American College of Cardiology: No Benefit to Lower Saturated Fat Intake

The recommendation to lower the consumption of saturated fat in the diet to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been the central theme in both the US and Canadian since 1977, and has been carved into our respective Dietary Guidelines since the 1980s.

A newly published state of the art review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found no beneficial effect on either cardiovascular disease (CVD) or death of lowering saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake and that saturated fat intake is actually protective against stroke [1]. This reassessment of dietary saturated fat intake was based on a meta-analysis of randomized control trials (the strongest data available), as well as observational studies.

The newly published report stated;

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.”[1]

The Significance of These Findings

From 1977 onward, based on a belief that saturated fat caused heart disease, both Canada and the US changed their respective dietary recommendations to move the diet away from consuming fat — especially saturated fat, to a diet where more than half the calories (55-60% in Canada, 45-65% in the US) were from carbohydrate. The goal was to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease based on the fact that eating saturated fat raised total LDL (LDL-C), and it was assumed that higher total LDL was tied to increased risk of heart disease. The problem was that it wasn’t known until many years later that there are different types of LDL particles (you can read more about that here) and that it is the small, dense LDL particles that are associated with heart disease, not all LDL particles [2].  

Coinciding with the recommendation for people to eat less saturated fat and more carbohydrate as the main source of calories, we have seen obesity rates go from ~10% of the population in both countries, to 1 in 3 people in the US, and 1 in 4 people in Canada — with another 1/3 of people falling in the overweight category.

What this newly published reassessment of the data indicates is that the American and Canadian diet, which has shunned whole-fat dairy, unprocessed animal meats and eggs for the last 40+ years did so without benefit to cardiovascular disease rates, or rates of death.

Telling people to eat “low fat” everything and to avoid butter, red meat and eggs not only did not do what it was intended to do, it has likely been a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic we now face, along with astronomical rates of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and yes, cardiovascular disease. How ironic.

The report summarized;

“The dietary recommendation to reduce intake of SFAs without considering specific fatty acids and food sources is not aligned with the current evidence base. As such, it may distract from other more effective food-based recommendations, and may also cause a reduction in the intake of nutrient-dense foods (such as eggs, dairy, and unprocessed meat) that may help decrease the risk of CVD, type 2 diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases, but also malnutrition, deficiency diseases and frailty, particularly among “at-risk” groups. Furthermore, based on several decades of experience, a focus on total SFA has had the unintended effect of
misleadingly guiding governments, consumers, and industry toward foods low in SFA but rich in refined starch and sugar.“[1]

The Study’s Conclusion

The report concluded;

The long-standing bias against foods rich in saturated fats should be replaced with a view towards recommending diets consisting of healthy foods. What steps could shift the bias? We suggest the following measures:

1) Enhance the public’s understanding that many foods (e.g., whole-fat dairy) that play an important role in meeting dietary and nutritional recommendations may also be rich in saturated fats.

2) Make the public aware that low-carbohydrate diets high in saturated fat, which are popular for managing body weight, may also improve metabolic disease.”

“There is no robust evidence that current population-wide arbitrary upper limits on saturated fat consumption in the US will prevent CVD or reduce mortality.”

Final Thoughts…

I  remember when the 1977 guidelines first came out, and when the 1988 Canada’s Food Guide was new.  I also remember when the majority of people were normal body weight and it was the exception for someone to be overweight or obese. Here it is, more than 40 years later and we now have strong evidence that saturated fat from unprocessed meat, full fat dairy and eggs does NOT contribute to heart disease or death, and is protective against stroke.

Given this evidence, will Health Canada revisit its most recent Canada Food Guide of January 2019 and adjust it’s recommendation to “limit the amount of foods containing saturated fat, such as cream, higher fat meats…cheeses and foods containing a lot of cheese“?

More Info?

If you would like more information about restoring your weight and healthy by eating a diet lower in carbohydrate and which includes real, whole food such as unprocessed meat, full-fat dairy and eggs, please send me a note using the Contact Me form on the tab above.

To your good health!


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  1. Astrup A, Magkos F, Bier, DM, et al, Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food-based Recommendations: JACC State-of -the-Art Review, J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Jun 17. Epublished DOI:10.1016/j.jacc.2020.05.077
  2. Lamarche, B., I. Lemieux, and J.P. Després, The small, dense LDL phenotype and the risk of coronary heart disease: epidemiology, patho-physiology and therapeutic aspects. Diabetes Metab, 1999. 25(3): p. 199-211.


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