People have been looking for a link between saturated fat and heart disease for decades and it simply doesn’t exist. But people think it must exist because they think the AHA has been telling them the truth all these years (they haven’t been; although they do have members on the advisory committee who know the truth, the old timers simply are larger in number and out vote the guys who know the facts).
Take a look at the clinical studies cited by the AHA. Most people never do this and the AHA is counting on that. I did this. What I found was that they will only cite studies linking saturated fat and LDL-C. Then they make the assumption that LDL-C has a high correlation with heart disease. But that correlation is debatable. For example, see A comparison of lipid variables as predictors of cardiovascular disease in the Asia Pacific region, The straight dope on cholesterol, and many others).
I have not found any studies that have been able to link consumption of saturated fat and heart disease directly. They all link sat fat and LDL-C and then there is the argument “of course, everyone knows LDL-C is a huge risk factor for heart disease.” Except it doesn’t seem to be true. But it wasn’t until 2007 that people figured this out (see LDL Particle Number and Risk of Future Cardiovascular Disease in the Framingham Offspring Study – Implications for LDL Management).
AHA focuses on LDL-C and ignore the fact that the trials they cite (DASH, which was meant to test blood pressure, not CVD) and Omniheart, see LDL-C going down but also see drops in HDL-C, which go unmentioned. So they are giving people really bad advice by ignoring the better predictors (HDL-C ratios shown below) while focusing on the random predictor (LDL-C)
The AHA, like the DGAC, excludes all the major clinical trials on hard end-points. Most of these were NIH-funded. These include those famously big trials like the Minnesota Coronary Survey, LA Veteran’s Study, Oslo Study, etc. all of which show no impact of sat-fat restriction on mortality. Hard endpoints are more reliable than soft.
Today, we know that the better predictors of heart disease are:
- LDL-P (particle count); e.g., see this article
- ApoB, e.g., see this article
- C-reactive protein (CRP or hs-CRP), see this article
- Triglyceride/HDL ratio (see this article)
So where is the study linking the consumption of saturated fat with elevated levels of these measures? There aren’t any as far as I know!
Saturated fat raises HDL which is good for you (everyone agrees on that).
Famous keo diet guru Jimmy Moore, for example, gets most of his calories from fat (including saturated fat) and his hsCRP and triglyceride/HDL ratios are both very low. The whole war on fat has been completely misguided. The truth is the more fat you eat, the thinner you get. But because few people know/believe this (and in fact believe the opposite that “fat is bad”), we have a fat society.
Even better are the stats for Richard Bernstein. He’s a Type 1 diabetic. He eats no carbs, about 80% fat, and 20% protein. He eats the ultimate low-carb diet. His numbers (p. 137 of his book) are simply unbelievable:
LDL: 53 (below 100 is normal)
HDL: 123 (above 39 is normal)
Triglycerides: 45 (below 150 is normal)
Lipoprotein(a): undetectable (below 10 is normal)
Now if you know of anyone on any diet with better numbers than this, please let me know.
So if eating saturated fat is so bad, how can Richard Bernstein be so heart healthy? The answer is simple: he’s heart healthy because he avoids carbs.
If you lower LDL with drugs, that reduces your risk of heart disease. But if you eat saturated fat and it raises LDL, does that increase your risk of heart disase? It’s an interesting question. Intuitively it would seem that it must be true, but not necessarily because LDL-C is not so simple and there are various “types” of LDL-C, and there is no data showing a link between sat fat and heart disease. That’s why Time wrote the big article about saturated fat “War on Fat.”