Saturated fat is bad for you…….really???

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by Grant Schofield and Helen Kilding

Addendum note from Grant: This post has generated an enormous amount of debate – see the comments section.  Its interesting as the authors of this study came back into the debate early.

Another study, this time it’s my colleagues much closer to home in New Zealand, and they received quite a bit of media space from it. The authors sought to estimate the potential impact on cardiovascular health of modifying dietary intake of saturated fat across the New Zealand population, and whether this would be appropriate and feasible.

They decided that while there was no evidence that fat intake affected health, substituting saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats would be of use and is “feasible” for the health of New Zealanders.

Here’s the paper. “Review of the evidence for the potential impact and feasibility of substituting saturated fat in the New Zealand diet (Rachel H. Foster, Nick Wilson, Burden of Disease, Epidemiology, Equity and Cost-Effectiveness (BODE3) Programme, Department of Public Health, University of Otago – Wellington, New Zealand).

They concluded that “Replacing 5% of daily energy consumed as saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats would be expected to reduce cardiovascular events by about 10%.”

Here’s what the media made of it – The New Zealand Herald, and Stuff.co.nz

And I got more than a few questions from readers….for example:

Hi Grant

What’s your take on this study? (see attached)

Many of the fats they mention as bad I have been eating for the past two months and have lost weight and improved cholesterol! This is an actual result and if anything by default resulted in me consuming less of their so called good fats i.e canola oils, polyunsaturated oils etc.

No wonder it  is hard for people to make informed decisions about diet with so much conflicting information. End of the day I decided to see for myself and make myself the test subject on a LCHF diet and continue to be thankful I did.

So what do we make of all this? First, they actually found no association between fat intake and disease outcomes in their meta-analysis. So great, fat isn’t a risk. But they did conclude that because replacing saturated fat reduces risk, that saturated fat must therefore be a risk factor.

I guess they haven’t considered the latest meta analysis in the American Journal of Public Health (2013)  “Food Sources of Saturated Fat and the Association With Mortality: A Meta-Analysis “. This specifically looks at saturated fats. They show very limited evidence for most saturated fats foods having any association with CVD or cancer. Probably processed meat is the strongest association. In this sort of food product, saturated fat isn’t the only metabolic ingredient.

Nor have they considered that actual experimental evidence through randomized controlled trials (there are more than 20 now) does not show a harm for increasing saturated fat intake in LCHF diets. All the “established” cardio-metabolic risk markers show very favorable outcomes compared with all other diets. No long term outcomes, but these are well known and regarded proxies.

The recently published Sydney Heart study data shows that exactly the opposite happened back in the 1970s, when they replaced saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat and saw things get worse. Here’s the BMJ editorial on this. And here are some results:

“Participants were randomly divided into two groups. The intervention group was instructed to reduce saturated fats (from animal fats, common margarines and shortenings) to less than 10% of energy intake and to increase linoleic acid (from safflower oil and safflower oil polyunsaturated margarine) to 15% of energy intake. Safflower oil is a concentrated source of omega-6 linoleic acid and provides no omega-3 PUFAs. The control group received no specific dietary advice.

Both groups had regular assessments and completed food diaries for an average of 39 months. All non-dietary aspects of the study were designed to be equal in both groups.

The results show that the omega-6 linoleic acid group had a higher risk of death from all causes, as well as from cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, compared with the control group.”

Nor have they considered almost all of the growing mechanistic evidence that metabolic issues, including CVD, are inflammatory based and the evidence points strongly to a myriad of interacting pathways, from gut microbiome, to sugar, to simple carbs, to the stress axis, to VLDL and triglycerides through the liver etc etc. The direct effect of dietary saturated fat is not clear in any of these mechanisms and unlikely to be a factor.

Overall, the evidence from the association studies is weak, equivocal, or inconsistent, depending on what term you like best.  Experimentally and mechanistically it doesn’t stack up.  Come on guys, are you doing your reading? It’s not good enough when there is such a broader amount of evidence. Your study doesn’t lead to a rationale for reducing saturated fat and replacing it with polyunsaturated.

Worse still, you’re promoting the use of manufactured vegetables oils which are high in Omega 6 and likely to be inflammatory, adding further to the problem.  These oils are also quite unstable and easily oxidized further, adding to metabolic problems. Saturated fat is not.

Avoiding fat will likely mean eating more carbohydrate.  For many, this will further dysregulate their carbohydrate metabolism and make them more insulin resistant resulting in a downward cycle with all the direct and indirect effects of hyoerinsulinemia.  These guys just haven’t even thought that the active metabolic ingredient in their weak epidemiology might be something else which they haven’t or can’t control for…..insulin-raising carbs.

WHAT I THINK WE SHOULD THINK ABOUT WITH FAT:

  1. Fat contains loads of calories
  2. Fat is an essential nutrient
  3. Highly processed fats are inflammatory
  4. Good quality whole foods, including loads of vegetables, are good for you.  Their fat content appears not to harm you.
  5. Omega 3 fats are good for you. These are poly unsaturated so if that is what they are talking about then great.  But these guys go on to talk specifically about manufactured seed oils – these are not good.
  6. In high carb, insulin-provoking diets, fat seems to add to the insulin response.  This seems to be worse in people who are insulin resistant.  By itself, fat is metabolically benign, at least as far as insulin response is concerned. A good reason to avoid the standard American diet.
  7. Processed meats are likely to be bad for you.  I’m not sure if it’s the actual fat and I’m not sure what the mechanisms might be – inflammatory? We may never know if they are for sure because no one is likely to run an experimental trial where people get a long dose of processed meat.

Take home messages:

  • Don’t believe everything you see in a scientific paper.  Sometimes they go past the evidence.
  • Carry on eating fat, hopefully in the absence of processed and simple carbs as they may harm you in combination.

How did fat get such a bad name in the first place?

We’ve been brainwashed in to thinking that when we eat saturated fat it goes straight into our bloodstream, instantly bonding to the inside of our arteries, eventually clogging them up completely. This is bullshit. Atherosclerosis is caused by oxidised LDL particles penetrating our arterial walls, inciting inflammation and damaging the arterial tissue. And what increases LDL particle number?

  1. Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome
  2. Poor thyroid function
  3. Infections
  4. Leaky gut
  5. Genetics

Let’s look at that list again…..no mention of dietary intake of saturated fat.

And when we talk about saturated fat, everyone always wants to talk about cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol does not affect total blood cholesterol. In fact, when we do eat cholesterol, our body makes less of it to keep our blood levels in balance.

So even if eating fat doesn’t result in CVD, won’t eating fat make us fat?

