Saturated Fats Like Butter And Cheese Aren't The Worst Thing For You, Says Heart Specialist

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Every few years the health industry has a new drum to bang, and at present, that seems to be about the danger of sugar and how it, rather than fat, is responsible for the rising levels of obesity in Britain.

Giving fats a further reprieve is cardiologist Aseem Malhotra, who has published a paper in the leading health journal the British Medical Journal (BMJ), speaking out against the idea of pop nutrition, which reduces quite complex health issues to dangerously simple interpretations.

For instance, we now live in a world where we automatically assume anything marketed as 'low fat' is good for us, whereas traditional, saturated fats such as butter and cheese are 'sinful' or only to be consumed on special occasions.

butter bread

The problem, Dr Malhotra writes, is that the idea that saturated fat must be removed from our diet has paradoxically increased the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Guardian reported him as writing: "Recent prospective cohort studies have not supported significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk," he argues. "Instead, saturated fat has been found to be protective."

He goes on to explain that it depends which foods the saturated fat comes from. For instance, dairy products such as butter and cheese contain vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus. All three are linked to lowering heart disease. Similarly, red meat shouldn't be tagged under the same header. Eating unprocessed lamb and beef is not the same as eating processed meat such as a burger or reconstituted meat.

We're also long overdue regarding a wake-up call where low-fat products are concerned. As if to justify it to ourselves that we're eating low fat, we just end up eating a lot more of the same thing.

He told the Guardian: "Last week I saw one patient in her 40s who had had a heart attack. She said she had gained about 20kg in the last six months. She had been drinking five low-fat drinks a day."

Dr Malhotra went on to say that he calculated that each 450ml flavoured milk drink contained about 15 teaspoons of sugar, which meant she had consumed 75 teaspoons of sugar each day.

The concern of sugars in low fat products is something that nutritionists have been saying for years. Alice Mackintosh, nutritionist at The Food Doctor, advises that even products as seemingly harmless as low-fat flavoured yogurt have a fair amount of sugar in them.

steak

Why is that bad for you? The answer is simple: foods that raise your blood sugar level sharply will result in a steeper crash, which means that you will have a sugar slump that will inevitably be filled with either more sugar or food.

That doesn't mean Dr Malhotra is saying you should sit in front of the telly with a block of cheese, but like all things, to do it in moderation. He told the BBC: "Following the Mediterranean diet, which is high in nuts, olive oils, fish, fruits and unprocessed foods, is best for heart health.

"I think we have to have a balance here. The ultimate message is eat real food. Avoid processed food because processed food is potentially harmful. We know that there are products that are loaded with sugar that are promoted as low fat."

What's to prevent this from being yet another new fad in the world of health? Sweden, says Dr Malhotra, is the answer.

"Just to back up the evidence base, Sweden only four days ago became the first western country to change their nutritional guidelines on the review of 16,000 studies saying that a low carbohydrate diet, one that is higher in fat, is actually healthier for weight loss and improving cholesterol profile. So this isn’t just anecdote, this isn't opinion."

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