A review of previously unpublished data from an older study shows that the advice repeatedly given by the American Heart Association (amongst many others) to replace consumption of saturated animal fats (like butter) with polyunsaturated vegetable fats (like vegetable oil and margarine) may be entirely wrong. Here’s what Tom Naughton makes of the news, from the Fat Head blog…
Well, I am shocked: researchers recently discovered some lost data from a 40-year-old study on heart disease, analyzed the lost data, and discovered … wait for it …the animal fats we’ve been consuming for hundreds of thousands of years appear to be better for our health than the chemically extracted vegetable oils we’ve only been consuming for the past 100 years.
I know, I know … you can’t believe it either, can you? The new analysis has (fortunately) been making a bit of a splash in the media. Here are some quotes from an article published in the online edition of Forbes:
In an exceedingly strange turn of events, data from a clinical trial dating from the 1960s, long thought to be lost, has now been resurrected and may contribute important new information to the very contemporary controversy over recommendations about dietary fat composition.
The American Heart Association has long urged people to increase their consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including omega 6 PUFAs, and reduce their consumption of saturated fatty acids. The recommendations are based on the simple observation that PUFAs lower total and LDL cholesterol while SFAs have the opposite effect. However, the cardiovascular effects of substituting PUFAs for SFAs have never been tested in randomized, well-controlled clinical trials, and a growing proportion of experts now suspect that simple changes in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol may not tell the whole story.
Let’s just stop and re-read part of that paragraph.
However, the cardiovascular effects of substituting PUFAs for SFAs have never been tested in randomized, well-controlled clinical trials …
We’ve never had anything remotely resembling actual proof that substituting vegetable oils for animal fats prevents heart disease. But the lack of proof didn’t stop an entire industry from building up around the belief that vegetable oils are better for our health – just visit your grocery store and look at all the tubs of Smart Balanceand other butter substitutes touting the fact that they contain less saturated fat.
The lack of proof didn’t stop The Guy From CSPI from harassing the restaurant industry into substituting vegetable oils for the lard and tallow they once used to fry foods. (And a chicken-fried steak hasn’t tasted the same since.) The lack of proof didn’t stop schools, hospitals, company cafeterias, and just about every other institution that serves meals from dumping butter in favor of margarine. The lack of proof doesn’t stop the average doctor, dietitian or nutritionist from believing that hundreds or even thousand of studies have shown that animal fats cause heart disease…