No again. As we’ve said before, fat doesn’t make you fat. Fat is very satisfying, especially when paired with low-carb eating. A nice steak rippled with fat is far more filling than some crusty bread spread with butter. You’ll eat a decent piece of the former and be satisfied but could easily polish off half a loaf of the bread with a good helping of butter and still be hungry. It’s difficult to overeat on a high-fat, low-carb diet.

Our bodies want to use fat for energy, but when we eat fat in the presence of large amounts of dietary carbohydrates, it makes it difficult to access fat for energy. On the flip side, dietary fat in the presence of low levels of dietary carbohydrates makes it easier to access fat for energy. It’s also easy to overeat fat and carbs together – think hot chips, buttered toast, milk chocolate.

And let’s think about farming for a second….how do you fatten cattle? You feed them lots of lots of grass (a carbohydrate). According to a recent post on Christine Cronau’s Facebook page, “70 years ago, farmers tried to fatten their livestock with saturated fat. It backfired! The pigs lost weight and became more active. Of course, the farmers weren’t silly enough to persist with something that didn’t work, yet our conventional health professionals have insisted on doing so!” I’ve tried to source more detail on this but have drawn a blank so far.

60 comments

  1. Thanks Grant for adding a reality check to the paper.
    Question why does it cost so much to get to read the scientific research papers – $35 USD, bet that does not go to the researchers.

    1. That is because the signing of copyright by academics to paywall journals is scam and a blatant misuse of publicly funded research academics’ IP!

  2. Thanks Grant, a great piece. I have two comments.

    “We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that when we eat saturated fat it goes straight into our bloodstream, instantly bonding to the inside of our arteries, eventually clogging them up completely. This is bullshit. Atherosclerosis is caused by oxidised LDL particles penetrating our arterial walls, inciting inflammation and damaging the arterial tissue.”

    Indeed we have been very effectively brainwashed, but how to change that? Public Health campaigns in a NY State fashion? What about getting all Al Gore on it – The Inconvenient Truth that we are eating ourselves to morbidity and early mortality and our economics can’t afford the health implications? I’m not sure how it’s done.

    “And when we talk about saturated fat, everyone always wants to talk about cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol does not affect total blood cholesterol. In fact, when we do eat cholesterol, our body makes less of it to keep our blood levels in balance.”

    More people need to know this – and eat less of the modified seed oil products that make claims to lower cholesterol.

    “increasing access to affordable animal source foods could significantly improve
    nutritional status and health for many poor people, especially children. However, excessive consumption of livestock products is associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity, heart disease and other non-communicable diseases (WHO and FAO, 2003).”

    I agree that the transfer of, usually publically funded research (specific PBRF funding or if in a Uni, polytech or Crown research research institute or equivalent) to private profit making publishers, who then charge for access to the institutions that produced the research through high subscriptions paid by the institutions libraries, is bonkers. Academics cannot be paying for distribution, the Internet has pretty much solved that issue. The high journal subscription cost generally excluded developing country academics from access, and the general public too. Are they paying for the peer review? Probably not, most review, in my experience is done without compensation and again requires the input of government funded university academics. [end of rant]

    1. Great comments thanks!

    2. Help to be the change. the internet is a powerful thing! SHARE IT.

  3. I had a random passage in my post from the latest WHO FAO The State of Food and Agriculture report (2013) which I forgot to comment on.

    “increasing access to affordable animal source foods could significantly improve
    nutritional status and health for many poor people, especially children. However, excessive consumption of livestock products is associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity, heart disease and other non-communicable diseases (WHO and FAO, 2003).” Box 2, page 11

    If saturated fat is not associated with CVD, and eating more red meat is associated with lower risk cancer and heart disease (sorry T. Colin Campbell), at least in Asians, what do we have this information from a WHO organisation? What is excessive consumption?

  4. Grant,

    Thanks for your determined efforts to provide reliable facts on nutrition matters. Sorry to see that your high-profile nutrition scientists in NZ are as ham-fisted as ours in Australia. This is not rocket science: clearly, sugar not saturated fat is the tobacco of our food supply.

    Readers, modern rates of sugar consumption – especially via sugary drinks – are the single-biggest driver of global obesity, type 2 diabetes and related maladies like heart disease, together the greatest public-health challenge of our times: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.full.pdf

    In an effort to counter these disturbing trends – especially amongst young people and Indigenous peoples – I am calling for a ban on all sugary drinks in all schools in all nations: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Sugary-Drinks-Ban.pdf

    While little-known, it is a profoundly important fact that outsized rates of sugar consumption – alongside alcohol and tobacco – are a major driver of the unacceptable “gap” in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians: bottom row of Box 2/Table 2 and Comments in https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/198/7/characteristics-community-level-diet-aboriginal-people-remote-northern-australia

    Readers, if after assessing the facts you think the proposal to ban all sugary drinks in schools has merit, please forward it to parents, students, teachers, principals and heads of schools, nurses, doctors, dentists and others involved in public health and education.

    1. Rory, while you are absolutely correct about sugar in our diets, you should also know that wheat–modern, over-hybridized wheat, even whole wheat–has a higher glycemic index than sucrose, a.k.a., table sugar. Read the book “Wheat Belly,” by Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist. And here is the URL to the Wheat Belly Blog: http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/

  5. And yet, these:

    nutritionfacts.org/video/does-eating-obesity-cause-obesity/
    nutritionfacts.org/video/meat-and-weight-gain-in-the-panacea-study/
    nutritionfacts.org/video/cattlemens-association-has-beef-with-epic-study/

    nutritionfacts.org/video/uprooting-the-leading-causes-of-death/

    Something clearly doesn’t add up between your arguments (meat & fat does = weight gain / obesity) and the above arguments (meat is in fact positively associated with weight gain)…

    So, where does the truth lay?

    1. We simply shouldn’t take the cause and effect out of epidemiology – there is none. These population studies are only ever hypothesis forming. When we run actual experimental trial people who eat meat and veges including saturated fat do very well. As an aside my post is focused on CVD. Remember you can over eat on any food, just less likely when you eat fat as it is satiating and doesn’t metabolically dysregualte like carbs especially sugar.

    2. You ever think that 2kg more weight in the Panacea study was muscle? I do see a lot of scrawny vegans and vegetarians. Plus. 5 years, 2kg? Really?

  6. Sorry, minor typo, that should read “…your arguments (meat & fat *doesn’t* = weight gain / obesity)…”

  7. P.S. “Good quality whole foods, including loads of vegetables, are good for you. Their fat content appears not to harm you.”

    Y’think? Could it be because 1) veggies generally have little to no fat in them? 2) veggies have considerable amounts of nutritive vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants (helping to protect against oxidizing LDL) and moreover (probably more importantly) plenty of fiber (which meats completely lack) to keep things moving through the digestive tract (& possibly keep some cholesterol from being re-absorbed)?

