Don't hold the cream. New evidence suggests that a diet high in saturated fats could be good for your heart, and even reduce your risk of diabetes. Oh, and it won't do your diet any harm either, according to the study's authors.
Researchers at Bergen University followed two groups of obese and overweight men for 12 weeks. Each group was placed on a calorie-controlled, nutrient-rich diet. The first group obtained 53% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. Meanwhile, 73% of the second group's calories came from butter, cream and cold-pressed coconut oil (with butter making up 24% of their daily intake). Weight loss averaged 12kg in both groups. However, despite evidence that a 5% increase in saturated fat intake equates to a 25% increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease, recently reported by Harvard University, the Bergen researchers discovered that, "the very high intake of total and saturated fat did not increase the calculated risk of cardiovascular diseases". In fact, levels of HDL (good) cholesterol increased.
"These results indicate that most healthy people probably tolerate a high intake of saturated fat well, as long as the fat quality is good and total energy intake is not too high. It may even be healthy," Ottar Nygard continued. The key? Choosing high-quality, unprocessed sources of fat, and eating them within the context of a healthy diet rich in fresh, minimally processed, nutritious foods, including plenty of vegetables, according to PhD candidate Vivian Veum.
"Participants on the very-high-fat diet also had substantial improvements in several important cardiometabolic risk factors, such as ectopic fat storage, blood pressure, blood lipids (triglycerides), insulin and blood sugar," Nygard explained. It's early days, and the NHS response is cautious, but these findings could point to a role for fat in helping to prevent and/or treat diabetes.
The findings build on previous evidence that extra-virgin coconut oil can reduce waist circumference and BMI and raise HDL cholesterol in heart disease patients, and may help to reduce the risk of and manage the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
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