New Research: Saturated Fats CAN Be Part of Heart-Healthy Diet

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Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 04/08/2014

New Research: Saturated Fats CAN Be Part of  Heart-Healthy Diet
New research released yesterday confirms what I’ve been saying for years—that saturated fats are not the villain. One radio station put it best when they said that a new study shows that saturated fats like butter shouldn’t be replaced with unsaturated fats like margarine in the name of “heart health.” I couldn’t agree more.
 
This new research was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by a group of researchers at the University of Cambridge. For their study, they conducted a meta-analysis of 76 previous studies on fatty acid intake and coronary risk. What they found is what I’ve been preaching for years, that saturated fat doesn’t increase heart attack risk.
 
In fact, I was the lead author on a paper published in February in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition on this same topic—called The Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Statin Controversy A Commentary. One of the strongest studies we cited in that paper was a large-scale meta-analysis conducted by researchers at Children’s Hospital Oakland. They examined 21 studies and nearly 350,000 people and found no association between dietary intake of saturated fats and cardiovascular risk.
 

Is There a Downside to Saturated Fats?

Yes. While saturated fats can be part of a heart-healthy diet, you need to be careful because many sources of saturated fat contain insecticides and pesticides. So, it’s important to choose smart, selecting range-free beef, organic eggs, and the like. 

Plus, many of the foods that have been vilified for years because of their saturated fat content—such as coconut and avocado—are some of the best source of saturated fats. In fact, choosing smart is one of the reasons I co-authored The Great Cholesterol Myth Cookbook
 
The present study conducted at the University of Cambridge also looked at omega-6 oils, trans-fats, and fish oil. As expected, trans-fats—which should never be part of a heart-healthy diet—were a disaster. They also suggested that omega-3s as well as omega-6s did not make a difference in cardiovascular disease. 
 
The current evidence does not support the high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and the low consumption of saturated fats. In a nutshell, saturated fats are the most resistant to oxidation but the polyunsaturated fats, like the omega-6s, are the least resistant to oxidation. Plus, the omega-3s that you get in the diet or from omega-3 supplements are protected from oxidation because they’re in softgels. 
 

The Bottom Line for Me Is This…

I will continue to eat saturated fats as part of my heart-healthy diet, and I will certainly continue to eat monounsaturated fats like nuts and olive oil
 
Also, I will certainly continue to take omega-3 supplements because there are a huge number of studies on the benefits of omega-3s. Omega-3s help to reduce arterial inflammation and thin the blood. Plus, they help to counter plaque buildup and rupture. 
 
Omega-3s also have other benefits for your health. For example, is a long-term population study from Finland that demonstrated that high omega-3 intake cuts diabetes risk by one third. Plus, we need omega-3s for brain function and normal growth and development—and omega-3 supplements are one of the best ways to get those omega-3s.
 
Now, if saturated fats aren’t the villain in heart disease what is the real culprit? Hands-down the biggest dietary culprit for heart disease is sugar. That’s because white flour and processed sugars lead to inflammation which is the real cause of cardiovascular disease—not saturated fats.
 
Now it’s your turn: Do you eat saturated fats in your diet?
 

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