    Likewise veggies also appear to (tentatively) promote a gut flora environment not conducive to TMAO production (from carnitine, choline & lecithin?), which seems to play a role in atherosclerosis & CVD…

    More research clearly needed, but an interesting indication, regardless.

    nutritionfacts.org/video/carnitine-choline-cancer-and-cholesterol-the-tmao-connection/

    1. The insoluble fiber in vegetables is fermented in humans (and other animals who eat vegetables) into short chain fatty acids in the bowel (read saturated fat). HIgh vegetables means, given a functional micro biome, high saturated fatty acids being absorbed through the bowel.

    2. whitefox999 · · Reply

      It’s nice to see that you’re (somewhat) up to date with some of the recent studies, but the veggie-bias seems a little cherry-picked to me. Try reading rebuttals to the “newest” studies – they are often quite eye-opening.

      Example: TMAO, meat-eaters, and that Nature Medicine paper. Chris Masterjohn responded quite thoroughly – http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/cmasterjohn/2013/04/10/does-carnitine-from-red-meat-contribute-to-heart-disease-through-intestinal-bacterial-metabolism-to-tmao/

      Also, L-carnitine supplementation is beneficial not detrimental to heart health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15591005

      So, speaking from human studies and not an out-of-context rat study, L-carnitine (which comes in meat, aka the “red meat is bad” connection to that Nature Med TMAO paper) is good.

      Just my 20 cents (I tip well).

  8. Nick Wilson · · Reply

    Hi Grant – good to see an academic in the public domain discussing nutritional science issues.

    Nevertheless, I think it is fairly difficult to easily dismiss the benefits found in the various meta-analyses of replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats in terms of reduced cardiovascular disease. For example, the meta-analysis by Mozaffarian et al 2010, included 8 randomised trails and found a significantly reduced risk of death. This meta-analysis was the basis for estimating the benefits of such dietary changes calculated in the massive Global Burden of Disease study (published in the Lancet last December). In another one of the meta-analyses we considered (Jakobsen et al 2009) there were reduced ischaemic heart disease events (and deaths) in 11 study populations totalling 344,696 subjects.

    It could be that these studies involved not only changes in dietary fat intake – but favourable other changes (eg, less refined carbohydrates or less salt etc) which may have contributed to the beneficial health outcomes. Also the type of polyunsaturated fats consumed is important, and the evidence does tend to favour sources which are also high in other micronutrients eg, nuts like walnuts and seeds like sunflower seeds (we give such examples in our article). Indeed, there is now a reasonable literature on the benefits of nut consumption, including reduced risk of death (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23866098). Similarly there is growing evidence for the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (in which both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are more important components than are saturated fats). See for example the reduced mortality in this Danish study ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23823619). Quite a good summary of the evidence for health benefits and reduced risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease and the Mediterranean diet is in the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_diet ) – see the links in this to various meta-analyses. While olive oil is mainly composed of monounsaturated fats it may have additional anti-inflammatory properties that are providing benefits, and this is an important area for additional research. One intriguing finding is that replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat was associated with improved mood (reduced anger-hostility scores) and increased physical activity levels (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23446891).

    Studies that suggest that saturated fat consumption might help with weight loss are larghese issues – as peoplNe with normal body weight can still be at high risk of heart disease and stroke. Also, while the Sydney Heart Study is of interest, it is still just one study and it needs to be treated cautiously as it is an old one where the quality of the Nickvegetable oils replacing the saturated fats may not be equivalent to modern quality standards (eg, trans fats in the margarines used in the substitution). Also the oils used in this study didn’t have omega-3 fatty acids which some of the alternatives we suggest have in abundance (eg, walnuts).

    But regardless of the direct health issues around saturated fats it is important to also consider the wider problems from animal fat consumption. That is animal agribusiness is not currently sustainable in terms of greenhouse gas production, water usage, water pollution and (probably) contributing to antibiotic resistance. So in terms of long-term population and planetary health, there seems to be little question that consumption of animal fats need to be substantially reduced in developed countries.

    It would be good to get your considered thoughts on these various issues. Regards Nick (co-author of the article under discussion)

    1. Nick the Nutritionist insists: “…animal agribusiness is not currently sustainable in terms of greenhouse gas production, water usage, water pollution and (probably) contributing to antibiotic resistance. So in terms of long-term population and planetary health, there seems to be little question that consumption of animal fats need to be substantially reduced in developed countries.”

      I think it would be good if nutritionists concentrated at getting nutrition science right – reversing global obesity, T2diabetes, heart disease, etc. After that, it would be worth hearing their views on population and water policy, climate change, Oz cricket, etc.

      1. Nick Wilson · ·

        Hi Rory, You raise an interesting point – is it possible to consider nutrition and other issues at the same time? Indeed, we think it is possible and we attempted to study this in terms of good nutrition, food security (ie, low cost; and considering food wastage) and also sustainability (eg, low greenhouse gases). This study we published found it was possible to achieve these optimised diets in the NZ setting (full free text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609827/). We also did this for diets that were low in salt and also low cost for the NZ setting (see: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0058539). These type of analyses are possible with lots of data and such tools as linear programming and modern computer power. Ultimately however, such analyses could be even better if more effort was put into quantifying food preparation time, risks of infectious disease from food (eg, campylobacteriosis from poultry) and other impacts of food on the environment (as mentioned before – problems like polluted waterways from livestock). Regards Nick

      2. roryrobertsonformerfattie · ·

        Nick,

        Nick, I don’t want to be unkind, but my strong sense is that you are barking up the wrong tree on saturated fats. In my opinion, the main game in improving public health is reducing modern doses of sugar via sugary junk drinks and sugary junk foods: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.full.pdf

        Yes, it would be good if we all could do two big things at once. As I hinted, however, I’m not a fan of conflating nutrition science and environmental issues, when chewing gum sitting-still is proving so difficult.

        Of course, I could be wrong. On the sugar versus saturated-fat issue, what do you make of this study? https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/198/7/characteristics-community-level-diet-aboriginal-people-remote-northern-australia

        So I do not have any great confidence i

  9. Nick Wilson · · Reply

    ABOVE BLOG POST RESENT – as some bits got messed up

    Hi Grant – good to see an academic in the public domain discussing nutritional science issues.

    Nevertheless, I think it is fairly difficult to easily dismiss the benefits found in the various meta-analyses of replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats in terms of reduced cardiovascular disease. For example, the meta-analysis by Mozaffarian et al 2010, included 8 randomised trails and found a significantly reduced risk of death. This meta-analysis was the basis for estimating the benefits of such dietary changes calculated in the massive Global Burden of Disease study (published in the Lancet last December). In another one of the meta-analyses we considered (Jakobsen et al 2009) there were reduced ischaemic heart disease events (and deaths) in 11 study populations totalling 344,696 subjects.

