$1,000,000,000 Worth of Research Later: Eating Fat Does *Not* Harm Health
The last post concluded with Harvard University researcher F.B. Hu informing us that “It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences.” Here’s the supporting data I promised.
- When P.W. Siri-Tarino of the Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland examined 21 studies which included a total of 347,747 people, he found: “There is nosignificant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease or cardiovascular disease.”
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded an enormous trial designed to link the consumption of foods containing fat to heart disease. The $115 million Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial took 12,866 men with high cholesterol, split them into two groups, and fed one group the government guidelines’ diet for seven years with the hopes of lowering the incidence of heart disease. The government’s diet resulted in a 7.1% increase in heart disease deaths.
- The Women’s Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health completed a $700 million study to test the fat hypothesis. A whopping 48,835 women ate their normal diet or the government dietfor about eight years. At the end of the study, the regular- and government-dietwomen weighed the same and no differences were found in their health. The researchers concluded: “Dietary intervention that reduced total fat intake did not significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease.” As reported in the study: “[This] trial is the largest long-term randomized trial of a dietary intervention ever conducted to our knowledge, and it achieved an 8.2% reduction…in total fat intake…No significant effects on incidence of coronary heart disease or stroke were observed.” The New York Times ran the headline: Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds.
- A massive study named MONICA involved 113 groups of scientists and doctors in twenty-seven countries studying everything they thought could contribute to heart disease. They found little if any association between the average cholesterol level and heart-related mortality.
- In The Western Electric Study—known in academic circles as one of “the most informative prospective studies to date”—researchers concluded: “Although the focus of dietary recommendations is usually a reduction of saturated fat intake, no relation between saturated fat intake and risk of coronary heart disease was observed [in their study].”
There’s no shortage of data. In the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study, 28,098 men and women were split into four groups according to their intake of foods containing fat. After six years of observation, researchers found: “Individuals receiving more than 30% of their total daily energy from fat and more than 10% from saturated fat, did not have increased mortality. Current dietary guidelines concerning fat intake are thus generally not supported by our observational results [data].” Additionally: “With our results added to the pool of evidence from large-scale prospective cohort studies on dietary fat, disease and mortality, traditional dietary guidelines concerning fat intake are thus generally not strongly supported.” And the icing on the cake: “No deteriorating effects of high saturated fat intake were observed for either sex for any cause of death.”
I’ll briefly point out three more studies: the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, and the Nurses’ Health Study 2. Together these studies tracked 300,000 people. None of these studies showed total fat intake increasing the risk of heart disease. The only conclusive finding was that eating more plant fats—such as the fats in flax seeds and nuts—lowers the risk of heart disease. The researchers involved reported:
“Intake of linolenic acid [unsaturated fat] was inversely associated with risk of myocardial infarction [heart attacks]…These data do not support the strong association between intake of saturated fat and risk of coronary heart disease suggested by international comparisons.”
The government was trying to help with the guidelines, but sadly, it failed. Even worse, it keeps on failing. Scientists know it, and the data show it. In the next few posts we’ll expose why we haven’t been told about it.
- Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jan 13. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 20071648.
- Multiple risk factor intervention trial. Risk factor changes and mortality results. Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial Research Group. JAMA. 1982 Sep 24;248(12):1465-77. PubMed PMID: 7050440.
- Howard BV, Van Horn L, Hsia J, Manson JE, Stefanick ML, Wassertheil-Smoller S, Kuller LH, LaCroix AZ, Langer RD, Lasser NL, Lewis CE, Limacher MC, Margolis KL, Mysiw WJ, Ockene JK, Parker LM, Perri MG, Phillips L, Prentice RL, Robbins J, Rossouw JE, Sarto GE, Schatz IJ, Snetselaar LG, Stevens VJ, Tinker LF, Trevisan M, Vitolins MZ, Anderson GL, Assaf AR, Bassford T, Beresford SA, Black HR, Brunner RL, Brzyski RG, Caan B, Chlebowski RT, Gass M, Granek I, Greenland P, Hays J, Heber D, Heiss G, Hendrix SL, Hubbell FA, Johnson KC, Kotchen JM. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of cardiovascular disease: The Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA. 2006 Feb 8;295(6):655-66. PubMed PMID: 16467234.
- Tuomilehto J, Kuulasmaa K. WHO MONICA Project: assessing CHD mortality and morbidity. Int J Epidemiol. 1989;18(3 Suppl 1):S38-45. PubMed PMID: 2807706.
- Willett W. Challenges for public health nutrition in the 1990s. Am J Public Health. 1990 Nov;80(11):1295-8. PubMed PMID: 2240291; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1404889.
- Leosdottir M, Nilsson PM, Nilsson JA, Månsson H, Berglund G. Dietary fat intake and early mortality patterns–data from the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study. JIntern Med. 2005 Aug;258(2):153-65. PubMed PMID: 16018792.
- Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Giovannucci EL, Spiegelman D, Stampfer M, Willett WC. Dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease in men: cohort follow up study in the United States. BMJ. 1996 Jul 13;313(7049):84-90. PubMed PMID: 8688759; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2351515.
- McCullough ML, Feskanich D, Rimm EB, Giovannucci EL, Ascherio A, Variyam JN, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and risk of major chronic disease in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Nov;72(5):1223-31. PubMed PMID: 11063453.
- Willett WC, Leibel RL. Dietary fat is not a major determinant of body fat. Am J Med. 2002 Dec 30;113 Suppl 9B:47S-59S. Review. PubMed PMID: 12566139.
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