A New Idea about Fats
It used to be so simple.
For the good of your heart, you needed to cut out saturated fats (like cream, butter or cheese) and replace them with unsaturated fats (like vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid). And so we switched to that (uncomplicated, if less tasty) formula by the millions.
But hold on. Now researchers have reopened archived data investigating the relationships between vegetable oils, lower cholesterol levels and heart risk. The results do not back up the theories that generated all that fat switching.
The latest study was published in The BMJ. In it, investigators reopened the vaults of an investigation that directly measured the saturated fats theory. The study, called the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE), was conducted 45 years ago.
The MCE used participants from mental institutes and nursing homes. The control group ate a diet high in saturated fat while the experimental group's saturated fats were replaced by corn oil. Since all of the meals were provided by the respective facilities, the experiment had an unparalleled control over participant diets.
People who consumed the linoleic instead of saturated fats showed a reduction in cholesterol, as expected. The surprise in this further look at the numbers 45 years later -- this drop in cholesterol did not translate into improved survival rates. In fact, the reverse was true.
Members of the linoleic group with the greatest reduction in blood cholesterol had the highest risk of death.
Many health professionals now have legitimate concerns that current advice and thinking in regard to cholesterol, saturated fats and linoleic acid might be incorrect, or even harmful.