Heart disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year. In a recent paper published by the American Heart Association (AHA), once again, the role of dietary fats in heart disease, specifically saturated fat, is examined. According to the AHA, replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat could reduce heart disease by 30%, similar to the results achieved by taking statins. Really?
While there is some evidence to support a link between dietary saturated fat consumption and heart disease in a high-carbohydrate setting, so many other factors need to be taken into account. Dietary fat consumption has little to do with cholesterol levels as compared to the cholesterol circulating in our bodies that is produced by the liver. In this recent paper, even the American Heart Association has softened its stance on dietary fat consumption, claiming vegetable oils as the fat of choice, while still demonizing saturated fats. There is no basis for this positioning in a low carb setting. Even AHA admits that replacing saturated fat with most refined carbohydrates and sugars does not reduce or prevent heart disease. So why advise the public to avoid sat fat? There’s simply no evidence that substituting unsaturated fat for saturated fat is beneficial. Many of the clinical trials that have tested this hypothesis were performed 50 or more years ago and are riddled with design problems.
Fat, like protein, helps keep you full for longer. And since it carries flavor, it makes food more satisfying. In other words, you could consume 500 calories of fat and feel more full and satisfied than 1,000 calories of refined carbs. Even better, when you eat fat, it slows the entry of glucose into the bloodstream, moderating the highs and lows of blood sugar. So instead of that crash and burn after eating carbs, and return of your hunger soon after, fat helps moderate your appetite and your cravings.
While researchers have not determined the optimal percentage of fat consumption, study after study has shown that when we restrict or limit carbs (specifically the simple carbs), we are able to consume higher levels of fats, including saturated fat, because they are being burned for fuel (although everyone agrees that trans fats should be avoided at all costs). In addition, meticulous analyses of the daily food menus for the four principle phases of the Atkins reveal a very balanced intake of fats. This happens naturally with whole food selections because nature, in its wisdom, presents fats in whole foods in such a manner. If you’re doing Atkins, the level of saturated fat you eat on Atkins poses no health risks. When balanced with mono- and polyunsaturated fats in a low-carb diet, saturated fat may actually have real and measurable benefits in a number of different arenas.
In other words, you are on the right track if you’re consuming a diet with adequate protein consisting of, poultry, fish, meat, some dairy including eggs, Greek yogurt, and a little cheese, healthy fats (found in olives and olive oil, avocado, butter, seeds, nuts, nut oils and butters and oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel), lots of high-fiber carbohydrates such as colorful vegetables, as well as controlled portions of low glycemic fruits such as berries etc. Once weight goals are achieved even some whole grains and legumes can be incorporated.