    It could be that these studies involved not only changes in dietary fat intake – but favourable other changes (eg, less refined carbohydrates or less salt etc) which may have contributed to the beneficial health outcomes. Also the type of polyunsaturated fats consumed is important, and the evidence does tend to favour sources which are also high in other micronutrients eg, nuts like walnuts and seeds like sunflower seeds (we give such examples in our article). Indeed, there is now a reasonable literature on the benefits of nut consumption, including reduced risk of death (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23866098). Similarly there is growing evidence for the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (in which both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are more important components than are saturated fats). See for example the reduced mortality in this Danish study ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23823619). Quite a good summary of the evidence for health benefits and reduced risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease and the Mediterranean diet is in the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_diet ) – see the links in this to various meta-analyses. While olive oil is mainly composed of monounsaturated fats it may have additional anti-inflammatory properties that are providing benefits, and this is an important area for additional research. One intriguing finding is that replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat was associated with improved mood (reduced anger-hostility scores) and increased physical activity levels (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23446891).

    Studies that suggest that saturated fat consumption might help with weight loss are largely peripheral to these issues – as people with normal body weight can still be at high risk of heart disease and stroke. Also while the Sydney Heart Study is of interest, it is still just one study and it needs to be treated cautiously as it is an old one where the quality of the vegetable oils replacing the saturated fats may not be equivalent to modern quality standards (eg, trans fats in the margarines used in the substitution). Also the oils used in this study didn’t have omega-3 fatty acids which some of the alternatives we suggest have in abundance (eg, walnuts).

    But regardless of the direct health issues around saturated fats it is important to also consider the wider problems from animal fat consumption. That is animal agribusiness is not currently sustainable in terms of greenhouse gas production, water usage, water pollution and (probably) contributing to antibiotic resistance. So in terms of long-term population and planetary health, there seems to be little question that consumption of animal fats need to be substantially reduced in developed countries.
    It would be good to get your considered thoughts on these various issues. Regards Nick

    1. All good points. I agree that the Omega 3 PUFAs are likely to be healthful and good evidence for this. Opposite still true from the Omega 6 seed oils using exactly the same line of logic. Still not seeing mechanisms for the saturated fat replacement though.

      I was motivated on this issue mainly as things like “fat taxes” were being proposed which is in my opinion way short on evidence and has a good possibility of causing harm….nutrition science has a good history in this.

      Greenhouse gases and sustainability are an issue which no farming method is sustainable because we have too many people on the planet period if you ask me. I’d say the reason we have too many people is more to do with grains than anything else which enabled agriculture to wean kids and have more and bang population explosion….

      1. Got to love the measurement of “hostility”!

      2. “Greenhouse gases and sustainability are an issue which no farming method is sustainable because we have too many people on the planet period if you ask me. I’d say the reason we have too many people is more to do with grains than anything else which enabled agriculture to wean kids and have more and bang population explosion….”

        Hi Prof. Grant Schofield,

        Firstly, I think you are right to be concerned about the population of the world being too large to be sustainable. However, i think it’s important to consider the population of livestock as well as humans. I believe there are around 50-60 billion animals slaughtered every year for food. Evidently, these animals require food, water, land, waste management, etc. So I think that probably the best way to reduce the population (humans + livestock) of the world would be to change our diets to include less animal products and more plant products.

        Secondly, you say that the reason “we have too many people is more to with grains than anything else”. I partly agree with you. I also think that civilization, strict laws against violence, transport, access to clean water and food etc, also play a major role. Also, I think one could claim that recent advances in medicine are equally to blame, since population explosions aren’t just about too many people being born, but also about people living much longer. I don’t think we should eliminate any of these because of their effect on population. Do you? (I’m not really sure if you were saying we should eliminate grains, i guess i just assumed since you seemed to speak highly of Mark Sisson, who is notorious for even hating whole grains. Correct me if i’m wrong)

        – Shane

      3. Yes all good points. I have no idea how humans can have both sustainable and nutritious food with the population problem, you mention strict laws, but that appears not t be in human nature using history as a judge at least

      4. The argument of environmental benefit in face of growing population has been popular with purveyors of plant-based panaceas but is not relevant to this question. Plants supply highly saturated fats to the NZ diet – coconut, cocoa, palm oil, hydrogenated vegetable oils – and oils that are relatively lightly polyunsaturated – olive, avocado.
        Furthermore many healthful animal fats go to waste due to the campaign against saturated fats. We eat more plant oil, using up land, while dripping and lard that are byproducts of our muscle meat consumption are wasted. But not by me, and not by my long-lived ancestors. Ditto for fats in organ meats, marrow or unusual cuts, which now feed dogs or become fertilizers. For the plants that have replaced them in our diets. This is not optimal land use, surely. Overfishing also fertilizes
        plant crops, at least those we import.
        I don’t think replacing pasture with monoculture cultivated fields and orchards is great environmental stewardship either.

    2. Jamie Scott · · Reply

      Fats generally do not exist in singular states (either SFA, MUFA, or PUFA) unless highly refined. Indeed, fat contained within WHOLE FOOD is generally a mixture and one cannot condemn a food simply on that food contain one particular compound. This was a mistake made in the media coverage of your review, condemning butter on the basis of it containing saturated fat.

      As you mention, nuts generally meet with favourable reviews in the research. Refined vegetable oils do not (see reviews by CE Ramsden even prior to the SDHS). Likewise, I expect whole grass fed meat to be more healthful than any fat isolated from it. Indeed, red meat is generally low in SFA, containing larger amounts of MUFA and healthful amounts of N3 PUFA (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20807460).

      As Prof Schofield suggests, mechanistically, the argument for SFA causing any CVD issues is falling to pieces. Review after review is supporting this, and your yourselves suggest this to be the case in both your review and the media release. So I cannot fathom, for the life of me, after establishing that there are no major issues (beyond some very heavily confounded ones) with natural sources of SFA in the diet, why you would then go on to suggest that we tax these healthful foods across the population?

      This strikes me as little more than academic mathematics – teleoanalysis at its worst – and very poorly thought out as to how this might work in practice.

