|Muck and Mystery
Loitering With Intent
|blog - at - crumbtrail.org|
let's turn to the first contention, the hypothesis that dietary saturated fat increases serum cholesterol. This idea is so deeply ingrained in the scientific literature that many authors don't even bother providing references for it anymore. When references are provided, they nearly always point to the same type of study: short-term controlled diet trials, in which volunteers are fed different fats for 2-13 weeks and their blood cholesterol measured (2)*. These are the studies on which the diet-heart hypothesis was built.I see this as being part of the whole dietary inanity promulgated by government, including bizarre recommendations to stuff ourselves with carbohydrates. Those who follow such advice win Darwin awards.
But now we have a problem. Nearly every high-quality (prospective) observational study ever conducted found that saturated fat intake is not associated with heart attack risk (3). So if saturated fat increases blood cholesterol, and higher blood cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of having a heart attack, then why don't people who eat more saturated fat have more heart attacks?
I'll begin to answer that question with another question: why do researchers almost never cite observational studies to support the idea that dietary saturated fat increases blood cholesterol? Surely if the hypothesis is correct, then people who habitually eat a lot of saturated fat should have high cholesterol, right? One reason may be that in most instances, when researchers have looked for a relationship between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol, they haven't found one. Those findings have essentially been ignored ...
Overall, the literature does not offer much support for the idea that long term saturated fat intake has a significant effect on the concentration of blood cholesterol. If it's a factor at all, it must be rather weak, which is consistent with what has been observed in multiple non-human species (13). I think it's likely that the diet-heart hypothesis rests in part on an over-interpretation of short-term controlled feeding studies. I'd like to see a more open discussion of this in the scientific literature. In any case, these controlled studies have typically shown that saturated fat increases both LDL and HDL, so even if saturated fat did have a small long-term effect on blood cholesterol, as hinted at by some of the observational studies, its effect on heart attack risk would still be difficult to predict.
People who follow a vegan lifestyle — strict vegetarians who try to eat no meat or animal products of any kind — may increase their risk of developing blood clots and atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries," which are conditions that can lead to heart attacks and stroke. That's the conclusion of a review of dozens of articles published on the biochemistry of vegetarianism during the past 30 years. The article appears in ACS' bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.Note the unreferenced allusion to the risks that meat eaters face. It's an accepted belief that has little if any support. This current survey of vegan risks is similar to the ones noted above for normal people, but it finds that vegans are at risk. Long term studies find that reality is quite the opposite of the conventional wisdom of the nutrition and medical communities.
Duo Li notes in the review that meat eaters are known for having a significantly higher combination of cardiovascular risk factors than vegetarians. Lower-risk vegans, however, may not be immune. Their diets tend to be lacking several key nutrients — including iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. While a balanced vegetarian diet can provide enough protein, this isn't always the case when it comes to fat and fatty acids. As a result, vegans tend to have elevated blood levels of homocysteine and decreased levels of HDL, the "good" form of cholesterol. Both are risk factors for heart disease.