Federal dietary guidelines may be increasing Americans’ risk for heart disease by urging people not to consume certain kinds of fat and whole milk, The Washington Post reported.
Many scientists and doctors interviewed for a recent Post article now think that one of the main hypotheses behind the federal dietary guidelines – that saturated fat is to be avoided — could be dead wrong.
“There’s a large body of scientific literature to show that a high-carb diet, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, provokes a number of heart-disease risk factors,” author Nina Teicholz, who has written articles for The British Medical Journal, told the newspaper.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the recommended diet created by the US government and is considered by the government itself to be the “Nation’s go-to source for nutrition advice.”
“We have strong evidence that replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates has no effect on cardiovascular disease,” Tufts University nutritionist Alice Lichtenstein told The Post. Litchenstein served on a panel advising the USDA on this year’s Dietary Guidelines.
Even more controversial is the government’s stance on whole milk, which was banned from school lunches and which the guidelines say should be avoided.
“There is no scientific basis for current dietary advice regarding dairy,” Jocelyne R. Benatar, a researcher from New Zealand, told The Post. “Fears [about whole milk] are not supported by evidence. The message that it is okay to have whole fat food, including whole fat milk, is slowly seeping into consciousness. But there is always a lag between evidence and changes in attitude.”
Benatar was part of a team of researchers that examined the results of nine different controlled tests on the relationship between dairy products and cholesterol. Benatar’s team could find no relationship between consuming higher levels of dairy fats and levels of bad cholesterol which clog the arteries.
“[The US is] losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease,” Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas, told the newspaper. “What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial.”
Scientists could not find a definitive connection between saturated fats and heart disease, strokes, type 2 Diabetes or increased death rates, a July report in The British Medical Journal stated.
Other studies have confirmed this finding.
“There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease,” a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated.
In one study of 48,000 older women, ladies who cut their saturated fat intake from 13 percent to 10 percent did not suffer from less heart disease than those who ate the same amount of fat.
Some experts even think that the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines might actually make Americans more susceptible to heart disease.
The “campaign to reduce fat in the diet has had some pretty disastrous consequences,” Walter Willet, the dean of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, said. “With more fat-free products than ever, Americans got fatter.”
“There’s a large body of scientific literature to show that a high-carb diet, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, provokes a number of heart-disease risk factors,” Teicholz told The Post.
Some scientists believe that while cutting back on saturated fat has no health benefit, replacing it with unsaturated fat – as found in nuts and fish – does help prevent heart disease.
“If we are going to make recommendations to the public about what to eat, we should be pretty darn sure they’re right and won’t cause harm,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. “There’s no evidence that the reduction of saturated fats should be a priority.”
What do you think? Are some saturated fats OK? Should we be drinking whole milk? Share your thoughts in the section below: