Guess what. An old research study, recently unearthed, suggests that you should not worry so much about saturated fat. If your body wants a burger or some eggs, dig in.
The study demonstrated, to the horror of more than a few nutritionists, that having what is called a healthy wholesome diet, the kind the Michelle Obama is forcing down the throats of America’s schoolchildren, is not really very good for you. Might it be that these same nutritionists are trying to soften up America's youth, especially America's boys.
True enough, a low saturated fat diet did reduce cholesterol. But, those who had lowered their cholesterol also increased their chances of early death.
The New York Times reports:
The research, known as the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, was a major controlled clinical trial conducted from 1968 to 1973, which studied the diets of more than 9,000 people at state mental hospitals and a nursing home.
During the study, which was paid for by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and led by Dr. Ivan Frantz Jr. of the University of Minnesota Medical School, researchers were able to tightly regulate the diets of the institutionalized study subjects. Half of those subjects were fed meals rich in saturated fats from milk, cheese and beef. The remaining group ate a diet in which much of the saturated fat was removed and replaced with corn oil, an unsaturated fat that is common in many processed foods today. The study was intended to show that removing saturated fat from people’s diets and replacing it with polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oils would protect them against heart disease and lower their mortality.
When researchers got around to analyzing the results, they were surprised:
Participants who ate a diet low in saturated fat and enriched with corn oil reduced their cholesterol by an average of 14 percent, compared with a change of just 1 percent in the control group. But the low-saturated fat diet did not reduce mortality. In fact, the study found that the greater the drop in cholesterol, the higher the risk of death during the trial.
Needless to say, the low-fat, high fiber crowd was appalled. It denounced the study and the results.
So, the researchers worked the numbers again:
To investigate whether the new findings were a fluke, Dr. Zamora and her colleagues analyzed four similar, rigorous trials that tested the effects of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid. Those, too, failed to show any reduction in mortality from heart disease.
“One would expect that the more you lowered cholesterol, the better the outcome,” Dr. Ramsden said. “But in this case the opposite association was found. The greater degree of cholesterol-lowering was associated with a higher, rather than a lower, risk of death.”
One explanation for the surprise finding may be omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in high levels in corn, soybean, cottonseed and sunflower oils. While leading nutrition experts point to ample evidence that cooking with these vegetable oils instead of butter improves cholesterol and prevents heart disease, others argue that high levels of omega-6 can simultaneously promote inflammation. This inflammation could outweigh the benefits of cholesterol reduction, they say.
Dr. Ramsden stressed that the team’s findings should be interpreted cautiously. The research does not show that saturated fats are beneficial, he said: “But maybe they’re not as bad as people thought.”