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Why the Australian Heart Foundation won’t have evidence against saturated fat

I ended this blog suggesting that we all need to demand evidence for the nutritional nonsense that we hear on a daily basis. I also advised not to hold your breath while waiting for the Australian Heart Foundation – or any other organization – to come up with such evidence. Here is why I am so confident that Jessie will be perfectly safe writing to the AHF. This is an argument that she won’t lose …

1) Because the experiment has not been done.

British authorities have been telling us since 1984 that the study to assess saturated fat and heart disease has not been done and never will be done:

–    “There has been no controlled clinical trial of the effect of decreasing dietary intake of saturated fatty acids on the incidence of coronary heart disease nor is it likely that such a trial will be undertaken.” (COMA, 1984). (REF 1)

When I wrote to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2009 and asked them for their evidence against saturated fat – they referred me to a meta-analysis by Truswell (which I dissect in Chapter Eleven of The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it?) Not only does this Truswell analysis fail to prove any case against saturated fat – it actually opens with the following words:

–    “It has been accepted by experienced coronary disease researchers that the perfect controlled dietary trial for prevention of coronary heart disease has not yet been done and we are unlikely ever to see it done.” (Truswell, 1994). (REF 2)

Where have we seen those words before?! And in the letter from the FSA to me in 2009 they also used the same words – just in case I was in any doubt that the experiment had even been done.

–    “The ideal controlled dietary trial for prevention of heart disease has not yet been done and it is unlikely ever to be done.” (FSA, 2009). (REF 3)

2) Because the experiment can’t be done

I have yet to find someone who condemns saturated fat who can accurately define it. The UK National Health Service thinks that saturated fat is: fatty cuts of meat; meat products, including sausages and pies; butter, ghee and lard; cheese, especially hard cheese; cream, soured cream and ice cream; some savoury snacks and chocolate confectionery; biscuits, cakes and pastries.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans list: ice cream; sherbet; frozen yogurt; cakes; cookies; quick breads; doughnuts; margarine; sausages; potato chips; corn chips; popcorn and yeast bread as major sources of saturated fats. The Australian Government “Measure Up campaign” lists fatty processed meats and baked cereal based foods such as cakes, pastries and biscuits as sources of saturated fat, so this is not only a UK error.

Let’s look at the three different categories into which these claimed saturated fats fall:

Category i) baked cereal based foods, biscuits, (quick) breads, cakes, chocolate confectionery, cookies, corn chips, doughnuts, ice cream, margarine, pastries, pies, popcorn, potato chips, savoury snacks, sherbert, yeast bread, (frozen) yogurt. Category i we can call cr@p. It’s junk food. Processed food. I would not be at all surprised if it caused heart disease but it is NOT saturated fat. It is bad for us because of the sugar, flour, vegetable oil and myriad of processed and unpronounceable ingredients. If there is any real fat in any of these fake foods, it will be the healthiest part of the product by a margin.

Category i is a list of fake foods, which are in virtually all cases – mostly carbohydrate. However all of these fake foods contain all three macro nutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat). Since they contain fat, they contain all three fats (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Every food that contains fat contains all three fats. There are no exceptions. Hence no one is able to say what it is in these foods that may be associated with heart disease. However, as Dr. T. L Cleave said “For a modern disease to be related to an old-fashioned food is one of the most ludicrous things I ever heard in my life.” So suspect the modern ingredients ahead of the real fat, which has sustained humans for 3.5 million years, or look ludicrous!

Category ii) is much smaller –  fatty cuts of meat; meat products, including sausages and lard is the UK list and Australia specifies fatty processed meats. Category ii also has a lot of junk food. Processed food. The meat eaters that I know and respect are eating quality meat (and lard) from pasture living animals. We don’t eat processed meat. We do eat fatty cuts of quality meat, but our governments don’t appear to know that meat has more unsaturated than saturated fat – not that one real fat is better or worse than another – that’s why all three fats are in all foods that contain fat – but just to set the record straight. Lard has more unsaturated fat than saturated fat. And, bad as processed meat may be, it’s still more unsaturated than saturated fat.

