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Limit on Saturated Fats is Unnecessary, says "State-of-the-Art Review" in Journal of American College of Cardiology

Tue, 23 Jun 2020 09:57:26 CDT

Limit on Saturated Fats is Unnecessary, says A group of leading nutrition scientists, including a former member of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) and the Chair of the 2005 DGAC, were among the prominent authors of a “State-of-the-Art Review” in the prestigious Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC): “Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food-based Recommendations.” This review found that government limits on saturated fats are not justified by the science.

Advice to limit saturated fats has been a basic pillar of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) for 40 years. Yet this advice has never had any substantial scientific backing, according to a large and fast-growing body of scientific Literature which now includes the JACC paper

The JACC abstract reads:
“The recommendation to limit dietary saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake has persisted despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Most recent meta-analyses of randomized trials and observational studies found no beneficial effects of reducing SFA intake on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and total mortality, and instead found protective effects against stroke. Although SFAs increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol, in most individuals, this is not due to increasing levels of small, dense LDL particles, but rather larger LDL which are much less strongly related to CVD risk. It is also apparent that the health effects of foods cannot be predicted by their content in any nutrient group, without considering the overall macronutrient distribution. Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, eggs and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of CVD. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.

The paper also notes, “These historical facts demonstrate that saturated fats were an abundant, key part of the ancient human diet.”

By contrast, the 2020 DGAC released a draft report last week asserting that the evidence was “strong” that saturated fats cause heart disease in both adults and children and that these fats should continue to be capped at 10% of calories. The Committee’s final report is due out in mid-July. This means that low-fat dairy and lean meat would continue to be advised over the regular versions of these foods and that a daily consumption of 27 grams of industrially produced soybean oil would continue to be recommended over butter, a natural food.

Early iterations of the Guidelines simply advised people to “reduce” or “limit” saturated fats. Specific numeric caps such as 10% were adopted, without explanation, in 2015. In fact, in an email obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the chair of the 2015 DGAC acknowledged that the 10% limit was based on “no data….There is no magic/data for the 10% number or 7% number that has been used previously."

Regarding the JACC study, Nina? Teicholz, Executive Director of the Nutrition Coalition, said, “After reviewing the evidence,an expert group of scientists agreed that the most rigorous and current science fails to support a continuation of the government’s policy limiting consumption of saturated fats. A re-evaluation of the science on saturated fats has been happening since 2010, with now nearly 20 review papers
“Worse, there are real harms that come from limiting consumption of saturated fats, namely that people cannot consume enough of the foods that provide the essential nutrients needed for growth an a healthy life. At the DGAC meeting last week, members stated that the Guidelines fails to meet nutrient targets for, among other things, iron and choline,nutrients which are most easily obtainedand are most bio-available in animal foods. However, these foods are currently limited because they also contain saturated fats. Thus, limiting saturated fats isclearly preventing people from obtaining the nutrients needed for proper growth and health.” Teicholz added.

The JACC paper comes after the group of scientists attended a workshop, “Saturated Fats: A Food or Nutrient Approach” in February. Members of that workshop wrote a consensus statement to the Secretaries of U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (USDA-HHS) on their findings which concluded that limits on saturated fats are not justified and should be re-examined. The USDA-HHS have not yet replied to their letter.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees’ draft conclusions are not surprising, given that the five-person Subcommittee, according to an analysis by The Nutrition Coalition, is one-sided and unbalanced This Subcommittee includes one of the field’s staunchest foes of saturated fats and not a single person to oppose her. The Subcommittee’s conclusions are also unsurprising given that advice to limit saturated fat has been in place for 40 years. These views are deeply rooted in government agencies and university nutrition departments as well as supported by many food and pharmaceutical interests. The Nutrition Coalition’s analysis of the Subcommittee’s work can be found here

The JACC paper from the group of leading nutrition scientists can be found here.



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