      Jamie Scott
      Health Researcher/Nutritionist

      1. Great post thanks Jamie

    3. Jamie Scott · · Reply

      “It could be that these studies involved not only changes in dietary fat intake – but favourable other changes (eg, less refined carbohydrates or less salt etc) which may have contributed to the beneficial health outcomes. Also the type of polyunsaturated fats consumed is important, and the evidence does tend to favour sources which are also high in other micronutrients eg, nuts like walnuts and seeds like sunflower seeds (we give such examples in our article). Indeed, there is now a reasonable literature on the benefits of nut consumption, including reduced risk of death (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23866098). Similarly there is growing evidence for the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (in which both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are more important components than are saturated fats). See for example the reduced mortality in this Danish study ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23823619). Quite a good summary of the evidence for health benefits and reduced risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease and the Mediterranean diet is in the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_diet ) – see the links in this to various meta-analyses. While olive oil is mainly composed of monounsaturated fats it may have additional anti-inflammatory properties that are providing benefits, and this is an important area for additional research. One intriguing finding is that replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat was associated with improved mood (reduced anger-hostility scores) and increased physical activity levels (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23446891).”

      Nick,

      You mention research here with very many confounding variables, none of which allow a straight forward conclusion that we should be replacing SFA with PUFA. And certainly none of this supports the notion of taxing butter as a trigger for dietary change at a public health level.
      The logic behind your review seems to go something like this;

      Butter is rich in SFA’s. SFA’s have historically been associated with high rates of CVD (though as your own review shows, and the ones Prof Schofield has linked to, this is rapidly falling out of favour). Therefore, by raising the price point on foods with higher levels of SFA, the aim is to drive people toward foods with higher levels of PUFA.

      The problem becomes, however, is that there is little to no solid evidence that the likes of margarines and vegetable oils will achieve what you hope this sort of policy would achieve. You mention nuts. But you do not substitute butter for nuts. This is not like with like. You do not put a sprinkle of nuts on your broccoli. Following the logic of such a proposal will see New Zealanders (if they were fool enough to follow such advice), replacing butter with margarine. Or using some cheap nondescript vegetable oil.

      You mention the Mediterranean diet. This is not a diet rich in margarine or even devoid of butter. The effects of such a dietary template are as much about what isn’t eaten as what is. It is a whole food dietary template which is qualitatively different from the standard Western diet. You simply cannot hold this up as an example of a diet rich in PUFA offering benefits over a high SFA diet. Context matters.

      As has been stated by Ramsden et al., you simply cannot lump margarines and vegetable oils under the umbrella term ‘PUFA’ and expect these high n-6 fats to give the same benefits associated with high n-3 PUFAs such as DHA. Yet again, what do you think would be the likely reaction to people moving away from butter due to a price penalty? What is the most likely substitute? Fish oil? No – it would be high n-6 vegetable oils, which evidence seems to suggest there is enough of a signal for harm from these oils that we should pause for thought.

      Lastly, I suggest for a bit of weekend homework, you look up the relationship between vitamin K2 and CVD then look at the richest sources of K2 we have in our diet. Hint: butter. This shows the folly in condemning one whole food on one of its components.

      I leave you with the following quote:

      “The biological effects of a food cannot possibly be reduced to one of the biological effects of one of the food’s components.

      Believing such a thing would require believing not only that this particular component has no other relevant biological effect, but that there are no relevant biological effects of any of the other tens of thousands of components of that food.”

      Dr Chris Masterjohn, Ph.D.

      Jamie Scott

  10. Nick Wilson · · Reply

    Hi Jamie – if there is a point at which there is general agreement about a hazardous product eg, tobacco, then there is often a strong logic for a government to tax it (as this decreases consumption and raises revenue that can then be put into fixing the problem in other ways eg, quitting services). Sometimes regulation is used eg, some countries have banned “trans fats”, and NZ bans the import of asbestos, leaded petrol etc.

    We might disagree about the evidence base from the various meta-analyses around the health benefits of shifting diets from high levels of saturated fat to some replacement with polyunsaturated fats (ideally ones high in omega-3 fatty acids and with other nutrients – like walnuts). But if there was eventually agreement by policy-makers over this topic, then it would make sense to tax butter, cheese and full fat milk etc – to help with the shift. This was happening in Denmark until the government there seems to have responded to food industry lobbying by dropping saturated fat tax (other food taxes eg, on some sugary foods remain in place).

    But despite this argument, a smart government would probably start the ball rolling with a tax on sugar in soft drinks. These drinks are fairly well established as being a risk factor for child obesity and are very discretionary. It is also easier to explain to the public the sugar hazard (than issues around SF/PUFA etc). Ideally the tax revenue obtained from a sugar tax could then subsidise healthy school lunches and vouchers for fruit and vegetables for low-income New Zealanders. After that there could be informed consideration about taxing high salt foods and (from my perspective) probably high saturated fat foods as well.

    Would you agree that a sugar tax would be a good starting place? Regards Nick

    1. I think we all agree that sugar is metabolically harmful. We have laws and sometimes taxes to protect the public from the externalities of these products. So sugar, probably would fall into that category. SFA though? That’s my argument that this is doubtful if it provide benefit, and has a strong chance of doing net harm.

    2. Milk, butter, cheese, etc., can be readily regarded as whole foods which, in the context of a whole food diet, are likely to offer more positives than negatives (accepting those with dairy intolerance issues). One simply cannot compare these foods to the very many chemical cocktails which our food supply is awash with which are sugary beverages and cereals. Yes, by all means tax these junk foods for no other reason than our health system is going to need the extra resources to deal with the increasing numbers in our population whose health is in decline from eating such junk.

      Your paper, however, comes at a time when there is beginning to be some very good focus and robust discussion on the issue of sugar, and drags us back to an old and dying debate about saturated fat. And I am sorry, but I just see no solid evidence, in the scientific literature, from my own clinical experience, and from the personal reports back from very many people, that there is an issue with whole food sources of SFA. If you can show me people who are keeling over with heart attacks who have been eating butter, lamb, and coconut products, and who haven’t been concurrently stuffing themselves with breads, cereals, sugars, vegetable oils, and just general junk, then I will be far more open to the suggestion that we have issues with the foods that you propose we start taxing.

      Jamie

  11. roryrobertsonformerfattie · · Reply

    Nick,

    Having read your latest response to Jamie, I think I might have been coming on a bit strong. Apologies for that. I’ll sit it out from here.

    Regards,
    Rory

  12. Nick Wilson · · Reply

    Hi Jamie

    Thanks, you have helped me better appreciate the potential limitations of a tax policy that just shifted consumption from foods with saturated fats to oils and spreads (margarine) that have high ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

    While I still favour careful consideration of a Danish-style saturated fat tax (given the results of the meta-analyses we reviewed), I suspect that more health gain might be achieved if such taxes were also used to cross-subsidise nuts and flaxseed oil (so as to maximise the benefits from the fatty acids with the higher omega-3 content). The tax could also fund a media education campaign on the health benefits of increasing nut consumption and the healthiest oils (eg, flaxseed). A careful review of what seem to be some unique benefits of olive oil, might also mean that it could be a candidate oil for being subsidised. Nevertheless, the tax policy to achieve healthier fat intakes for the population would be probably relatively complex, and that is why I suspect that taxing sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages is the place for governments to start (others also have this view as per Professor Tony Blakely: https://blogs.otago.ac.nz/pubhealthexpert/).

