A massive international study of 600,000 people’s diets has found saturated fats like butter may not be as unhealthy as first thought.
Cambridge University academic have looked over previous studies on saturated fat and discovered there is no link to heart disease
According to health advice has been to cut down on saturated fats – found in butter, biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, cheese and cream. And instead people were urged to eat polyunsaturated fats – found in olive and sunflower oils and other non-animal fats. Research led by Cambridge University scientists, indicates there is no evidence to support current guidelines which restrict eating saturated fats to prevent heart disease.
The team collated results from 72 unique studies from 18 different countries and also found insufficient support for guidelines which advocate the high consumption of polyunsaturated fats (such as omega 3 and omega 6) to reduce the risk of coronary disease. Current NHS guidelines say a diet high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is traditionally found in butter, cheese, fatty meat, biscuits, cakes and sausages.
Men are not recommended to eat more than 30g of saturated fats and women no more than 20g.
Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, the lead author of the research, said, “These are interesting results that potentially stimulate new lines of scientific inquiry and encourage careful reappraisal of our current nutritional guidelines. In 2008, more than 17 million people died from a cardiovascular cause globally. With so many affected by this illness, it is critical to have appropriate prevention guidelines which are informed by the best available scientific evidence.”
The British Heart Foundation, which commissioned the research, says the findings could mean it is time to look into this accepted wisdom. The organisation is calling for more studies to clarify what is good and bad for our hearts. But is stresses that the findings do not mean it is fine to eat lots of cheese, pies and cakes.
The team, whose results appear in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, conducted a meta-analysis of data from 72 studies involving more than 600,000 participants from 18 countries.
A key finding was that total saturated fat, whether measured in the diet or the bloodstream, showed no association with heart disease. In addition, levels of “healthy” polyunsaturated fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 had no general effect on heart disease risk. Only omega-3 fatty acid found in oily fish was linked to a lower risk of heart disease. However, popular omega-3 and omega-6 supplements appeared to have no benefit.
Public Health England said previous studies make it ‘reasonable’ to conclude that saturated fat raises cholesterol and increases the risk of developing heart disease.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) is currently reviewing the evidence on dietary carbohydrates and a consultation on new guidelines will begin this summer.
Prof Bruce Griffin, Professor of Nutritional Metabolism at the University of Surrey, said, “Nutritional science is complex and imperfect, making it feasible to construct logical and compelling arguments that either one of these dietary components can exert more or less cardiovascular risk. To suggest that the theory relating saturated fat to increased total cholesterol is flawed, is nonsense, and contradicts 50 years of evidence-based medicine.”