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Fat: to fear or not to fear?

February 10th 2015 / Katie Robertson Google+ Katie Robertson

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Should we be including fats into our diets? The great dietary debate rages on...

Controversial new research has suggested that official warnings against the consumption of saturated fats (red meats, cheese, biscuits etc) are based on flawed evidence and should not have been introduced. Published in the BMJ’s Open Heart journal, the study argues that dietary guidelines adopted by British authorities in the early 1980s (30g daily for men and 20g for women) are based on “very limited evidence”.

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The findings, led by researcher Zoë Harcombe from the University of the West of Scotland, have found that an analysis of the original evidence used to justify saturated fat warnings has exposed serious flaws in how the original data was pulled together. Namely, that women were excluded from trials to determine the relationship between fat and coronary heart disease and that the risks of saturated fats were not conclusively proven.

Speaking of their findings the researchers have said, “It seems incomprehensible that dietary advice was introduced for 220 million Americans and 56 million UK citizens given the contrary results from a small number of unhealthy men. Dietary advice does not merely need a review; it should not have been introduced.”

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However, leading dietitians have also warned that the risk of saturated fats should not be underestimated.

“The authors are wrong to suggest that advice to decrease saturated fat should not have been introduced, says Professor Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London. “Their conclusion fails to take into account the totality of the evidence. Different types of evidence are available,” he said.

But leading consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra welcomed the study’s findings, arguing that they could help refocus attention on the risk of excess sugar consumption.

“The mantra that low fat is good for you is unhelpful. The scientific evidence is overwhelmingly showing that higher fat consumption than that recommended by the guidelines while also cutting out refined carbs, like sugar and white bread, is actually better for your weight and heart health,” said Dr Aseem Malhotra. What many people don’t realise is that there are many different types of saturated fats. Saturated fats from full fat yogurts and cheese for example may actually be beneficial and reduce the risk of certain types of diabetes.”

The underlying lesson here? Fats are important and can be extremely significant for the bodies overall health and weight management, We just need to ensure we’re eating the right kinds...

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