The American Heart Association (AHA) has issued a new “Presidential Advisory” on dietary fats and cardiovascular disease to “set the record straight” on the dangers of saturated fats.
The statement by the American Heart Association, June 15, continues to strongly recommend replacing saturated fats with poly- and monounsaturated vegetable oil to help prevent heart disease.
The statement also recommends that the shift from saturated to unsaturated fats should occur simultaneously in an overall healthful dietary pattern, such as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) (http://www.mortontavel.com/2013/05/02/) or the Mediterranean diets, and that “good carbohydrates,” such as whole grains and whole fruits, are other appropriate foods to substitute for saturated fats.
“We want to set the record straight on why well-conducted scientific research overwhelmingly supports limiting saturated fat in the diet,” stated lead author, Frank Sacks, MD, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.
Outside nutritional experts were fully supportive of the advisory, describing it as “an outstanding paper,” “exacting in its review of the evidence,” and “full of common sense.”
The AHA leadership decided that they needed to put out a new advisory on diet — particularly fats — because of various commentators on nutrition suggesting that saturated fat was innocuous, which has been widely covered in the media, but these comments were not scientifically based.
Unfortunately, a great deal of attention has been paid to controversial new studies that are not scientifically rigorous. A growing trend of media articles focusing on small studies suggests that some saturated fats are “good for you.” Some people suggest that eating butter and full-fat milk is beneficial. And coconut oil is a fad right now — but it is actually a saturated fat, which raises your LDL [low-density lipoprotein], so the AHA wanted to look at the issue again.
The AHA president issued an advisory identifying this as a key issue that needed attention. Conclusions were based on careful scientific review, organized in a very systematic way, involving experts from a wide range of fields who have looked very carefully at the literature. Then the recommendations were thoroughly vetted and passed through multiple levels of peer review and scientific advisory committees across the entire AHA. This statement focused on fats — what fats should we be eating — and they concluded very strongly that we all should eat less saturated fats, and these can be replaced by polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. This recommendation was supported by multiple scientific studies that demonstrated that by lowering intake of saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil, cardiovascular disease is reduced by approximately 30%. In addition, several studies found that coconut oil — which is predominantly saturated fat but widely touted as healthy — raised LDL cholesterol the same way as did other saturated fats found in butter, meat, and palm oil.
Their message is that “polyunsaturated fats are the best fats to eat. They are found mainly in vegetable oils such as soy bean oil, peanut oil, corn oil. Monounsaturated fats, found in sunflower oil, olive oil, nuts, and avocado, are also okay — much better than saturated fats, and may be as healthy as polyunsaturated fats.”
The last few years has seen an increase in knowledge on benefits of polyunsaturated fats. They are associated with a reduction in total mortality and no compensatory increase in death from other causes; they are also associated with a reduction in insulin resistance, helpful in combating diabetes.