Wrong evidence presented, but no doubt fat intake was damaging

Advice was given to millions of adults without sufficient scientific evidence

‘There is no doubt that consuming a diet rich in saturated fats can leave you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.’ Photograph:  Jimmy Pozarik/Getty

‘There is no doubt that consuming a diet rich in saturated fats can leave you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.’ Photograph: Jimmy Pozarik/Getty

 

The US and UK populations were warned in the late 1970s and early 1980s that a diet high in fats was a danger to health. And that advice still holds true today. There is no doubt that consuming a diet rich in saturated fats can leave you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

The issue may seem to be brought into question by the research paper just published in the journal Open Heart, but researchers in nutrition and population health say this is not the case. Yet, the research paper is correct in its main conclusion, that this advice was given to millions of adults without sufficient scientific evidence.

The authors of the report in Open Heart went back and carried out a fresh assessment of just how good the evidence at the time was and they showed it was seriously flawed.

It leads the authors to believe it was a wrong decision and also to conclude that perhaps today’s dietary advice needs review.

In this, however, they fall foul of a wide range of researchers in the field.

While they accept the wrong kind of evidence was presented at the time, there was no doubt from many other studies that fat intake predisposed one to cardiovascular disease and premature death.

Catherine Collins, principal dietitian at St George’s Hospital NHS Trust said: “Should the public be concerned that current advice may be pinned on flawed recommendations from three decades ago? Not at all.”

Prof Simon Capewell, professor of clinical epidemiology, University of Liverpool said: “This study is wrong about many important things. Firstly, it ignores the historical, political and scientific context. But perhaps the greatest crime is embodied within the penultimate sentence in the discussion: ‘questioning the alleged relationship between saturated fat and coronary heart disease’.

“Why say ‘alleged’? It is surely monstrous to suggest that the scientific evidence linking sat [saturated] fats and coronary heart disease has not increased hugely since 1983.”