Category ii also has the same problem as category i – saturated fat cannot be isolated. Much processed meat and definitely processed sausages contain all three macro nutrients again – carbohydrate, fat and protein. Quality meat, which has no carbohydrate, often has more protein than fat. Whether or not carbs are present and whether or not the meat is mainly protein or mainly fat, all three fats will be present. Again – it will be impossible to determine what it is in any of these foods that may be even associated with any illness.

We are left with category iii – the only food group on the planet with more saturated than unsaturated fat is dairy products. Repeat that after me! Butter, ghee, cheese, especially hard cheese, cream, soured cream have more saturated than unsaturated fat. Not that one real fat is better or worse – but just because we need to start using accurate terminology. Dairy products are also an excellent source of fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K – the ones that Brits are deficient in, if not Americans and Australians. Dairy products also contain carbohydrate (between a trace and about one tenth of the product composition) and protein and fat. They therefore contain all three fats. No study has been able to isolate saturated fat in dairy products and yet our governments will categorically tell us that it is the saturated fat in dairy, not the protein, not the carbohydrate, not the monounsaturated fat and not the polyunsaturated fat, which is out to get us.

The average Brit eats 39g of butter per week. The average Brit eats 730g of sugar per week. The average Brit eats 1,423g of flour per week (REF 4). That’s over 2 KILOGRAMS of nutritionally pointless sugar and fairly pointless flour – and we have the absurdity to demonise butter!

So now we know the following:

a) The authorities don’t know what saturated fat is. The majority of the products they call saturated fats are processed carbohydrates.

b) No one can isolate saturated fat from monounsaturated fat and/or polyunsaturated fat in the foods listed. In virtually all foods listed, no one can even isolate fat from carbohydrate and protein.

c) As I explain in this paper, the ONLY experiment that can be done to isolate fat involves swapping one oil for another. See section 7. We can swap olive oil out and sunflower oil in and change the proportions of the three real fats. We, however, also change nutrient intake – vitamins E and K. The control experiment, where we change one thing and one thing alone, cannot be done.

If they’re not too busy trying to work out from the first blog how dietary fat can end up in arteries or metamorphosise into LDL, Jessie may well get an attempt at a defense back from the Australian Nonsense Foundation. However our first question back will be – what did you assume saturated fat to be? and our second will be – how did you isolate it?

Now stop holding your breath!


REF 1 – Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy, “Diet and Cardiovascular Disease: Report of the Panel on Diet in Relation to Cardiovascular Disease”, (1984).

REF 2 – A Stewart Truswell, “Review of dietary intervention studies: effect on coronary events and on total mortality”, Australian New Zealand Journal of Medicine, (1994).

REF 3 – Letter from the FSA to Zoë Harcombe, (25 September 2009).

REF 4 – See refs 120 and 121 from the obesity book

p.s. (This was the Monday newsletter for 30 September 2013)

23 thoughts on “Why the Australian Heart Foundation won’t have evidence against saturated fat

  • If the nonsaturated fats are not harmful, what is all of the talk i’ve been hearing about polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fats being bad or outright worse than saturated fat (at least from my searches)? I’ve heard the poly and mono unsaturated fats are what cause inflammation if that is correct, then lard, containing all three, should cause inflammation and plaque buildup or not do to the other saturated fat in it?

    I’d love a clarification.

    • Hi ZzgOOzaa
      I’ve not heard monounsaturated fats accused of much. They are less stable than saturated fats and thus not as safe for cooking at very high temperatures, but a stir fry in olive oil is not a problem (in my opinion).

      Polyunsaturated fats are the ones accused of being inflammatory and there’s a distinction that needs to be made here. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs for short) come in two main forms – Omega-3 and Omega-6 – often called n-3 and n-6 in the literature. n-6 is the inflammatory suspect. n-3 is usually considered quite the opposite – healthy for us. This is one of the many reasons why my dietary advice is “eat real food” – nature puts n-3 and n-6 in all foods that contain fat in differing proportions. Fish is higher in n-3, meat is higher in n-6 but nothing in the real food world can match the levels of n-6 in these vegetable oils that have flooded our planet. We should be cooking in lard – it’s a natural real food. We should not be cooking with oils extracted from plants, which become unstable at cooking temperatures.

