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A new article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine claims that saturated fat does not increase the risk of a heart attack by clogging up arteries.
In the controversial report, three cardiologists cite a previous research study that “showed no association between saturated fat consumption and all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, CHD mortality, ischaemic stroke or type-2 diabetes in healthy adults”.
They also state that eating foods that boast certain health benefits such as ‘low fat’ and ‘proved to lower cholesterol’ to avoid cardiovascular disease are “misguided”, and that the best way to achieve optimal heart health is by eating an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, with plenty of fats, and walking for 22 minutes a day.
Other cardiologists have refuted these claims, saying they ignore contradicting evidence and would confuse the general public even more about what to eat.
“Unfortunately the authors have reported evidence simplistically and selectively,” says Dr. Banerjee, a senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant cardiologist at UCL. “They failed to cite a rigorous Cochrane systematic review which concluded that cutting down dietary saturated fat was associated with a 17% reduction in cardiovascular events, including CHD, on the basis of 15 randomised trials.”
Some have come out saying the new information is impractical for people unable to afford many components of the Mediterranean diet.
“The nature of their public health advice appears to be one of ‘let them eat nuts and olive oil’ with no consideration of how this might be successfully achieved in the UK general population and in people of different ages, socio-economic backgrounds or dietary preferences,” says Christine Williams, professor of human nutrition at Reading University.
Some scientists have come out in support of the research, lauding its advice of daily exercise and a diet of real, unprocessed foods.
Too much saturated fat is widely reported to increase bad cholesterol and risk of heart disease. The NHS recommends that the average woman consume no more than 20 grams per day, or 30 grams for men.
Foods high in saturated fat include full-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter and cream, meat, and baked goods such as cakes and biscuits.