The science of saturated fats

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Saturated fats, found in fatty meat, cheese, butter and sausages, may not be as bad as previously thought according to Ronald M Kraus, one of the top nutrition experts in the United States.

The fear behind saturated fats started in the 1950’s by a pathologist named Ancel Keys at the University of Minnesota, when he first raised the idea of saturated fats being linked to high cholesterol and heart disease.

In 2000, Krauss reviewed Keys’ findings which led Krauss to believe saturated fats “aren’t that bad.”

According to the website, the evidence behind Keys’ findings were “weak.” Critics have pointed out that the study violated several basic scientific norms.

Keys chose specific countries that would likely prove his belief, but excluded countries where diets in fat were the highest. The study was meant to survey up to 13,000 men, but due to difficulties regarding the nutritional data, Keys only sampled diets of fewer than 500 men

According to Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a leading heart scientist, sugar and carbohydrates are the real culprits for high cholesterol and the obesity epidemic. DiNicolantonio urges that guidelines for cutting down on butter and cream should be changed.

One UVU student doesn’t agree.

Angela Davis, a junior at UVU, tells about a roommate who tried the Atkins diet, a diet high in protein and fats. Davis said her roommate lost weight during the diet, but didn’t agree that eating a diet high in protein was healthy.

“Too much meat is bad for everyone.” Davis said. “Because of saturated fats.”

The reason behind the belief that saturated fats increased the risk of heart disease came, DiNicolantonio explains, because diets high in saturated fats increase the total amount of cholesterol. He says that just because saturated fats raise cholesterol doesn’t mean it increases heart disease.

The best diet, DiNicolantonio recommends, is one low in refined carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods.

“Fat is just one element of our diet,” Victoria Taylor, a senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, told the Telegraph. “To look after our hearts long-term, we should look at our diet as a whole. Eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables, pulses and fish will help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

Tom Sanders, head of Diabetes and Nutritional Science Division in the School of Medicine at King’s College London, believes that Dr. DiNicolantonio misrepresented the assessment of the scientific evidence.

“Refocusing dietary advice on sugar and away from fat modification and reduction is not helpful,” Sanders said. “To suggest that the theory relating saturated fat to increased total cholesterol is flawed, is nonsense, and contradicts 50 years of evidence-based medicine.”

Chris Young, a health awareness advocate, believes the 50-year-old research done by Keys could have been backed by companies that would have benefited from the decline of saturated fats and rise of carbohydrates and sugars.

“Supporting Keys findings,” Young said “would have had a huge impact on soda companies or candy and such [back then].”

Young argued that a change in views over saturated fats would have a similar impact upon the soda or candy companies of today, and could be the reason why so many are against changing views on saturated fats.