Since I am in the health/fitness field, I read with interest studies and also articles about various research. I always do so with a questioning mind. As of example of this process, below is a response I sent to an organization in which I hold a certification regarding an article in one of their publications.
As background, the “point three” I mention reads:
Animal fats can raise the risk of heart disease. In a recent case study from Walter Reed Military Medical Center, a 39-year-old man who worked out regularly saw his LDLs (“bad” cholesterol) rise 55 points after he began eating more meat and cheese on the Paleo diet and then added a daily cup of bulletproof coffee (coffee laced with a tablespoon of butter and a medium-chain triglyceride oil). Bottom line: Butter, bacon, and fatty red meat are high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
The following is my response:
On the cover of the May/June 2015 issue of The Training Edge, you have “The Truth About Fat” featured. I realize the role of fats in our diets has been a highly-charged issue since Ancel Keys’ proclamations in the 1960s. Since that time, numerous studies have been published regarding this complex issue.
In this spirit, I want to address point three in your article “Fat Chance” where it states: “Bottom line: Butter, bacon, and fatty red meat are high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease.”
The heading for this point “animals fats can raise the risk of heart disease” avoids stating a definitive link. You then use a case study of one individual seeing his LDLs (“bad” cholesterol) going up after he shifted to a Paleo diet—eating more meat and cheese. How can citing only one man be used to show causation? Also, you don’t mention other aspects of his diet. Was the meat he was consuming organically or commercially raised, what percent of refined carbohydrates was he consuming, the amount of sugar in his diet, was he eating trans fats, and what other foods was he consuming?
Regarding his elevated LDL, research has shown, LDL falls into two patterns—A and B. Pattern A, big, fluffy particles, are considered benign, a low risk of heart disease. While pattern B, mainly the small, dense form, is more dangerous. What was his ratio between the two? Saturated fat happens to raise both HDL (“good” cholesterol) and pattern A LDL. Interestingly, research has shown that the pattern B LDLs are increased by an excess consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar.
Last year, research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported people who ate higher levels of saturated fat did not have more heart disease than those who ate less. Gary Taubes’s Good Calories, Bad Calories explores the scientific evidence regarding saturated fat and cholesterol as the cause of heart disease in depth. Well worth the read for an alternative perspective on the years we have been told fat is bad for us.
Again, as I mentioned I recognize this is a complex issue and continuing research will reveal additional information. Along with this, the importance of discussing all the various aspects of research on a topic is critical for our work as health/fitness professionals. We owe it to our clients and to ourselves.
In my next post, I’ll write about some of the other questions that come to mind whenever I read research and articles about them.