For more than five decades we’ve been brainwashed to believe that saturated fat causes heart disease. It’s such a deeply ingrained belief that few people even question it. It’s just part of our culture now.
Almost every day one of my patients in the clinic tells me proudly that they have a “healthy” diet because they don’t eat butter, cheese or red meat or any other foods high in saturated fat (nevermind that red meat isn’t particularly high in saturated fat, but that’s a subject for another post). Or I might overhear someone at the grocery store saying how much they prefer whole fat yogurt to the low-fat version, but they eat the low-fat stuff anyways because they want to make the “healthy” choice.
What most people don’t realize is that it took many years to convince people that eating traditional, animal fats like butter and cheese is bad for you, while eating highly-processed, industrial vegetable oils like corn and soybean oil is good for you. This simply defied common sense for most people. But the relentless, widespread campaign to discredit saturated fat and promote industrial oils was eventually successful.
What if I told you that there’s absolutely no evidence to support the idea that saturated fat consumption causes heart disease? What if I told you that the 50+ years of cultural brainwashing we have all been subject to was based on small, poorly designed studies? And what if I told you that a review of large, well-designed studies published in reputable medical journals showed that there is absolutely no association between saturated fat and heart disease?
Well, that’s what I’m telling you. We’ve beed duped. Blindsided. Lied to. And we’ve suffered greatly as a result. Not only have we suffered from being encouraged to eat packaged and processed foods made with cheap, tasteless vegetable oils, but these very oils we were told would protect us from heart disease actually promote it! See my article How to Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease for more on that.
The recent review I’m talking about is a meta-analysis published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It pooled together data from 21 unique studies that included almost 350,000 people, about 11,000 of whom developed cardiovascular disease (CVD), tracked for an average of 14 years, and concluded that there is no relationship between the intake of saturated fat and the incidence of heart disease or stroke.
Let me put that in layman’s terms for you:
Eating saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease.
There. That’s it. That’s really all you need to know. But if you’d like to read more about it, John Briffa and Chris Masterjohn have written articles about it here and here.
I wonder how long it will take for this information to trickle down into the mainstream culture? Unfortunately it’s not going to happen overnight. Paradigm shifts don’t work that way. But I’ve seen some positive signs, and I do believe the tide is turning. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 50 years.