A Catalyst for fat myths. The Heart of the Matter. Catalyst ABC TV

Last Thursday (October 24) the ABC Catalyst program aired part one of the Fat Myths and how saturated fat and cholesterol are not actually the ogres the some would have us believe. 
 I was amazed to see it actually as Catalyst is normally very conservative but this was good and there'll be a follow up this week looking at statins (my pet topic after my book “The Great Cholesterol Deception”.  I was also amazed that it was the number one watched program that night and next Thursday it will be even bigger.

The Catalyst program highlighted that despite decades of organizations like The Heart Foundation and Nutrition Australia telling the public there really is no credible scientific evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease or, more generally, cardiovascular disease. It was embarrassing to say the least to see the Heart Foundation squirm on TV. Although we are constantly told that saturated fats are “bad” and that margarine is better than butter (which it is not), there is no evidence to support this “bad fat” myth.

Unfortunately there are many myths perpetuated by certain members of the health industry as well as so-called reputable groups who have strong vested interests in margarine and other foods. For example the position paper by the Heart Foundation 3 states that:
 Saturated fatty acids (SFA) intake is associated with coronary heart disease (CHD); and
 Replacing SFA with omega-6 PUFA (vegetable oils) to achieve a ratio of PUFA to SFA of greater than 1 will reduce the risk of CHD.

While a quote from Nutrition Australia states  “Butter is high in saturated fats and when consumed in excess amounts it can increase LDL (BAD) cholesterol levels, thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

During the past 40 years the dietary instructions from governments and other authoritative bodies have told us to avoid all animal fats. Average fat consumption decreased, average blood cholesterol levels decreased and vegetable oils increased but the rate of heart disease and the cost of its treatment continued to rise.

The Catalyst program highlighted that poor studies and vested interests have led us astray and date back over 100 years to studies feeding rabbits animal fat, although rabbits normally do not eat meat or animal fat. The evidence against saturated fat has at best always been circumstantial. That is, saturated fat was said to elevate blood cholesterol and elevated blood cholesterol was said to cause heart disease therefore saturated fat would cause heart disease. There never has been any direct evidence that cholesterol or saturated fat cause heart disease or even of a mechanism whereby heart disease would occur.

Even the famous Framingham study, which originally hinted at a problem with saturated fats, now shows there is no association between dietary fat and heart disease and indeed the association of elevated cholesterol and heart disease is limited to a small segment of the study population. In the Framingham Heart Study, researchers working with a population-based cohort study, a total of 832 men, aged 45 through 65 years, found the risk of ischemic stroke declined with total fat, saturated fat and monounsaturated fat (e.g., olive oil) but not polyunsaturated fat such as margarine and vegetable oils. In effect, increased intakes of fat, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat (olive oil) were associated with reduced risk of ischemic stroke in men. The exact opposite of what we have been told.

The evidence continues to mount that there’s no benefit and, in fact, probable harm from a low-fat diet. I cringe when I hear people talking about a low fat diet and laugh at all the marketing around low fat foods which are usually both full of sugars and low nutrient density carbohydrates.

In a recent review of dietary guidelines, researchers were scathing of the guidelines for critical weaknesses, including use of an incomplete body of relevant science; inaccurately representing, interpreting, or summarizing the literature; and drawing conclusions and/or making recommendations that do not reflect the limitations or controversies in the science. This is a mild way of saying scientific lying.

This is all summed up in a major independent, international review by The Expert Consultation held jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in late 2008 which found no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease. The WHO/FAO report states: “Intake of SFA [saturated fatty acids] was not significantly associated with CHD mortality…. SFA intake was not significantly associated CHD events [e.g., heart attacks]…. fatal CHD was not reduced by… low-fat diets.”

For the sake of our health, and the health of our parents and children, it’s time to change our thinking and start questioning what we are told about saturated fats and for that matter a lot of the information we are spoon fed.

Interestingly and as expected Catalyst was approached by a medical professor who called on the ABC to drop the second program -  totally predictable comment - but the AMA head is more supportive and says the profession needs to examine the evidence. About time!

I say BRING it on and watch Catalyst next Thursday.

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