Yesterday, when I reposted my article on why saturated fats are so important to our health, I got this comment:
I was wondering if there are any sites you can direct me to that would cite studies or evidence of what you shared? I’d love to share this information with friends/family, but I know the first thing they’ll say is that I read it on a blog and don’t have anything to back it up.
I tend to research stuff to death before I write about it – it’s just not in my nature to go around making wild, unsubstantiated claims (I also have a real fear of making a fool out of myself), so yes – as a matter of fact, I do.
Let’s start with the article about Alzheimer’s I wrote about in the other post. It appeared in the European Journal of Internal Medicine in April 2011 and was titled “Nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet.” The abstract, or synopsis, is quite sobering (emphasis mine):
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating disease whose recent increase in incidence rates has broad implications for rising health care costs. Huge amounts of research money are currently being invested in seeking the underlying cause, with corresponding progress in understanding the disease progression. In this paper, we highlight how an excess of dietary carbohydrates, particularly fructose, alongside a relative deficiency in dietary fats and cholesterol, may lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. A first step in the pathophysiology of the disease is represented by advanced glycation end-products in crucial plasma proteins concerned with fat, cholesterol, and oxygen transport. This leads to cholesterol deficiency in neurons, which significantly impairs their ability to function. Over time, a cascade response leads to impaired glutamate signaling, increased oxidative damage, mitochondrial and lysosomal dysfunction, increased risk to microbial infection, and, ultimately, apoptosis. Other neurodegenerative diseases share many properties with Alzheimer’s disease, and may also be due in large part to this same underlying cause.
The full text of the study contains many more statements condemning the lack of fats and cholesterol and overabundance of carbohydrate, particularly sugar, in our diets, such as “Recent population studies have confirmed a correlation between low blood serum cholesterol and both dementia and Parkinson’s disease” and “It has been shown that patients with type-2 diabetes are at two to five times increased risk to [Alzheimer's disease].” Really, the entire thing is worth the read.
Then send them to this article, published just this month in Advances In Nutrition and is titled “Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence.” Its abstract is equally sobering (again, emphasis mine):
Although early studies showed that saturated fat diets with very low levels of PUFAs increase serum cholesterol, whereas other studies showed high serum cholesterol increased the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), the evidence of dietary saturated fats increasing CAD or causing premature death was weak. Over the years, data revealed that dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are not associated with CAD and other adverse health effects or at worst are weakly associated in some analyses when other contributing factors may be overlooked. Several recent analyses indicate that SFAs, particularly in dairy products and coconut oil, can improve health. The evidence of ω6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) promoting inflammation and augmenting many diseases continues to grow, whereas ω3 PUFAs seem to counter these adverse effects. The replacement of saturated fats in the diet with carbohydrates, especially sugars, has resulted in increased obesity and its associated health complications. Well-established mechanisms have been proposed for the adverse health effects of some alternative or replacement nutrients, such as simple carbohydrates and PUFAs. The focus on dietary manipulation of serum cholesterol may be moot in view of numerous other factors that increase the risk of heart disease. The adverse health effects that have been associated with saturated fats in the past are most likely due to factors other than SFAs, which are discussed here. This review calls for a rational reevaluation of existing dietary recommendations that focus on minimizing dietary SFAs, for which mechanisms for adverse health effects are lacking.
Tom Naughton posted about this very study just yesterday, and does an excellent job of explaining the main points of the article. You should have your friends and family read it; it’s good.
After that, they can read this article, written by Mary Enig, PhD for the Weston A. Price Foundation in 2004 and titled The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions. Dr. Enig is a biochemist and nutritionist and has been one of the most vocal opponents of the advice by the government and medical community to replace saturated fats with industrial seed oils and other trans fats. (You can also recommend her book, Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol, but it isn’t necessarily an easy read.)
Then you can send them to this article, published in The Atlantic in 2010 about Dr. John Ioannidis. Dr. Ioannidis, besides being a mathematical genius, is what is known as a meta-researcher and one of the world’s foremost experts on the credibility of medical research. Your friends and family may find this part of the article quite interesting (guess whose emphasis):
[Dr. Ioannidis] charges that as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed. His work has been widely accepted by the medical community; it has been published in the field’s top journals, where it is heavily cited; and he is a big draw at conferences. Given this exposure, and the fact that his work broadly targets everyone else’s work in medicine, as well as everything that physicians do and all the health advice we get, Ioannidis may be one of the most influential scientists alive. Yet for all his influence, he worries that the field of medical research is so pervasively flawed, and so riddled with conflicts of interest, that it might be chronically resistant to change—or even to publicly admitting that there’s a problem.
Well, alrighty then.
Next, buy them a copy of Good Calories, Bad Calories by health journalist Gary Taubes. They can ignore the second half of the book – if they choose to after reading the first half, which goes into great detail about just how the government and medical establishment began giving dietary advice to eschew fat in favor of carbohydrates in the first place. (Hint: it will piss them off. It did me, anyway.)
Oh, and if anyone mentions The China Study, don’t say a word. Just send them here.
Finally, you may want to ask them why the USDA is giving anyone dietary advice. The ultimate goal of the Unites Stated Department of Agriculture is to promote United States agriculture. Why wouldn’t they tell us to base our diet on the most subsidized of commodity crops – grains? (There’s that conflict of interest thing again.) (Then ask yourself why ANY food is a commodity.)
At any rate, I hope there’s enough here to indicate that the notion saturated fat is not the root of all dietary evil isn’t just the unfounded claims of some misguided, nutjob food blogger. I may be a nutjob food blogger, but misguided? Well…not about this, anyway. :p