Saturated fats are not unhealthy. That is the clear, unambiguous conclusion from a new meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (an affiliate of the world-renowned British Medical Journal). Leading scientists from the U.K. and U.S.A. stated in clear language that the world’s approach to saturated fats “urgently requires a paradigm shift … Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong”.
To many, this may sound revolutionary – and against ‘received wisdom’. In fact, this is not all that new. Scientists have been calling attention to this for some time. Some media outlets have now seized on these latest results to tell this important story.
Last year, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) itself published a re-evaluation of previous studies, that also questioned the consensus that saturated fat is bad for you. This comes on the heels of other such research, over recent years.
Dr Elena Fattore, Head of Environmental Risk Unit, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, conducted a recent review of literature and concluded that “epidemiological evidence does not support a role of saturated fatty acids, palmitic acid or palm oil in cancer development.”
Why does this matter? These new studies confirm saturated fats are not as they have been portrayed for decades in international media. For many years, consumers have been told to reduce their saturated fat consumption to improve their health, switching to low fat diets. This perception was constantly reinforced – meaning that many healthy fats and oils, including palm oil, have been unjustly stigmatized as unhealthy.
The new research changes all of that: science now proves that those opponents to saturated fats were wrong.
What must happen now is that the new evidence on saturated fats must be made mainstream. We must listen to the new body of expert evidence. The latest BJSM study could not be clearer: “… [there is] no association between saturated fat consumption and (1) all-cause mortality, (2) coronary heart disease (CHD), (3) CHD mortality, (4) ischaemic stroke, or (5) type 2 diabetes.”
Other experts are just as clear. Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, Senior Research Associate at the University of Cambridge has also studied the issue: “Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”
Dr Pramod Khosla, Associate Professor at Wayne State University is clear: “As the food-industry seeks alternatives for the use of partially hydrogenated liquid vegetable oils, to use in solid fat formulations, palm oil may be one of the viable alternatives by virtue of its fatty acid composition.”
The discussion on saturated fats now must take up this new evidence, at every level: media, policymakers, regulators, companies. This is not just a scientific breakthrough; it is a public health breakthrough also. We cannot afford to cling to yesterday’s dogma any more.