Science - February 3, 2010

Saturated fats are bad

There is no evidence that saturated fats are a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, American researchers have contended in the January issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This conclusion is based on information from 21 publications analyzed anew. 'It's the same old song and dance', responds Daan Kromhout, professor of Public Health Research.

'All those publications which form the basis for this contention are known studies. As such, I was not surprised about the outcome. But even if you can't find any link, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is none. Epidemiological and experimental research has clearly shown that there is a strong link between saturated fats and cardiovascular diseases. Discussions since the 1980's have taken place as to why epidemiological studies do not show up such a link. An example is the Zutphen Study. When this study began in the 1960's, the average intake of saturated fats was 18 energy percent, in a range of 12 to 24 percent. The maximum advised by the Health Council of the Netherlands is 10 percent. Therefore, everyone in this study had an intake of saturated fats which was way too high, which made it impossible to show a relation to cardiovascular diseases.
'Another problem is how to accurately measure saturated fats in someone's food intake. To do so, you would need to ask the person about his food intake in the past 24 hours for 23  randomly chosen days over a period of a year That's never been done in practice. Measuring cholesterol concentrations in the blood also poses problems, because even with constant food intakes, big variations can occur from day to day. In short, many complexities arise when interpreting these types of studies whereby one mistake can be easily piled upon another.
'In future, we need especially to monitor such studies properly. Big clinical trials are necessary but they are very expensive. I'm running such a big research project currently into the effect of omega-3 fats on cardiovascular diseases.'