L.A. Times: Time to end the war against saturated fat?

An October 22, 2013 article in the Los Angeles Times by Melissa Healy was titled Time to end the war against saturated fat? and includes this quotation "Forget the statins and bring back the bacon (or at least the full-fat yogurt)."

This article quoted an article in the "Observations" section of the British Medical Journal entitled Saturated fat is not the major issue written by Aseem Malhotra who states "It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease." Here is my response:

Curing Heart Disease

Dr. Malhotra,

I am responding to your October 2013 article in the British Medical Journal as quoted in an October 22, 2013 article in the Los Angeles Times.

Your assertion that statins have not eliminated heart disease is firmly supported by solid research including this study: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=416105

It is not surprising that statins don’t extend life given that they reduce our liver’s own production of cholesterol, while doing nothing about dietary cholesterol in the bloodstream.

However, your opinion on the effects of dietary components on heart disease suggests that you might not be aware of some of the research trials that have halted heart disease in nearly all patients through a diet low in saturated fat. Here is a link to one of the best studies by Caldwell Esselstyn. http://www.heartattackproof.com/study01_background.htm

I understand that a lot of the scientific data on the effects of diet on heart disease can be confusing. One of the primary factors causing confusion is that there is a massive misunderstanding about the appropriate levels of fat in our diet. Many studies have been performed with a so-called “low-fat” diet, where the definition of low-fat ranges from 30% of calories to 39%. These are the levels that most westerners eat, so it is not surprising that these diets do not result in less disease because they are not in fact low-fat diets.

When patients switch to a whole-food plant-based diet with nearly no saturated fats and the other fats consumed being about 10% of calories, heart disease isn’t just reduced, it goes away. This is why certain groups of people such as rural Chinese and people who live in the highlands of Papua New Guinea have essentially no heart disease. It is because they naturally eat a whole-food plant-based diet. And westerners who switch to this diet get the same results.

If you know of a study that has a similarly spectacular elimination of heart disease through a diet that contains a significant amount of saturated fat, please send me a reference as I’d like to know about it.

If you don’t know of such a study, I would politely recommend that you do not share your opinions that saturated fat is not harmful. Your “Observations” article in the BMJ was picked up by the LA Times and from there spread to many other places on the Internet with their quote “Forget the statins and bring back the bacon (or at least the full-fat yogurt)”. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-saturated-fat-20131022,0,2193813.story#axzz2iVqDuTTZ

I suffered unexpected cardiac arrest four years ago at age 52. Since my recovery I have been studying intently the cause and prevention of heart disease and have found nothing even remotely as effective as a low-fat plant-based diet. I formed a non-profit organization and devote a lot of time and energy sharing with people the best scientific information about the relationship between nutrition and health. Sadly, your article has just added to the confusion and made my goal of saving lives harder.

You are right of course about the abundance of empty simple carbs (i.e. sugars) as being problematic. However the harm from sugars does not negate the harm done by saturated fats. And the two together, saturated fats plus sugars, along with animal proteins are the perfect storm for heart disease.

Please let me know how I can best help you and your medical colleagues learn about the latest and best nutrition science studies and sort them from the confusing, erroneous, and irrelevant published material. If you have the time and willingness to sort out the wheat from the chaff, I think you will shortly come to the same conclusion as has a growing number of medical professionals as to the power of a plant-based diet to eliminate not only heart disease, but to minimize stroke, diabetes, cancer, and about 30 other diseases. You might start by looking at some of the publications reviewed on my web site. If you would like me to send them to you at no charge, please let me know which items you would like and to what address I should send them.

To your long life and health,

John Tanner, Ph.D.
CEO, Tanner Research, Inc.
Director, NuSci, The Nutrition Science Foundation
(626) 872-4050


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