Are saturated fats inherently bad for you? For years, the idea drilled into our heads has been that the saturated fats found in meat, cheese, and butter are to be largely avoided due to the increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, and heart disease. But now we’re not so sure.
A new analysis of research was released in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine this week, and reported by the New York Times health blog here, cast doubt upon this guideline.
The new research reviewed over 80 studies that looked at what the participants reportedly ate, plus blood test results that measured fatty acids and cholesterol levels. This analysis did not find increased heart disease in those who ate less saturated fat, nor did it find less disease in those eating more unsaturated fat—the good stuff found in natural foods like olive oil, fish, and avocados. It did, however, notice a benefit in those taking Omega-3 fish-oil supplements in preventing the onset of heart disease.
But before you go stuffing your face full of butter and cheese with abandon, consider this: isolating individual fat content or nutrient group is extremely misleading. Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, confirms that “the single macronutient approach is outdated.” People cutting down on fats tend to eat more bread, cereal, and other refined carbohydrates that can be equally as bad for cardiovascular and overall health. Dr. Hu suggests following a Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, nuts, high-fiber grains, and olive oil.
“My take on this would be that it’s not saturated fat that we should worry about,” said Dr. Rajiv Chowdhurry, the lead author of the new study and cardiovascular epidemiologist and Cambridge University. ” It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be our focus.” The smaller, more artery clogging particles are increased not by saturated fat, but by sugars found in sweets and simple carbohydrates. So what’s left to eat?
“I think future dietary guidelines will put more and more emphasis on real food,” said Dr. Hu, as opposed to strict limits on macronutrients like carbs, fats, and proteins. Check out the potential new guidelines and nutrition label reform. Bottom line? If it grows from the ground or comes straight from the Earth, chances are it will forever have the green light. Though fear not nacho lovers, everything has it’s place in moderation…even cheese.