Literature Review: Meta-Analysis on Association of Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease
Saturated Fat is NOT the problem!
Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.
Ask most people today (including doctors and dietitians) and they will still tell you to stay away from saturated fat. This is thanks to some early studies in the 50’s and 60’s that showed a correlation between saturated fat and CVD (Ancel Keys is often one of the scientists that gets the blame). With good intentions, the system ruined the health of the world by promoting carbohydrates over fat – contributing to the worldwide problem of metabolic syndrome and obesity.
What’s funny, is that the early research has long been broken down and disproven, and papers like this one have shown no correlation with saturated fat when corrected for relative risk of other variables and confounding factors. Furthermore, other studies have shown that dietary saturated fat has a minimal to nil effect on plasma saturated fat in the context of a low carbohydrate diet. Other studies have also shown that those who die from CVD often have “normal” levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.
CVD, atherosclerosis, stroke, etc are far more complicated than “it’s from too much fat”. Read the literature and you will see that inflammation, oxidation, autoimmunity and a multitude of other variables are the leading causes (often related to highly refined carbohydrate diets), NOT FAT!
This paper reviewed 21 studies (after excluding various others) and corrected the outcomes for relative risk of CVD and stroke related to various other standardized variables. The conclusion they came to is as follows:
“In conclusion, our meta-analysis showed that there is insufficient evidence from prospective epidemiologic studies to conclude that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD.”
What was even more interesting, is during their analysis, they discovered that there appeared to be a publication bias among the papers that they reviewed. This showed that the papers that showed a significant association between saturated fat and CVD/stroke tended to be more readily accepted and published. This clearly lends itself to the fact that saturated fat is still negatively associated within the mainstream, or perhaps that lobbying is still preventing unbiased knowledge getting to the public.
Bottom line, saturated fat is not our enemy and we definitely should not be replacing healthy fats with carbohydrates!
If you want to learn more about saturated fat, cholesterol and more, check out Chris Kresser’s amazing eBook – The Diet-Heart Myth
Mark Sisson also has a great post on saturated fat here
PW. Siri-Tarino, Q Sun, FB Hu, RM Krauss. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010. 91:535–46