Thursday, April 14, 2016

Up with Saturated Fat

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 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.”

Have you ever thought that the children who are throwing away the healthy fruits and vegetables that Michelle Obama wants them to eat and who are running out after school to get a burger and pizza are suffering from a cholesterol deficiency. For all I know their bodies know something that many medical researchers do not.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

There have been a number of stories about this Dr. Ivan Frantz Jr. and his studies from almost 40 years ago. Given what I've ready, I won't say that Dr. Frantz is a fraud. I will, however, say that Dr. Frantz looked at the data and found what he was looking for, regardless of what the data actually said, or by ignoring results that were inconvenient. Sounds like actual mortality falls into that column.

The whole USDA Food Pyramid is based on this one-size-fits-all approach, whether it's Michelle Obama, Bridge Cards, the AMA, etc. There is a large group of well-intentioned people out to save your life, if you'll only let them. They don't seek to inform, convince or persuade in a personal, engaged way... they go to the federal government so that the feds can pronounce what is right and wrong with food consumption. Or turn it into a sin worthy of supplemental taxation. That's where focusing on good intentions get you: the ends justify the means. The path to Hell is paved with good intentions. After all, consumption taxes are bad, bad, bad -- at least until our Bobo betters tell us what they think is bad, bad, bad. Then it's open season!

Many of these saturated fat stories in the past year have pointed out that different people need different nutrition at different points in their lives. For example, mature post-menopausal women actually need some of the things universally acknowledged as "bad for you." But our government can't deliver on that kind of complexity and nuance without producing 20,000 pages of documents. It has to fit in a 3x3-inch label so the proletariat can receive its marching orders. Or a 30-second public service ad on the Glowing Box, featuring Cindy Crawford.

Michael Pollan wrote an excellent book called "In Defense of Food." It reads like common sense. Eat certain stuff regularly, others not so often. Enjoy food. There are times for fun, and the rest of the time one should be sensible. It doesn't fit the government approach, nor the activist's black-and-white world. In fact, Pollan says deep fried food is not bad for you... it's a matter of cycling out the oil before the free radicals take rein. That's why he says deep frying should be done at home, so you can regulate what goes into your own fryer, not be at the mercy of how often Dick's Diner changes their cooking oil. That was news to me!

The food police is yet another manifestation of the Left's totalitarian impulse at work again. We have activists, regulators and experts in the ready to tell us stupid people what's best. Just like welfare, food stamps, education, organized labor, mass transit, etc. They don't want to introduce options or points of view, they want to destroy, ban and obliterate options... forever.

Remember in the 1992 election, amidst the brouhaha about Clinton's extramarital dalliances? The Lefties came out with a slogan: "Whose values?" Indeed.

Kinda reminds me of... anthropomorphic climate change.

Sam L. said...

I note that "The Science WAS settled", before it became UN-settled.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Have you ever thought that the children who are throwing away the healthy fruits and vegetables that Michelle Obama wants them to eat and who are running out after school to get a burger and pizza are suffering from a cholesterol deficiency. For all I know their bodies know something that many medical researchers do not.

"For all I know" is a rather pitiful argument.

I don't understand why everything has to be reduced to partisan resentment politics. Is this how inferiority complexes work?

Anonymous said...

Saturated fat is delicious.

Ares Olympus said...

Here's another article, this one from MinnPost.
So, what are we to make of this second look at the MCE data?

“I don’t think the study demonstrates harm in any way,” said the lead author of the re-analysis, Dr. Christopher Ramsden of the National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a phone interview with MinnPost.

What MCE does suggest, he added, is that a low-fat diet offers no benefit to the heart.

Ramsden and his colleagues also pooled the results of the MCE and four other randomized controlled trials that substituted vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid for saturated fat. That meta-analysis found no evidence that a low-fat diet reduces death from heart disease.

Ramsden said he went looking for the raw data from the MCE study not to disprove the diet-lipid-heart hypothesis, but to see what the data said about the clinical effects of a diet rich in linoleic acid. His main research interest is linoleic acid’s effects on the nervous system, particularly its effects on inflammation and pain.

But once he began reexamining the MCE data, Ramsden felt obligated to report on his findings.

“Our main goal was to do a very careful analysis and provide the data and let other people interpret it,” he said. “But I think it does provide some potentially important insights. The hypothesis has been taken for granted for years and years. Maybe the evidence for it isn’t as conclusive as many believe.”

If reducing cholesterol doesn't clearly reduce risks of heart disease, it might have a bigger implication to all the cholesterol-reducing drugs like statins?

Sam L. said...

AE, I'd never thought that, but it has the ring of a good possibility.