Saturated fat is bad for you again, finds weak observational study

Data from 73,147 women involved in the Nurses' Health Study between 1984 and 2012, and 42,635 men who were in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study between 1986 and 2010, correlates saturated fats in red meat, dairy, butter, lard, and palm oil, may increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

Is it 1975 all over again? The lawyers at Center for Science in the Public Interest certainly hope so, because the findings come after recent studies have propelled the idea that ‘butter is back’, claiming that the dietary guidelines surrounding saturated fats stemming from the 1980s are outdated and that the fats are safe for consumption, and can even be beneficial to health. And sue-and-settle groups have made fortunes claiming Big Food was in a conspiracy about fat, sugar and everything else, so debunked findings make them look bad. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is the go-to source for food scaremongering and they claim their paper protects the old claims and say that replacing these fats with healthier fats, whole grains, and plant proteins may reduce coronary heart disease risk.

Participants reported their diet and health status on questionnaires completed every four years - the obvious flaw in what was a weak observational claim in the first place. Retrospective survey results found that a higher intake of the most commonly consumed major saturated fatty acids - lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid - was associated with a 24% increased relative risk of coronary heart disease. Replacing just 1% of daily consumption of these fatty acids with equivalent calories from polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, whole grain carbohydrates, or plant proteins, was estimated to reduce relative coronary heart disease risk by 4%-8%. They determined that by finding out how many people got heart disease and ignoring all of the confounder that put this paper in the 34% margin of error ranges.

They associated replacing palmitic acid, which is found in palm oil, meat, and dairy fat with the strongest risk reduction.

“This study dispels the notion that 'butter is back,” said co-author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology. “Individual saturated fatty acids share the same food sources, such as red meat, dairy, butter, lard, and palm oil.”