Monday, July 18, 2011

Letter III: Aren't Saturated Fats Dangerous?

This is part III in a series of hypothetical letters to my doctor.

Dear Doctor,

In our last meeting, you expressed concern that I was eating too much saturated fat in my low carb diet, and that it might be harmful, or even cause a heart attack. This is probably the most common question I deal with when people learn I follow the low carb lifestyle. I am, however, a bit surprised that an educated person such as yourself raised the concern.

The short answer: no, saturated fats are not dangerous and when eaten as part of a proper low carb diet, they probably won't cause a heart attack. The idea that saturated fats and cholesterol lead to heart disease is called the "lipid hypothesis."  Gary Taubes wrote a whole book in 2007 debunking the lipid hypothesis. And before Taubes' book, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig wrote a book in 1999 debunking that myth. And before Fallon and Enig, Michael Eades, M.D. and his wife, Mary Dan Eades, M.D. wrote a book debunking the lipid hypothesis in 1996. All of these books delved deeply into the empirical medical literature and found no empirical evidence to support the lipid hypothesis.

But there is even more recent evidence.  Three recent studies all concluded that low carb diets actually improved markers of metabolic health. None of the three support the lipid hypothesis. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick demolishes the lipid hypothesis in 1 minute and 17 seconds. One study found no association between eating eggs and cardiovascular disease. Another study found that dairy consumption was not associated with cardiovascular disease. Yet another study showed that children who ate full fat cream and other saturated fats were healthier than children who did not.  Finally, a meta analysis of 21 studies of 348,000 people over an average of 14 years concluded there was no relationship between eating saturated fats and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokeEven the mainstream media is now hinting that we have been mislead by the lipid hypothesis, and that carbohydrates, not fat, may be the real problem. 

The most recent book I have read demolishing the lipid hypothesis is one you ought to read, as it is targeted to physicians. It is called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, by Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D. and Stephen D. Phinney, M.D., Ph.D. This book takes you into the inner workings of the low carb lifestyle and addresses head on many of the myths surrounding it, such as the lipid hypothesis.

So thank you for your concern about my cardiovascular health, but I do not think the low carb diet which is high in saturated fats will cause me to die of a heart attack any time soon.


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