Eat FATTY FOODS to stay THIN. They might even help your heart

Why gov food advice might have been wrong all along


Pushing the data

Jeff Volek and colleagues recently carried out a small trial in 16 larger (BMI 27–50 kg/m2) adults with metabolic syndrome (a condition usually associated with obesity). The subjects went through six different diets with varying levels of carbohydrate and saturated fat. Each diet was followed for a three-week period, with the blood levels and biomarkers measured at the end of that period and before the next diet is started.

Protein was kept constant, as was the total fat content – other fats were adjusted based on the saturated fat level. The last diet in the series was the one that matched current dietary advice. The pay-off for the study subjects was that all the diets were slightly low calorie, so that they would be losing weight throughout the study. And, to start off on a level playing field, the first diet was preceded by a three week run-in period to get everyone used to the lower calories; a 300 kcal per day reduction for all diets.

The results showed that despite the changes in saturated fat intake, from a high of 84g/day down to 32g/day, the plasma saturated fatty acid levels remained remarkably constant. In other words, there was no linear relationship between dietary intake and plasma levels at all. However, what was also interesting was that plasma palmitoleic acid, a non-essential fatty acid that is predictive of type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome, faithfully tracked carbohydrate intake.

It’s certainly true that the simplistic notion that cutting down the saturated fat will have a direct impact on cardiovascular risk factors does not hold.

In other words following the recommended diet actually increased the levels of the biomarker associated with adverse health.

Does the weight of evidence suggest, therefore, that our health authorities have been spouting unscientific nonsense for the last few decades? The answer has to be: possibly.

It’s certainly true that the simplistic notion that cutting down the saturated fat will have a direct impact on cardiovascular risk factors does not hold. The jury is still out on whether replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats is a good thing in general, or for specific higher risk groups.

And just to finish on an even more discordant note: I am always impressed by counter-intuitive results that confound the researchers’ expectations. Simplistically, I tend to believe the results more when I know that the researchers set out to prove the opposite. And so it is in the case of an experiment in mice which set out to prove that feeding pregnant mice on lard would increase the susceptibility of their offspring to breast cancer.

Thomas Prates Ong and team fed pregnant and lactating mice a high-fat lard-based diet. Offspring were then exposed to a carcinogen to induce breast tumours. Confounding expectations, the offspring of the parents consuming the high saturated fat diet during pregnancy developed fewer tumours than the control group of offspring from the healthy diet mice.

Yep, high levels of saturated fats seemed to be protective against cancer in these mice. ®

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