Last week I attended the Canadian Association of Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation conference. The focus was on exercise, not nutrition, and I will discuss some of the interesting findings in my next Fit Fact, but one aspect really stood out. Every speaker started their presentation with, “here are the companies I work with/for and these may be areas where I have potential conflicts of interest. ” In fact, in every feedback form, one column asked, “did the speaker reveal any conflicts of interest or areas where they would have received reimbursement from outside sources?”
Too bad what you read online, in papers or hear on the radio isn’t that transparent. Actually, the advice you may get from your doctor, dietician or other health professional isn’t that transparent either. So in the spirit of full disclosure here are a few things about me I would like to clear up.
- I do not receive money for promoting products.
- I do not promote supplements.
- I use only evidence-based methods.
I write the Facts because I think that people should make informed choices, but I am not making those choices for you. Your well-being is up to you. You are the only one that can decide what to eat, when to exercise or how to manage stress. I can not care more about your health than you do.
What does this have to do with what you eat? It is because there is so much noise and very little knowledge when it comes to nutrition.
Our food (and fitness) recommendations from government organizations come from committees. Committees of people who decide to tell you what you might do, not what would actually make a difference. Instead of saying don’t eat processed meats, they say “eat less processed meats” because they think you won’t be able to do it. It would be too difficult to simply stop eating processed meat? Personally, I have never found that to be a problem.
They never give you the facts and let you decide. And that is a problem because it allows for misinformation to be spread. In nutrition and in fitness the recommendations are based on what people might do, not what would be the most beneficial. Like smoking in the 50s, it took 7,000 studies and 25 years of research to establish that smoking is bad. Plant-based diets may be the nutritional equivalent of not smoking, but it is going to take a few more years of research before that hits the mainstream.
14 million people every year die from the effects of eating meat and processed foods. Yes, 14 million. That brings me to my point.
Last week a few news organizations reported that eating saturated fat doesn’t increase your risk for heart disease. Excuse me? How do they explain the Cochrane Review of over 15 studies with more than 59,000 people that found that reducing saturated fat reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease by 17% and the less you eat, the better. The new study compared diets of 37% fat to a 41% fat Mediterranean diet and found that people who walked were healthier. Comparing a diet of 37% fat to one of 41% fat…well, that doesn’t prove that butter is healthy, only that walking is good for you. One of the authors was paid by Amgen.
There is not one cause of heart disease. But here are some of the health problems associated with saturated fat from the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine.
The following are just a dozen of the many studies showing why avoiding saturated fat is a smart choice for maintaining good health:
- Dairy Increases Risk for Death from Prostate Cancer: The saturated fat in dairy products may increase your risk of death from prostate cancer, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer.
- High-Fat Diet Slows Metabolism: A high-fat diet may change how your body processes nutrients, according to a study published in Obesity.
- Fat Linked to Breast Cancer Risk: A high-fat, high cholesterol diet increases the risk of breast cancer, according to a study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.
- A High-Fat Diet Increases Risk of Breast Cancer: Women who eat diets high in fat and saturated fat increase their risk of developing breast cancer, according to a study published by the National Cancer Institute.
- Better Brain Health with Less Saturated Fat: Reducing consumption of saturated and trans fats reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to a review published in Neurobiology of Aging.
- Fatty Diets Linked to Cancer and Early Death: Diets high in saturated fats and sugar may increase your risk of death from gastrointestinal cancers, including stomach and esophageal, according to a presentation at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference.
- Low-Saturated-Fat Diet Improves Insulin Function: Eating a low-saturated-fat, high-fiber diet helps with insulin sensitivity, according to a study published in Diabetes Care.
- High-Fat Diet Boosts Brain Proteins Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease: A high-fat, high-glycemic-index diet increases the concentration of proteins in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published by the American Medical Association.
- Fat Matters for Type 1 Diabetes: Fatty foods tend to increase blood sugars for people with type 1 diabetes, according to a study published by the American Diabetes Association.
- High-Fat Dairy Intake Linked to Mortality: Women who consumed the most high-fat dairy products were more likely to die during a 12-year follow-up, compared with those who consumed the least, according to a study published by the National Cancer Institute.
- Yes, Cutting Fatty Foods Really Does Help You Lose Weight: Diets lower in total fat led to lower total body weights, compared with diets higher in fat, according to a new review published in the British Medical Journal.
- Cognitive Decline Associated with Fat Intake: Fatty foods eaten during midlife may hasten cognitive decline in later life, according to research from the Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study.
We know, without a doubt, that the diets that have been proven to increase lifespan and healthspan are low in saturated fats, low in processed foods, low in sugar, high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Any news otherwise is simply click-bait.
The European Artherosclerosis Society (EAS) just published a review of 200 studies and 20 million person years of follow-up on the linear relationship of cholesterol (found in saturated and trans fats) and cardiovascular risk. One society member Dr Christopher Packard says this is needed because there seems to be a “drifting away from the science base in writing guidelines and also in the lay and popular press.” You can say that again.
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