Is saturated fat worse than sugar?

Executive Summary * A paper was published in Diabetes Care in May 2020 called “Intrahepatic fat and postprandial glycemia increase after consumption of a diet enriched in saturated fat compared with free sugars.” * The study was a comparison of two diets – one called the saturated fat diet and the other called the sugar diet. It claimed that the saturated fat diet increased liver fat and had exaggerated glucose and insulin responses following a test meal, compared with the sugar diet. * The liver fat claim did not withstand scrutiny and the response to the test meal was easily explained. * The study was funded by the World Sugar Research Organisation and two organisations that are notoriously anti saturated fat. * The sugar diet provided 100g of sugar daily. The saturated fat diet provided foods such as cheese, butter biscuits and milk chocolate daily. You can see one of the issues already. * The saturated fat diet added fat but barely reduced carbohydrate. The sugar diet added carbohydrate while substantially cutting fat. * Everything changed as a result of the two very different diets: calorie intake; weight of the participants; carbohydrate intake; sugar intake; fat intake; saturated fat intake; monounsaturated fat intake; polyunsaturated fat intake; even alcohol intake – but everything was blamed on saturated fat alone. * Nutritional intervention trials cannot be done because one thing alone cannot be changed. This study didn’t even try to change just one thing. * The sugar diet ended up as a genuine low fat high carb diet (LFHC). The saturated fat diet ended up as moderate-high carbohydrate (35%) and moderate fat (46%). * US fat and carbohydrate intake tends to be around 35% and 46-48% respectively. That’s the saturated fat diet in this study with carbohydrate and fat intake swapped around. A carb/fat combination diet might be the worst macronutrient intake that we can consume. Introduction Many thanks to Shaun Webber for this week’s topic. A paper was published in Diabetes Care in May 2020 called “Intrahepatic fat and postprandial glycemia increase after consumption of a diet enriched in saturated fat compared with free sugars” (Ref 1). The paper caught my eye at the time and I think my eyes then rolled at the notion that saturated fat is worse than sugar and then I moved on, but Shaun asked if I could take a look at it. It turned out to be really interesting.

 

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