The big news in the nutrition world this week is a meta-study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, claiming that saturated fat may not be as bad for people’s health as once thought. The researchers behind the study are some of the top scientists in the field, including Dariush Mozaffarian of Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Reviewing 32 separate studies on over half a million people, the researchers wanted to gauge the difference in risk for coronary disease between individuals who consumed high amounts of saturated fats and those who consumed low amounts. The scientists concluded that
current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage … low consumption of total saturated fats.
Which begs the question – have nutrition experts been wrong for the last 50 years?
Before you go back to eating full fat dairy and marbled steaks, hold the butter and read the following. When health professionals advised us to reduce fat consumption decades years ago, their intention was for us to increase our consumption of healthy foods such as legumes and vegetables. What actually happened was an explosive growth in the consumption of highly processed carbs and sugary junk foods. (Thanks to the food industry!)
Saturated fat (and fat in general) became a smaller percentage of our overall calorie intake not because we consumed less of them, but simply because we began eating a lot more calories in the form of processed foods. The result is nation of obese individuals.
Basically, this study showed that if you vary your intake of saturated fat or omega-6 fat without altering the overall quality of your diet, you are not likely to alter your health much either … There was no suggestion [in the study] of any health benefits of saturated fat, and some hint of harmful effects despite the important study limitations.
Get it? Eating more or less saturated fat doesn’t matter if the rest of your food is crap. Katz recommends that instead of focusing on specific nutrients, people should take a more holistic view of food.
Don’t want to give up on butter? Fine, but have just small amount. But don’t eat a 1000 calorie salad at the Cheesecake Factory with 10 grams of saturated fat and expect to live to a hundred year old.
The real question isn’t whether saturated fat is good or bad, it’s whether your overall diet is good or bad. Focusing on unprocessed whole foods as the building blocks of your meals is much more important than obsessing over another gram of fat or sugar on the nutrition label of a packaged ready-to-eat meal.
Keep it real folks!