    On another point, there are limitations with describing bread and cheese as “whole foods”. Both are relatively high sources of added sodium in the NZ diet – reflecting that these are also “processed foods”. There are good public health arguments for further lower such levels, potentially through regulation of maximum sodium levels (as per a recent law in South Africa). Another limitation with cheese (and other ruminant-based products) – is that these foods come with added environmental burdens, particularly the greenhouse gas methane, but also the other downsides of livestock agribusiness as mentioned before.

    Maybe you have other thoughtful comments – or maybe we have exhausted the discussion in this blog and we should return when the science develops further. Regards Nick.

    1. All interesting, are we going to get into the evidence around sodium now? Really the evidence for reduction and benefit is weak to nothing?

  13. Nick Wilson · · Reply

    Hi Grant – actually the evidence around the dietary sodium being an important public health hazard now seems fairly scientifically robust (a brief review of it is in the Introduction section of this study we published earlier this year on optimisation of low salt diets for the NZ setting: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0058539 [Full free text]). But see also this 2013 Cochrane systematic review: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23633321.

    Reducing salt levels in processed foods at 10% per year is unlikely to be detectable (taste-wise) for most people, so this may possibly be one of the most cost-effective strategies for reduce cardiovascular disease available (see this 2013 review on the economics: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23881545). Reducing sodium intakes would probably also help prevent stomach cancer and chronic kidney disease. I might try to blog on an updated state-of-the-evidence around sodium on this blog site in coming months: https://blogs.otago.ac.nz/pubhealthexpert/. Regards Nick

    1. Nick

      Again I think it is wise not to confuse hypothesis forming epidemiology with better evidence. Here what the CDC just released “A recent report from the CDC reviewed the health benefits of reducing salt and say that, even though Americans consume too much salt, major reductions is no longer considered a substantial health hazard. The CDC even reported that reducing salt intake to below 1 tsp per day may be dangerous to your health.”

      See http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=18311&page=R1

      It just ooes not look like Infervention evidence stacks up to me. Also low sodium is experimentally associated with I Dublin resistance. Although I do agree that’s not really a population problem (low BP).

    2. Jamie Scott · · Reply

      Again we have an issue here of focusing on one marker within a food to dictate whether it is a concern at a public health level. There will be foods – such as butter – which you could mark as a concern due to salt content which is an otherwise healthful food. Then we have foods like breads and cereals, which are vehicles for sugar, salt, and refined grains, and which have stronger links to diseases of affluence, but nobody seems to be singing about taxing bread and Weetbix.

      Salt is not much more than a marker for processed food and all the problems that lie within those foods. Many of the issues attributed to salt can just as easily be attributed to fructose, which is found commonly in the same food stuffs.

      We also have the issue of how salt reduction can impact in other areas. See this review on how targets for salt and potassium cannot be simultaneously met. http://www.nrjournal.com/article/S0271-5317%2813%2900008-0/abstract?elsca1=etoc&elsca2=email&elsca3=0271-5317_201303_33_3&elsca4=nutrition_dietetics

      I can see how all of this is interesting at a very academic level, and we could all trade research back and forth all day. But working with real people at the coal face, we are achieving good health and reduced disease risk by unplugging them from reliance on processed foods and educating them on the benefits of real foods – fresh vegetables, meats, natural fats, fruits, nuts… If you want to go after something, go after sugars and cereals. Taxing these and getting a public shift away from these foods will put a far bigger dent in public disease than tinkering around the edges with salts and chasing SFA ghosts.

      1. Agree with this – basically give or take, if it has a label don’t eat it!

      2. Although one more thought public health is still not past legal steps given evidence of harm reduction in nutrition. I’d support sugar for this, although its always hard to manage or understand uni tended consequences…..

  14. For what it’s worth I am going to add weigh in on this discussion. Both Grant and Jamie have elucidated quite clearly their objections to the conclusions in this recent academic research paper. They are well backed in their objections and I commend them for speaking up so eloquently in this discussion. It is long overdue in the public domain. I am not going to re-hash the evidence that has been discussed but I absolutely support both Jamie and Grants’ perspectives on the issue(s) raised. With that in mind I offer a personal commentary and opinion.

    So who the hell am I, and what right do I have to speak up in a conversation with such esteemed academic company? How do I think I can be qualified to challenge or give an opinion when I am neither an academic nor a researcher and I have no formal nutrition specific training? Does a fancy title or qualification give one automatic right to speak with authority? I think not. There are very many ordinary people with an extraordinary ability to dissect numbers, understand research and impart this knowledge freely and without bias or concern for the vitriol that accompanies critical thinking that challenges the status quo. There are also more and more academics challenging this status quo and I have witnessed the ridicule and highly personal attacks which they have been subjected to by attempting to use their prominence in the scientific community to challenge entrenched beliefs (Prof Tim Noakes is an example).

    The elephant in the room: ‘authority’. I believe that this is the root of much of the current unbending belief in old dogmatic nutritional advice and guidelines. One does not have to dig too deep to find the cracks in the armour. Why, if there is such a dearth of evidence proving the hypotheses that evolved decades ago, do we still persist in claiming them as truth? Deferring to perceived authority is common place and very easily leads us down the path of least resistance (but not necessarily to the truth).

    So in this conversation we have the research academic ( with a Dr title) publishing a paper claiming “Replacing 5% of daily energy consumed as saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats would be expected to reduce cardiovascular events by about 10%.” This despite the fact researchers actually found no association between fat intake and disease outcomes in their meta-analysis. Almost everyone who reads this article will believe it is the truth because of the perceived authority (titled, researcher, published etc.).

    We have Grant Schofield (Professor) standing up to challenge this notion. He has a title and works in a well respected institution so he’s looking like quite an authority but he has spoken up in a blog (not a scientific publication). Does that make his opinion and evidence less valid?
    Jamie Scott offers us a clear, unambiguous argument backed by substantial evidence but he has no big title and doesn’t work in an academic institution so why should we take any notice of him? He is just a nutritionist.
    We even have an economist, Rory (a numbers man) with a very valid perspective. Yet ‘academics’ and others feeling threatened would claim that his point of view holds no sway because he is neither doctor nor nutritionist

    And I am “just” a GP. I have no formal nutritional training yet patients will hang on my every word. They would even take my word ahead of Jamie’s (which, by the way would be a very foolish decision). This ‘perceived authority’ distorts the value of well educated, intelligent and unbiased people.

