The Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Statin Controversy

A Commentary from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition

27 March 2014 Taylor & Francis

High Cholesterol MeterMany Americans are led to believe that high blood cholesterol as a result of heavy saturated fat intake causes cardiovascular disease.   As such, Statin drugs are often prescribed to curb CVD risk by lowering cholesterol. This conventional knowledge is boldly challenged, however, by a new paper available from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the Official Publication of the American College of Nutrition and a publication from Routledge.

While many studies show a correlation between high cholesterol and CVD, this alone does not prove a “cause-and-effect” relationship. “In fact,” the authors point out, “if analyzed carefully, there are more studies that disprove the ‘cause and effect’ hypothesis than even come close to proving it.” A trend of vilifying saturated fats based on flawed research is traced back through the second half of the 20th century, eventually meeting overdue criticism in a 2010 meta-analysis and a 2012 paper contrasting scientific literature with U.S. and European advisory committee guidelines.

While saturated fats have been blamed for causing CVD, more recent scientific literature points instead to processed sugars, trans-fats, and starchy/processed high-glycemic carbs as the more likely culprits. “Our nutritional courts,” the authors claim, “tried and convicted the wrong man.”

Statin drugs designed to treat high levels of LDL cholesterol began to be widely prescribed in 2001. The commentary authors suggest that “We must treat the patient thoughtfully and choose statin drugs carefully with extreme diligence to avoid unnecessary side effects.”

While these drugs have been linked to lower risk of CVD, numerous studies and clinical trials over the past decade have forced the medical community to re-examine the role of LDL cholesterol in statin use benefits. Some even began to demonstrate that reducing LDL alone was counterproductive in reducing some measures of CVD risk. As such, the authors advocate a more creative and thorough approach to addressing CVD risk, free of the “dogmatic polices” built around saturated fat and cholesterol centric thinking.

The commentary authors invoke legendary physician Francis W. Peabody in support of their convictions, quoted as saying, “The most important aspect in the care of the patient, is the care of the patient.”


FDA Bans Trans Fats 10 Years Too Late

Jenny Thompson of demonstrated what I think is an appropriate amount of disgust at the FDA’s Johnny Come Lately announcement banning trans fats. The mainstream media practically turned it into a Disney tale. Here we are…the poor public…trapped in a trans fat tower…and the FDA mounted its noble steed to scale the wall and come rescue us. Ridiculous!

Trans Fat on Food LabelBecause the FDA is exactly the evil monster that put us up in that tower to begin with. So any health risks they are tying to trans fats now — diabetes, heart attacks, all of ’em — those fall squarely on the shoulders of the FDA.

And it’s easy to see why…

A Tale Of Two Zeros

Zero. That’s the amount of trans fats the National Academy of Sciences determined was safe to eat. Zero. No gray areas there!

They arrived at that number based on evidence that even a small intake of this killer fat sharply increased risk of heart disease, sudden cardiac death, and type 2 diabetes. And this isn’t a new revelation. This was back in 2002!


But when the agency finally came around to a labeling requirement, they let food producers using trans fats lie. And basically put a gag order on companies smart enough to leave them out.

Here’s how…

As a gift to its cronies addicted to using these dangerous fats, the FDA made a single labeling requirement: You could not say “Trans fat free.” You could only say “No Trans Fats” or “Zero Trans Fats.”

Now to the untrained eye of the trusting consumer, those would seem like the same thing.

But you’re not giving the FDA enough credit. You see, whenever you see the phrase “Zero trans fats” on product packaging, check the small print. Turns out, this almost always means “Zero trans fats PER SERVING.”

And that lead to this very convenient lie: The FDA said half a gram or less of trans fat per serving could be called “zero.”

That’s right — in the FDA’s Rock-Paper-Scissors-like World, marketing beats math. So you can use decimal points to trick people into eating something they’re trying to avoid.

But it turns out, even for the FDA, death beats (bad) math.

So in a less-than-stunning reversal, the agency charged with defending the health of Americans decided to stop helping food companies kill us…11 years too late.

Last week, the agency said that partially hydrogenated oils (the primary trans fat source) should be removed from the GRAS list.

GRAS is “generally recognized as safe.” That means it’s considered safe to eat unregulated amounts of it. And taking an ingredient off the list is a very big deal. If an ingredient isn’t GRAS, it is not supposed to be in the food supply. Period.

And that’s exactly where trans fat should have been in 2002 — OUT of our food supply.

Last year, the CDC determined that trans fat consumption had dropped by nearly 60 percent between 2000 and 2009. So let’s hold off on patting the FDA on the back. You’re no hero if you charge into the tower a decade after we climbed out ourselves.

Apparently Canada wants to pile on the ban trans fat bandwagon.

According to documents obtained by CSPI under freedom-of-information laws, Health Canada’s own experts estimate 3,000 heart attack deaths could be prevented annually with tougher restrictions on artificial trans fats.

They also estimate that up to $450 million could be saved annually in related health-care costs and workforce productivity losses. Plus, they’re worried they’re going to get all our banned trans fat products dumped on Canadian consumers.

Maybe we’re seeing the shift in doing business as usual. Smart consumers make smart choices. If we’re smart about what we eat and what we buy, we can change the world.

An important message from HSI Director Jenny Thompson:

We recently released the most valuable gift in our history to HSI members who renewed their membership. The response was so overwhelming, we had to let you in on the chance to get it FREE by becoming an HSI member today. For instructions to receive your free gift, click here.

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