Have you ever met someone that didn’t believe in a specific scientific fact? Well, they might not have been completely wrong to be skeptical.
People generally believe that saturated fat could lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, paving the way for heart disease, but some researchers have claimed that this might not be true. Or at least, that it isn’t quite so simple.
Three cardiologists recently expressed their belief that heart disease occurs as a result of multiple factors, not just from eating saturated fat, in an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports and Medicine. In the piece, they argued that saturated fat could actually improve health (take the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, for instance).
“This idea that dietary saturated fats build up in the coronary arteries is complete unscientific nonsense,” said Aseem Malhotra, one of the study’s authors.
Dr. Michael Farkouh, a cardiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, also shared his expertise with CTV, stating that there is indeed more to the development of coronary heart disease than just the intake of saturated fats.
“We know that the process of the hardening of the arteries — what we call atherosclerosis — is multifactorial,” he said in an interview. “I think what it really tells us is that there are multiple factors to prevent coronary disease from developing and it really leads us to lifestyle, which is diet and exercise. If you have a diet that’s high in saturated fat, you will have higher cholesterol, but that’s just one factor.”
Farkouh suggested that, thanks to new medications that manage cholesterol levels in high-risk patients, we may not have to be quite as careful with our fat intake. However, there are other unhealthy ingredients lurking in our meals that could damage our heart health.
“Particularly refined sugars and added sugars are very dangerous because what they do is increase something called insulin resistance,” he said. “And this initiates an inflammatory response in the vessel wall which then will eventually lead to the development of atherosclerosis.”
But here’s the thing: the authors of this editorial story didn’t base their claims on any new research, but rather conducted a review of existing research. This has others in the scientific community now raising their eyebrows, claiming that it isn’t up to scientific standards.
The British Heart Foundation’s associate medical director, Mike Knapton even said that “decades of research have proved that a diet rich in saturated fat increases ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood, which puts you at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke.” You can bet a new study is on the horizon.
So, while scientists may be changing their minds slightly (or not), the way to optimal heart health is still basically the same: eat well (maybe limit fat a little less now) and exercise.