    So why does my opinion have any place in this discussion at all?
    It has a place because I work at the coalface. Every day I see the results of failed nutritional policy. Policies are developed and applied by policymakers for populations. I don’t work with populations. I work with everyday people, every day! Funny that. Perhaps I am an expert after all. I am a GP. I am an expert in looking after individuals. I see their everyday struggles to become healthy and it worries me that they try their best and seem to get nowhere. My patients have no idea what it might mean to ‘replace 5% of their daily energy consumed as SF with PUFA’. They have no idea what ‘reduction of cardiovascular events by 10% ‘ means for them. When your cardiovascular risk is already low it makes no difference clinically to reduce an already low risk by 10 %. They don’t understand that from the articles they read in the papers. My patients live in the ‘ad libitum’ arm of all the nutritional ‘trials’. They want to know what it is that they should eat from day to day. We are not wired to ‘eat by numbers’ (epic fail to calorie counting in all its guises – mostly for commercial benefit). Policymakers and statisticians have worked out stats that grab headlines but which have little day-to-day application in the real world.

    Instead of focussing public health messages on trivialities such as whether we should be changing 5% of our SF for PUFA (which I would never do or recommend anyway), how about we focus our health messages on eating a diet rich in nutrients (vegetables, fruits and fresh protein sources with their associated natural fats) and devoid of added sugars and processing? It would be a good start. (unless you are the CEO of a food manufacturing company of course).

    1. Good stuff, that should get blogged in its own right live it

      1. PAm, the other thing is that no one has a monopoly or reputation which should uphold them in the quest for health and the evidence around it. Who cares if someone is trained in nutrition, or a professor or whatever. The world has changed recently so that everyone has access to the information and if they take the time can make sense of it. Mark Sisson is a great example of leadership with no relevant quails. Gary Taubes the same.

        As I always say to people when I am doing speaking stuff – I hope you don’t believe what I say but I provoke your interest enough to go and find out and make a decision for yourself.

  15. I was interested in the hostility study because there was no clue as to what the subjects actually felt hostile about. I think this information would have added some clarity.
    There are quite a few epidemiological studies about age-related macular degeneration that show the following trend; diets high in linoleic acid (omega 6 PUFA) are associated with most AMD.
    Fish has protective association with AMD, but only when linoleic acid PUFA intake is low. Nuts also have protective association.
    This shows the same pattern we see in other epidemiology, with other diseases; fish is good, nuts are good, but PUFA oils and spreads are bad.
    Nick Wilson, you referenced Mozaffarian et al; but Mozaffarian also studied the correlation between serum transfats from dairy (as found in butter, cream, cheese, whole milk) and diabetes and found these fats associated with 0.38 the risk of diabetes in quintile 5 (most dairy fat) compared to quintile 1 (least). These are more reliable studies than those extrapolating from food frequency questionnaires, based as they are on objective criteria and firm endpoints.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21173413

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23407305

    This looks like the rule of unintended consequences; tax butter for some putative drop in CVD events (if not mortality) and see rises in AMD and diabetes. I suspect that AMD and diabetes have been on the rise in NZ since the sale of margarine became legal without a prescription (1975).

    Nick, you also said “Also while the Sydney Heart Study is of interest, it is still just one study and it needs to be treated cautiously as it is an old one where the quality of the vegetable oils replacing the saturated fats may not be equivalent to modern quality standards (eg, trans fats in the margarines used in the substitution).”
    What guarantee do we have that all the modern products that might take the place of butter (and this government is surely not going to prescribe specific brands of oil and marge to replace butter) are, or will be, safer than the spreads and oils used in the Sydney Diet Heart Study? You cannot make poor people eat walnuts, but you can make butter too dear for them.

  16. This is a fairly typical AMD study; http://archopht.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=423128
    it concludes “This study provides evidence of protection against early AMD from regularly eating fish, greater consumption of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and low intakes of foods rich in linoleic acid. Regular consumption of nuts may also reduce AMD risk.”

    One of the “saturated fats” that would be taxed is the butyrate in butter (3-4%). Butyrate is the beneficial product of the fermentation of soluble fibre by beneficial gut bacteria, and butter is perhaps the only significant natural source of this unique nutrient. Not everyone is lucky enough to have gut flora that ferments butyrate reliably in significant amounts.

    Although the Sydney Heart Study was “just one study” it was also presented as part of a meta study which cumulatively answered the question of whether interventions designed to elevate linoleic acid lower CVD mortality.

    As Nick Wilson referenced one study by Mozaffarian that supported his recommendations, I thought I should present another by this author that contradicts them:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1270002/

    In multivariate analyses, a higher saturated fat intake was associated with a smaller decline in mean minimal coronary diameter (P = 0.001) and less progression of coronary stenosis (P =0.002) during follow-up. Compared with a 0.22-mm decline in the lowest quartile of intake, there was a 0.10-mm decline in the second quartile (P = 0.002), a 0.07-mm decline in the third quartile (P = 0.002), and no decline in the fourth quartile (P <0.001); P for trend =0.001. This inverse association was more pronounced among women with lower monounsaturated fat (P for interaction =0.04) and higher carbohydrate (P for interaction =0.004) intakes and possibly lower total fat intake (P for interaction =0.09). Carbohydrate intake was positively associated with atherosclerotic progression (P =0.001), particularly when the glycemic index was high. Polyunsaturated fat intake was positively associated with progression when replacing other fats (P = 0.04) but not when replacing carbohydrate or protein. Monoun-saturated and total fat intakes were not associated with progression.

    Conclusions:

    In postmenopausal women with relatively low total fat intake, a greater saturated fat intake is associated with less progression of coronary atherosclerosis, whereas carbohydrate intake is associated with a greater progression.

    This paper gave rise to talk of an "American paradox"

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/80/5/1102.full

    "A major effect on cardiovascular disease risk would be the result of hypertriglyceridemia and low HDL-cholesterol concentrations, which are attenuated by an increase in saturated fat intake itself or in total fat intake, for which saturated fat is a more statistically stable surrogate"

  17. It seems to be that there are two species of PUFA/SFA replacement studies. One breed simply tries to reduce foods rich in SFA with some sort of linoleic acid-containing oil at the replacement, and the other with a combination of n-6 and n-3-rich foods. The former species is apparently ineffective even though it reduces serum LDL and the latter kind tends to reduce the rate of CVD as illustrated by this paper http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.e8707, specifically here http://www.bmj.com/highwire/filestream/629058/field_highwire_fragment_image_l/0/F3.medium.gif

    As we can see, simply replacing SFAs with linoleic/oleic acid is at best ineffective. Yet arguments for the reduction of SFAs in the diet are apparently dependent upon the superiority of linoleic/oleic oils, which has not been demonstrated. Omega-3 fatty acids can’t replace SFAs because they’re only ever a few grams at the most.

