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Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease. Sugar does.

By Jordanna Levin |


bacon and eggs
Photo by: CharlieAJA/iStock

  • New research drawing on nearly 80 studies involving more than half a million people shows there’s no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease.
  • One of the study authors says that a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates is the bigger problem!
  • It all boils down to the difference between a harmless fluffy LDL and the small and dangerous kind (read about that below!).

This post has been amended. 

New research published on Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal found no evidence to link the consumption of saturated fat with the risk of heart disease. But that’s not even the best bit. The study author suggests in an interview about the study that excess sugar and carbohydrates are to blame!

This research is part of a growing body of evidence showing that saturated fat is not the culprit when it comes to heart disease. We’ve commented on this before here and here. But what is particularly promising about this new research is that Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, the lead author of the study and a cardiovascular epidemiologist, is quoted by the The New York Times as saying:

“It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines. If anything is driving your LDL in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.“

What we reckon you need to tell your dad tonight:

If your dad’s anything like ours, it takes a bit of convincing for him to believe the whole “they got it wrong about saturated fats” argument. Here’s a few dot points to help butter him up (pun intended):

  • It’s all about the big fluffy particles: Saturated fat originally got a bad rap because it increases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), which is linked to increased risk for heart attacks. But it’s a little more complex than that. The LDL that saturated fat raises is a big fluffy particle that is harmless and generally benign. Sugary foods, however, create smaller, more artery-clogging particles and it’s these ones that are more dangerous, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Cholesterol ain’t the problem, it’s the bandaid: Sarah’s been using this phraseology for years. You see, cholesterol circulates in our arteries patching up the damage caused by sugar. So when we’re talking clogged arteries, cholesterol ain’t the problem. It’s the fix. Sugar and hypertension and toxins are the problem.
  • Meta-studies are pretty damn convincing: It’s hard to argue with 80 studies involving more than half a million people, as well as further evidence from 27 randomised controlled trials. The results are compelling and we’re totally on board.

The science pointing to the links between sugar and heart disease is overwhelming… as well as links to obesity… and cancer. Shall we go on? Dad can’t possibly be a sceptic now! That’s why it’s so important that the new WHO draft guideline recommendations are approved.

Needless to say, not everyone in the science community agrees with this latest study. For instance, a group of NZ experts argue here that we shouldn’t abandon advice to reduce saturated fats so readily.

Have you quit sugar and noticed an improvement in you cholesterol levels? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

Please be respectful of other participants in the conversation. We'd love you to keep your comments respectful, friendly and relevant. Differences of opinion are welcome, but trolling and abuse of other commentators and the IQS editorial team is not and will result in blacklisting.

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