The diet myth that could be shaving years off your life

I think I may be Dr. Aseem Malhotra’s biggest fan. No, really. His latest opinion piece is just that good.

It appeared recently in the British Medical Journal. And if you can fall in love with an editorial, well consider me head over heels. So I hope you’ll excuse me while I take a few moments to gush.

The title of the piece says it all: “Saturated fat is not the major issue.”

But, Dr. Malhotra goes on to explain, our low-fat obsession most certainly is an issue. High cholesterol has become the white whale of the medical establishment. And patients’ lives are at risk because of it.

Naturally, an opinion like this would be featured in a European journal. Anglophiles and purists, please forgive me–I realize that England isn’t technically part of the EU. But while they may not share a currency with their neighbors across the pond, they obviously share their good sense.

For one thing, they actually like facts. They don’t get caught up in handed-down dogma, and they aren’t afraid to question convention. And best of all, their research isn’t wholly controlled by corporate interests.

So of course they’d advocate for reversing the stigma against saturated fat.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., so-called “experts” are still toeing the low-fat party line. This ridiculous myth has informed our dominating (and utterly worthless) dietary guidelines for close to half a century now.

And where has it gotten us? In the words of my new favorite person Dr. Malhotra, “scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks.”

He goes on to point out that the government’s obsession with lowering total cholesterol levels–specifically by overmedicating patients with statin drugs–has detracted from the real issue. Which, of course, is the quality, not the quantity of your cholesterol.

Among the research findings that Dr. Malhotra cites to support his argument:

  • Diets that are low in saturated fat do cut levels of so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol. But they reduce the fluffier LDL particles–not the small and dense LDL particles. And it’s these small, dense particles you need to worry about.
  • In reality, the saturated fat in your diet may help to lower your heart risk.
  • Low fat diets fuel insulin resistance–remember, fat helps to blunt blood sugar spikes–and actually promote an unhealthy lipid profile.
  • Low cholesterol levels are actually related to increased risk of death–whether from heart-related causes or otherwise. (I’ll say it again–very low cholesterol is not a marker of good health. And “high” cholesterol isn’t necessarily dangerous.)
  • No cholesterol-lowering drugs apart from side-effect laden statins have been shown to confer any survival benefits.
  • Research does show, however, that following the Mediterranean diet–which shares many features with my New Hamptons Health Miracle–is three times as effective as statin therapy when it comes to increasing survival.

I mean, honestly. How much more proof do we need? This is exactly what I have been talking about for years now.

We have put millions of people at risk by placing them on statin therapy. Meanwhile, we’ve completely ignored the root cause of the problem. Why? Because statins are very big business.

And you know what? Corporate interests will always win out over our health unless we demand something better. I know it often seems like we can’t make a difference. But if there are enough of us demanding change, it will come.

In the meantime, just remember–fat is your friend. If you want to wipe out the real enemy, set your sights on sugar.

Malhotra A. “Saturated fat is not the major issue.” BMJ. 2013;347:f6340.