Saturated fats are often blamed for high cholesterol and known as being the cardiac killer. Their role in human health is something to be feared. It’s the one big scary word that sends young and old alike into a fit of panic if they are informed by medical staff that their cholesterol is “high”. The instant thought for recovery is margarine and a low fat diet. It has been so deeply ingrained into our culture that we don’t even think twice about it. But science and research are now showing something different, however it may take society, medicine and the inbuilt public belief system a long time to catch up.
Heart disease has been listed as the number one killer in western cultures today. Saturated fats and high cholesterol have been blamed for this. But so many deaths are labelled cardiac as doctors are required by law to put a cause of death, even if it is simply “old age”. In these situations, the heart tends to take the fall. People recorded as dying from cardiac disease have often lived just as long as other people, as long as they should.
Historically the belief that the connection between heart attacks and the amount of cholesterol circulating through the body was began from a study in Framingham in 1948. They found the fat in our diets and cholesterol in our bloods were responsible for the build up of plaque in arteries that caused heart disease. So the obvious solution was to lower the intake of fatty foods which will lower cholesterol.
This theory was further pushed by Ancel Keys in 1958 with his study on the Mediterranean diet. He found that there was a correlation between saturated fat in the diet and that it was the cause of heart disease. Cholesterol is actually a hormone produced naturally inside the body. It is an important substance. High amounts of HDL are important for heart health. Dietary fats can raise good cholesterol while carbohydrates can raise LDL or bad cholesterol.
Just because food contains fat, doesn’t mean it is unhealthy. It does not mean it is bad for your heart. The development of a low fat diet to cure heart attack plague was incorrect. Today we know HDL (the good cholesterol) is raised when we eat certain fats, the very opposite suggestion of Ancel Keys and the Framingham study. In 2013 the largest study on heart health was conducted by Cambridge and Harvard were it was revealed that “It’s complicated in the sense that some foods with are high in saturated fats seem very consistently to reduce heart disease.” We have been taking medical advice from research that was conducted 70 years ago and is now being proven as incorrect.
A recent study combined 21 unique studies over 14 years and showed there was no relationship between the intake of saturated fat and heart disease. Another study showed the same results where mortality was twice as high with those that had been admitted with low cholesterol. The debates continue and further investigation is required on the cholesterol hypothesis, but tides are turning to show that eating saturated fat does NOT cause heart disease.
Recently, WHO and FAO published reports concluding there was “no satisfactory or reliable evidence to support the idea that saturated fats causes heart disease”.
I am confident that we will see a change in the next few years with a revolutionary shift in direction on saturated fats and heart disease. Cholesterol will not always be the “bad buy”. There is a growing argument and evidence among medical scientists as more research is conducted showing saturated fat is in fact no the cause of heart disease.
References: princetonhealthusa.com - Dr Bereliani
 Lipid levels in patients hospitalised with coronary artery disease: an analysis of 136,905 hospitalisations in Get With The Guidelines. Sachdeva A1, Cannon CP, Deedwania PC, Labresh KA, Smith SC Jr, Dai D, Hernandez A, Fonarow GC. Department of Medicine, UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA90095-1679, USA.