Recently, articles in the American Annals of Internal Medicine and the British Medical Journal have reviewed the literature and questioned the true role of “saturated fats” in causing heart disease. This of course made a big splash in the media and queries from our patients. We asked our nutritionist Rick Weissinger for his comments below:
“In these articles, investigators looked at a large number of studies that examined the intake of different fats on the risk for the nation’s #1 killer – heart disease. They thoroughly combed the available studies, including only those of high quality. Based on the health effects of saturated fat on blood cholesterol, the benefits of omega-3’s, and a well-established body of evidence linking unsaturated fats (particularly olive oil) to heart health, the results would have been expected to have concluded: saturated fat BAD; unsaturated fat GOOD.
The first question is, Why? The Second question: Is it safe to go back to eating cheeseburgers and ice cream again?
There are a number of possible reasons for these results. One is that heart disease has multiple causes, and diet is only one. In addition to the ‘traditional’ risk factors (smoking, family history, high cholesterol), there are about a dozen others, including new emerging risk factors, such as those captured by the VAP blood test done in Dr Taubman’s office. Many of these risk factors are influenced by how much excess weight you’re carrying, how active you are, how stressed you are…and something else not usually considered: the intrauterine environment in which you developed as a fetus.
Forget about all these others for a minute, and let’s focus on aspects of your diet not related to your fat intake. Americans don’t eat anywhere close to the amount of fruit, vegetable, and whole grains recommended by experts. Without these, we don’t get the antioxidants we need to fight atherosclerosis; we don’t get the magnesium we need to prevent our coronary arteries from going into spasm; we don’t get the fiber or chromium we need to keep insulin working normally. And because we don’t eat legumes, we miss out on an important strategy for lowering blood cholesterol which is unequivocally linked to heart disease.
The opinion of this Nutritionist is: we need to look at overall, lifelong dietary patterns if we want to judge whether diet makes a difference in heart disease or not. Studies, which have involved tens of thousands of people from all over the world, have revealed a lower coronary risk in people who eat Mediterranean and traditional (e.g., Asian) diets, and – not surprisingly – a higher risk in people eating a Western diet. Think about that the next time you’re deciding between oatmeal with fruit and a cheese omelet or cheeseburger.”