    I have a hypothesis that the 2nd breed of fatty acid replacement trial is actually effective due to a synergy between food-derived vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. Simply giving people fish oil doesn’t appear to be as useful as these trials, and it might be because most fish oil and most diets are lacking in natural tocopherols that one might find in foods like cold-pressed oils and nuts, the same ones that tend to replace SFAs in the studies. Vitamin E prevents the inappropriate lipid peroxidation of omega-3 fatty acids, prevents their side-effects, and improves their efficacy http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1995786

    And so when these “PUFA” groups see a benefit over the more SFA-rich diets of the controls, it can’t be said that it has to do with increasing linoleic acid or reducing LDL cholesterol rather than simply that they tend to result in a synergistic effect between increased consumption of food-derived vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids which tends to reduce inflammation, improve endothelial function and reduce triglycerides amongst many other benefits. One could get one’s fat from SFA-rich sources and eat a few vitamin-e-rich eggs and some fish and get that benefit of the omega-3 and vitamin E without having to switch out SFA-rich foods for oils containing high levels of omega-6 fatty acids

    1. That makes sense. When you fish through the PUFA and CVD studies, the ones that stand out as beneficial are those that include omega 3 – Finnish Hospital and Lyons Diet Heart. These ones tend to skew the meta-data. Remove them and PUFA seems a bad idea.
      The Lyons study is very interesting because it got excellent results keeping PUFA below 4% energy, and because the diet still included traditional SFA foods such as cheese and meat.
      Stephan Guyenet did a great dissection here: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.co.nz/2009/06/lyon-diet-heart-study.html
      The other brilliant thing about the Lyons study was that the control group was eating the Prudent Diet – and the Prudent Diet is basically what we’d all be eating if we followed the dietary guidelines and were influenced by the Fat Tax as predicted.
      If PUFA interventions involving omega-3/6 in balance are optimal at BELOW 4% energy – as Bill Lands himself believes – then New Zealanders already consume 5%, according to the Fat Tax paper, and almost all of that is linoleate. The people who eat the most fast food consume even more. We won’t be doing them any favours by making them eat more PUFA instead of SFA, unless we can find some way to make them eat fish instead of chips. But the problem is that omega 3 is not heat-stable and is not suitable for deep frying.
      A campaign to have all mayonnaise made with canola oil (unless it is made with olive oil for foodie market) would get my vote. But that’s as far as I’d like to go.

      1. Hello George
        I just wanted to tell that mayonnaise made with ghee is delicious… And that ghee is also perfect for deep frying – makes the best fish and chips ever

  18. […] I discussed the saturated fat tax being proposed in New Zealand. Well, Professor Grant Schofield wrote a great blog response to it. Be sure to check out the comments (one of the NZ health experts proposing the tax chimes in […]

  19. Brilliantly Written! Share this article on all social media. make it go VIRAL! be the maker of change!

  20. sue jobson · · Reply

    Perhaps the fallout from fukushima better be included as a varialble , people may start getting more weighty due to thyroid issues. Since polyunsaturated fats are a problem for those with thyroid issues (see Ray Peat.com) pretty soon you won’t know what your looking at in the domain of fats and health.

  21. I’m hesitant to introduce politics into a health oriented forum.

    But I can’t be the only one who has noticed how a bunch of strangers who formed a huge gang, named it “The Government,” and started ordering their neighbors around (“Laws”) and demanding payments from them (“Taxes”) always seems to get it wrong.

  22. Actually, governments getting nutrition wrong seems to be recent trend. Adding iodine to salt – great idea. Vitamin fortification of refined flour – valuable at the time. Public education campaigns from 1930s to 1960s – excellent. Began to nosedive in early 70’s when interests of vegetarians, environmentalists and big food manufacturers seemed to converge. As these interests are no longer easily seen as compatible, things might get better.

    http://hopefulgeranium.blogspot.co.nz/2013/05/the-truth-was-still-putting-on-its.html

  23. Hi Grant. Thank you so much for your wonderful work in getting the word out there. I am passionate about my LCHF lifestyle but I wondered if you have any idea how many New Zealanders are eating this way…..sometimes I feel like the only one!

    1. Good question. I will try and include some question in my next well being survey round in 2014

    2. Felicity, I give nutrition presentations to AOD patients and frequently find clients with paleo or low-carb diets, or with friends who eat that way. My impression is that, among people who care enough to choose to eat a particular way, some version of LC or paleo is at least as common today as vegetarianism.

  24. The worst thing about this proposed law is domination , we have the tobacco tax now the saturated fat tax , what will be next salt tax ,sugar tax to eventualy ration cards to get exactly what the government wants you to consume .
    My thoughts are that we should protest all the taxes on foods to protect our future freedom of choice regardless of what we as individuals decide what is good or bad ,

    74 year old saturated fat eater .

    1. I agree with that Ray, however I can propose a compromise. The most dodgy ingredients – the various products of corn, soy and wheat, including oils and sugars – coming from the USA are cheap because of subsidies. NZ removed all our food production subsidies years ago. The one think Key has done where I am 100% behind him is tell the rest of the world to do the same.
      A policy of taxation that is purely aimed at cancelling out the effect of overseas subsidies on the price of imported ingredients will have many of the desired benefits, while making relative food prices more fair, not less.

      1. I understand what you are saying but those items you mentioned are not foods for human consumption or for animals that are for human consumption and the sooner there is more demand for pasture/grass fed animals the sooner this land for growing cereals etc., can be used for high grade meat production , then the sooner all these billions going into the medical establishment can be used for improving the quality of life for all .

        74 year old non medicalised .

  25. I’ve popped a link to this discussion into a blog post about linoleic acid and obesity.
    On a low-carb diet linoleic acid isn’t fattening. Well, the example was high protein – so all those people who have protein-spring diets with nuts and olive oil are OK – but I’m sure low-carb, normal protein would be similar, because insulin is the key.

    http://hopefulgeranium.blogspot.co.nz/2013/09/the-elegant-solution.html

  26. Hi Grant,

    It’s great to learn about the science behind LCHF diet. As a Type2 diabetic, I have been following this diet for more than 3 years after reading Dr . Bernstein’s book. I have not “cheated” once in the 3 years.

    However, I do like sweet drinks though, so have been using stevia as a sweetener. I read somewhere lately that this can create an insulin response too. Is this true and is it something I should be concerned about?

    Thanks,
    Karl

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