      You’ve spotted the other key thing that the fat phobics can’t explain (most don’t appear to know). As this blog posts says – all foods that contain fat contain all three fats (sat, mono and poly) – there are no exceptions. Hence, as you’re getting close to saying, the idea that some parts of lard are trying to kill you and the other bits trying to save you is quite absurd. This article (free download) was written to point out the absurdities of our current advice:

      Best wishes – Zoe

  • Almost missed this:

    “Writing in The Lancet in 1994, Felton et al …”

    … brainfarted. Plain and simple. Happens to seasoned scientists, too. The presence of pufa in aortic plaques implies no causal relationship since

    1) it has been documented extensively that pufa in diet IMPROVES the function of LDL receptors and especially n-3 fatty acids improve endothelial function, and

    2) several meta-analyses point out that exchanging refined carbs & safa for pufa has benefits in terms of CVD end points.

    In other words: no mechanism, no evidence in end point data –> no effect.

  • Don’t know what kind of ice cream you eat in the UK, but here in Finland the stats show that regular ice cream contains 17,3 g of sugars per 100 g of ice cream and 7,3g of safa per 100 g. Now, in kcals that means 69,2 kcals of sugar and 65,7 kcals of safa per 100 g of ice cream.

    So I’d say that ice cream is rich in BOTH sugar and safa.

  • I’m just amazed that our silly bodies evolved this whole elaborate energy storage system to get us through lean times and it picked “saturated fat” as the storage medium when it is so obviously so very bad for us. Silly silly body. Doesn’t it know that when we lose a bit of fat we have to metabolize it and that immediately raises LDL, causes plaque that clogs arteries and gives us heart attacks. Thankfully we have now invented statins. I wonder how we evolved for millions of years without them..
    Thanks for the wonderfully informative blog.
    I would love it if the Heart Foundation ever read it but I doubt they will.

    • Because we do not need statins and they cause much more harm than good.

      What we should have evolved is the conscious part of the brain that could actually fully understand it’s subconscious/bodily messages instead of interpreting them incorrectly or possessing such an ability to ignore and deny the inner mind/body’s pleas for help!

      Hopefully we’ll get there before we medicate and malnutritionally eradicate our species into extinction…

  • I found that one too Deborah and wondered why it isn’t plastered across their website ;-)
    I was searching for what evidence they base their position on….and this is what I found:

    “SFA intake is associated with CHD”…because….

    one reference:Booker C and Mann J: The relationship between saturated and trans
    unsaturated fatty acids and LDL-cholesterol and coronary heart
    disease. A review undertaken for Food Standards Australia New
    Zealand. Canberra, FSANZ, 2005.

    whose summary states: “there are some inconsistencies in the data which cannot all be easily explained…….the current evidence for the direct association between saturated fatty acids and coronary heart disease is arguably more appropriately described as “probable” rather than “convincing”.”

    And that’s it!! OMG :-(

  • Pingback: Deeply Disturbing Nutrition Leaflet handed out by a GP | The Big Fat Truth

  • It seems quite odd that list of products that supposed to contain saturated fats actually contain the toxic poyunsaturated oils. Take away foods are cooked in polyunsaturated oils apart from vile trans fats they also contain far far too much omega 6. It is the omega 6 that leads to many diseases. The omega 6 fats are converted by the body into the harmful eicosanoids that are mostly inflation promoting and blood clotting factors. The omega 3 fats are converted into the good eicosanoids and also control the level of eicosanoids with little omega 3 and too much omega 6 the body makes too much bad eicosanoids causing arthritis, asthmas, heart disease, stroke diabetes etc
    Cancer is also a possible result of the wrong eicosanoids, or the wrong level.

    Before the massive influx of sugar, other carbohydrates and polyunsaturated cooking oils these diseases where as rare as chicken dentures.

  • Yes, around the time of WWII, New Zealanders were eating around 500g of butter per capita per week.

  • have you noticed though that the Australian heart foundation acknowledges in its policy statement that fat plays no part in obesity? that little gem is hidden away down the bottom of its page dealing with out of date advice on fats. Also note that they haven’t reviewed that advice since 2003!

