Paper denying link between saturated fats and heart attacks criticized
Paper Denying Link Between Saturated Fats and Heart
Attacks Criticized
April 06, 2014
 by Gabe Mirkin, MD

A recent headline-making medical journal paper claiming
that reducing intake of saturated fats in animal
products does not prevent heart attacks (Ann Intern Med,
March 17, 2014;160(6):398-406-406) has been corrected,
although the authors were allowed to state their
opinion. Walter Willett, the chairman of the Department
of Nutrition at Harvard says: “It is good that they
fixed it for the record, but it has caused massive
confusion and the public hasn’t heard about the
correction. The paper should be withdrawn.”
 
The Study
 Researchers at Cambridge University in England reviewed
72 studies covering more than 600,000 people from 18
countries and found no heart attack prevention from
reducing intake of saturated fats in animal products
(this disagrees with the what most scientists believe),
and no heart attack prevention from taking increased
amounts of monounsaturated fats such as olive oil (this
also disagrees with what most scientists believe). The
authors feel that there is not enough evidence to state
that heart attacks are prevented by restricting
consumption of saturated fats (in meat) or taking in
large amounts of polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3
and omega-6 in fish and vegetables).
 
The lead author, Dr. Chowdhury, says “It’s the high
carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of
dietary guidelines.” The bad LDL cholesterol is raised
more by sugar and flour. Dr Alice H Lichtenstein of
Tufts University writes that the authors found no
benefit from reducing saturated fats because replacing
saturated fat (in meat) with polyunsaturated fat (in
plants) reduces heart disease risk, whereas replacing
saturated fat (in meat) with refined carbohydrate
(sugar, bakery products, pastas and potatoes) does not
prevent heart attacks.
 
What is Wrong with this Study
 Dr Eric B Rimm of Harvard School of Public Health says
“the results are in serious question.” When you reduce
saturated fats in meat, you have to eat something else.
Replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates
means that you are replacing one type of unhealthful
food (red meat) with another unhealthful type of food
(sugars and other refined carbohydrates). Saturated fat
is no better or worse than eating white bread. When you
substitute sugar, bread and pasta for red meat, you form
small cholesterol particles that cause heart attacks,
strokes, and premature death. You also raise your blood
sugar to increase risk for diabetes, cancers and
premature death.
 
My Recommendations
 It is established that eating large amounts of fruits
and vegetables helps to prevent heart attacks. You
should eat plenty of the foods that are typical of the
Mediterranean diet, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts,
fish, avocado, high-fiber whole grains and olive oil.
The current data show that the best diet for preventing
heart attacks involves:
 • eating lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and
beans,
 • restricting red meat, processed foods, partially
hydrogenated fats, fried foods and refined
carbohydrates, particularly drinks with sugar and foods
with added sugars.

(See also:
Saturated fats exonerated,
Paper denying link betweeen saturated fats and heart
attacks criticized)