For over forty years we have been told time and again how dangerous consuming high levels of saturated can be but now there’s been a massive medical turnaround, at least according to one doctor.
A diet packed with fat is a healthy way to prevent heart disease claims on expert in the field. Dr Aseem Malhotra is a cardiologist and he has written a piece on bmj.com that could potentially change everything we believe about a healthy diet. Malhotra goes as far to say that the world’s obsession with low-fat diets as ‘paradoxically increased’ the levels of heart disease.
Malhotra is not alone and other medical professionals have backed his assertion that 40 years of advice telling us all to cut sat fats should be ended and in fact this advice has now been labelled ‘the greatest medical error of our time’.
The experts collaboratively claim this guidance has resulted in millions of people finding themselves at risk of cardiovascular disease and Malhotra’s article also states that is has resulted in the over-medication of millions more patients with statins. The research boldly claims that people could just as easily protect themselves against heart trouble by consuming natural, regular foods including butter, milk and cheese alongside adopting the known to be healthy Mediterranean diet.
Even here we’ve discussed the right fats for your body in the past but it seems Malhotra’s research is going to change things a little. He claims outright that routine prescriptions of statins are not the answer and that a diet high in saturated fats could be three times more effective in lowering cholesterol. It’s believed around 8 million Brits currently take statins for cholesterol problems yet there has been no significant change in and therefore impact upon heart disease trends.
Malhotra is an interventional cardiology specialist registrar working at Croydon University Hospital and in his bmj.com article he asserts that our modern obsession with the total levels of cholesterol has diverted our attention from other, more dangerous conditions, highlighting in particular atherogenic dyslipidaemia, which amounts to an unfavourable ratio of blood fats.
Malhotra highlights how saturated fat has been described negatively and warned against since the 1970s. The obsession began with a landmark study which found a link between coronary heart disease and the body’s total cholesterol level, which correlated exactly with the percentage of calories provided by sat fats. Malhotra asserts ‘correlation is not causation’ but this research still meant that medical professionals were advised to tell patients that fat intake should be cut to 30% of total food intake and saturated fats should not make up more than 10% of this.
Bearing in mind the historic nature of this study, more recent research has not supported any clear or significant association between a person’s saturated fat intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact some studies have even found saturated fats to be protective.
A Journal of the American Medical Association looking into this found that what they described as a low fat diet showed both increased insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes) and the greatest drop in energy expenditure when compared with both low carb and low glycaemic index diets.
Malhotra highlights the United States as a prime case study for his research. He notes that obesity has increased rapidly in the country despite the fat-related calorie consumption dropping to 30% from 40% in the last 30 years. Saturated fats have been removed from products but in their place comes sugar which could be even more dangerous.
Malhotra is calling for doctors to embrace prevention before pushing treatment. He believes public health is most responsible for the improvements in morbidity and mortality across the world and we should really be busting the myth that saturated fats play a key role in heart disease and back up on all the dietary advice which is inadvertently increasing obesity.
More than anything else a statin is not enough on its own to curb the risk of heart disease. Adopting a Mediterranean diet, not smoking or drinking excessively are other elements that should be combined in a healthy lifestyle. The Mediterranean diet incorporates a hefty percentage of saturated fats but they’re considered healthy as part of the overall diet and eating habits.
The Mediterranean diet incorporates all the standard elements of what we describe as healthy but also gives you the chance to enjoy the unique cooking methods of the Mediterranean countries. The majority of the diet is based upon Greek eating habits and involves high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined whole cereals and gains, fruit and vegetables. Fish should be enjoyed on a high to moderate basis and dairy products including cheese and yoghurt should still be enjoyed moderately. Meat consumption is lower but can still be enjoyed.
Whether or not you choose to follow Dr Malhotra’s advice is an individual decision but it will be interesting to see if further research corroborates his article and whether the medical profession needs to reassess its complete dietary recommendations.
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