  • I have just returned from my doctors after a blood test and they have said that my blood results for cholesterol is high, 6.7
    . Reading up on the good and bad stuff in your articles makes me think outside of the medical box to question whether they are right or not. Their recommendation to eat flora Benacol seems just daft and after reading the information on your website makes me think. I am 65 ,8 stone and worried. Who do I believe? Thanks

  • Hello Zoe

    Thanks for the response, but I’m still confused. If the people who take these tablets go onto a high carb diet, then surely they would put on weight? But the claims are that they lose up to three times as much as dieting alone. I would have thought that the studies are skewed to fit the facts, but can we simply say that? And is it bordering on libel/slander to say so? Sometimes I worry when I write on the internet, because although I can draw from my own experience, it is fair to say I have not tried these fat binders (nor would I want to), and am only assuming that they do not work for anyone. The sellers of these pills would presumably say they have people who will vouch that they do.

    I can see we are all getting fatter, but is there an increasing number of people who are taking fat blockers?

  • Fabulous article as usual. I love you Zoe for your wonderful analysis! More power to your elbow!

    “Ewa Stachowska, Barbara Dolstrokeogongowska, Dariusz Chlubek, Teresa Wesolstrokowska, Kazimierz Ciechanowski, Piotr Gutowski, Halina Szumilstrokowicz and Radoslstrokaw Turowski”

    Many congrats for typing that lot without a single typo!

    Helena Wojtczak (!)

  • One point though – the ‘Fat binding’ drug they advertise on telly – does it ‘work’ because they pick three people out of 1000 who have lost 3 times more weight than the rest? I’m curious because this is ‘proof’ that fat is culprit, even when I know that it isn’t.

  • That certainly suggests a relationship, thanks for the info.

  • Hello

    A bit of a tangent. Does the PUFA that is part of the membrane of the LDL always the same or does it vary according to the type of PUFAs we consume? If it does, does it matter, will one type be more prone to oxidation than another?

    Great blog BTW, entertaining and informative. :)


    • Hi RV – great question and I don’t know! I’ll ask the thincs guys but I won’t be around to get an answer for a while so bear with me!

      I have got the following extract from my obesity book, which may be of interest
      Very best wishes – Zoe

      Writing in The Lancet in 1994, Felton et al compared the fatty-acid composition of aortic plaques with serum (clear blood separated from blood clots) and human fat tissue samples from post-mortems. The blood and tissue samples reflected dietary intake. Their conclusions were as follows: “Positive associations were found between serum and plaque omega 6 (r = 0.75) and omega 3 (r = 0.93) polyunsaturated fatty acids, and monounsaturates (r = 0.70), and also between adipose tissue and plaque omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (r = 0.89). No associations were found with saturated fatty acids. These findings imply a direct influence of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids on aortic plaque formation and suggest that current trends favouring increased intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids should be reconsidered.”

      Ewa Stachowska et al writing in the European Journal of Nutrition in October 2004 obtained atheromatous plaques from 31 patients who underwent surgery due to atherosclerotic narrowing of the arteries. Fatty acids were extracted and the conclusion was as follows: “We found spatial and positional isomers of sixteen- and eighteen-carbon fatty acids in plaques and adipose tissue, with elaidic acid (C18:1 trans-9) being the most abundant. Every plaque and adipose tissue sample contained linolelaidic acid (C18:2 trans-9 trans-12) which is derived exclusively from linoleic acid, as well as conjugated dienes of linoleic acid (CLA) produced during oxidative processes.” In lay speak, this means – the most common fat we found in the plaques was elaidic acid – that’s a trans fat. Every plaque sample contained linolelaidic acid – that’s a trans polyunsaturated fat. No mention of saturated fat whatsoever.

      -Felton C.V,. Crook D., Davies M.J., Oliver M.F., “Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and composition of human aortic plaques”, The Lancet, (October 1994).
      -Ewa Stachowska, Barbara Dolstrokeogongowska, Dariusz Chlubek, Teresa Wesolstrokowska, Kazimierz Ciechanowski, Piotr Gutowski, Halina Szumilstrokowicz and Radoslstrokaw Turowski, “Dietary trans fatty acids and composition of human atheromatous plaques”, The European Journal of Nutrition, (October 2004).

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