The Argument over Saturated Fats…

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Saturated fats used to be considered public enemy number one. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) set by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee of the US Department of Agriculture in 1980 called for a reduction in saturated fats and an increase in grains, cereals and unsaturated oils in the American diet. In 2015 the principle arguments of 1980 were renewed in the latest DGA. This however, caused an uproar among nutritionists who had been looking at the evidence that has emerged over the last 30 years. The Open Letter to the Secretaries of the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services on the creation of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is a representative of that dissonant voice and was published in the American Journal of Nutrition….an excerpt follows:

“All available data show that since the first DGA were created in 1980, Americans have shifted their diets in the direction of federal dietary guidance: consuming more grains, cereals, and vegetable oils, while consuming less saturated fat and cholesterol from whole foods such as meat, butter, eggs, and full fat milk. During this time period, the prevalence of heart failure and stroke has increased significantly. Rates of new cases of all cancers have risen. Most notably, rates of diabetes have tripled….The DGA not only fail to prevent chronic disease, in some cases, they have failed to provide basic guidance consistent with nutritionally adequate diets…” (Hite, Schoenfeld, 2015)

Before the DGA Americans were encouraged and educated to consume foods based on what those foods could provide nutritionally, not on foods that should be avoided or restricted due to believed ill consequence (Hite, Schoenfeld, 2015). The ill- consequence hypothesis is always changing as we begin to learn more and more about cause and effect…while the nutritional needs of people is put forth as a less volatile, more constant and evidence based area of study (Hite, Schoenfeld, 2015). The Open Letter calls for a return to focus on the foods that provide nutrition. The authors of The Open Letter offer an example of nutritional deficit to which the DGA may be a contributor. It is put forth that for the last 30 years due to DGA recommendations, the consumption of eggs and organ meats has drastically reduced from statistics prior to 1980, and yet these are important sources of choline, federally recognized as an essential nutrient in 1998 for heart health among other benefits (Hite, Schoenfeld, 2015). The incidence of coronary heart disease, the very illness these dietary restrictions were meant to address, has increased over this time period and not decreased (Hite, Schoenfeld, 2015).

In addition, some studies have shown recently that refined carbohydrates could be worse than saturated fat for heart disease patients (Hu 2010) and that the addition of saturated fats in the diet tended to eliminate some risk factors for heart disease (Jacobson 2010) Saturated fats are long and medium chain fatty acids consisting of carbon atoms that are single- bonded to hydrogen atoms, all of the double bonds between carbon atoms have been broken and hydrogen atoms have bound to the carbon instead. Saturated fats are mostly solid at room temperature and are resistant to becoming rancid due to their saturation with hydrogen as opposed to possible bonds with oxygen (Jacobson, 2010). Saturated fats derive from animal products and also plant products, such as avocados, palm, cocoa butter and coconut oils and provide essential fatty acids to the diet shown to be beneficial to brain, heart and nerve tissue (Jacobson, 2010).

Personally I feel better and have more energy on a high fat diet. I include saturated fats such as those from organic meats, raw egg yolks, organ meat, raw butter, raw cheeses, and local Amish farm fresh whole milk, coconut and cocoa butter, as well as avocados. My cholesterol and blood sugar readings are perfect. I agree with the authors of The Open Letter and believe it is most important to supply a variety of whole foods and focus on providing nutrition in the diet.

Hite, AH., Schoenfeld, P., (2015) Open letter to the Secretaries of the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services on the creation of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Nutrition; 31 (5): 776-779

Hu, F. B., (2010) Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat? Am J Clin Nutr; 91(6):1541-2

Jacobson, M. U., (2010) Intake of carbohydrates compared with intake of saturated fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction: importance of the glycemic index. Am J Clin Nutr ;91(6):1764-8

Liu S, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, (2000) A prospective study of dietary glycemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women. Am J Clin Nutr ;71:1455–617.

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