Is Saturated Fat Bad for You? #1

April 29, 2013

Is Saturated Fat Bad for You? #1 

ReferenceF. de Meester.  World Review of Nutrition 2009 

 We obsess about our cholesterol levels.  Our employers check our cholesterol at work.  Our grocery stores hawk “LOW FAT” on every product we look at.  And we keep getting fatter.  Our heart disease isn’t going away, although it is declining due to many factors.  But is cholesterol bad for you?  Should it be used in the conversation you have with your doctor?  

Let’s look at this topic with the above-mentioned study from Japan. Researchers took a meta-analysis (combination of many studies) that were conducted after 1995 that included mortality data as well as cholesterol data.  They wanted to go beyond just heart disease to total mortality.  They found 9 studies but had to exclude 5 because the data was not rigorous enough. They ended up with a population base of 150,000 people followed for about five years.  They split them up into five groups that mirrored the American Heart Association guidelines:  less than 160, 160-199, 200-239, 240 and above.  The AHA says under 200 is desirable, 200-240 is bad and over 240 is awful.  So, you tell me.  

Which group died the most, and which did the best.   Come on, commit yourself and demonstrate the bias we have all been programmed to believe.  Wouldn’t you say the group over 240? Well, it’s the opposite. The highest mortality came in the group under 160.  The folks at 200-240 did significantly better than lower folks and the over 240 folks did even better.  That’s backwards, isn’t it? This is a conundrum!  It turns everything we know about heart disease up side down.  

So what is the real story?  Is this research meaningful?  Actually, this article is a sentinel idea that we will explore over the next few weeks.  Our focus on cholesterol has been directed because we thought cholesterol caused heart disease.  The true causes of heart disease turn out to be different.  Inflammation caused by fructose, sugar, and high glycemic foods with subsequent insulin resistance is a much better candidate for causing heart disease.  But the real underlying 30,000-foot explanation is that our food causes hormonal responses far more powerful than any drug we take.  Eating inflammation-causing foods like fructose ends up making fats in our blood, but those fats didn’t come from eating fat. They came from eating fructose.  Having high LDLs don’t come from eating meat, they come from eating high glycemic foods.  The irony is that avoiding fat encourages us to eat more sugar and more carbohydrates, and that ends up with more heart disease.  That’s what we will demonstrate over the next several weeks.  Hang on.  It’s a fun ride. 

 WWW. What will work for me?  To lose fat (weight), you have to eat fat. But you can’t eat fructose, sugar, or white carbohydrates.  They are the real sources of fat.  That means your bacon might be better for you than your toast.  Yup.  Next week.  Bacon.   

Pop Quiz 

 1.   The Meta-analysis from Japan reported here followed 150,000 people for 5 years after combining 9 studies for all their data.  T or F                        Answer:   That's what they did.  Good summary. 

 2.    The findings of the study were that folks with the very lowest cholesterol, under 160, lived the longest.  T or F                             Answer:   False.  Read it again.  You have it backwards. 

 3.   The American Heart Association says a cholesterol level over 200 is problematic and over 240 is dangerous.  T or F?                        Answer:    That would be true. 

 4.   There is a big disconnect between our national guidelines from a national organization and the science presented here.  T or F?                            Answer:    True 

 5.  Who do you believe more, 7 older men from the American Heart Association, most with labs funded by statin-making pharmaceutical companies, sitting on a committee, or good science published in a peer-reviewed journal.                         Answer:  You make the call. Watch this on YouTube!  

Column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI