Today was the 3rd day of the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. Today’s showcase was a debate over the age old dietary guidelines. Specifically adressed was the idea that fat makes you fat and causes heart disease. The opinions varied from eliminating fat content from food packages, encouraging an even stricter limitation on saturated fats, or to push an increase in polyunsaturated fats and nothing else.
Each speaker is listed in order they spoke, as well as their main points:
Dr. Walter Willet -Chair, Department of Nutrition, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition. Has conducted some of the largest studies ever on dietary fat, heart disease, and breast cancer.
-The idea that fats are bad first started with the Famous Ancel Keys, ecologic study which found a correlation between saturated fat and heart disease in 7 countries. However these countries differed in many other ways, so any relation between heart disease and saturated fat cannot be determined from this study.
-There was also a large association with wealth and heart disease.
-These ideas inspired the food pyramid to place fats at the very top, advising the population to “eat sparingly,” and promoting carbohydrate intake by placing them at the base of the food pyramid
-In all his studies, both clinical trials and prospective epidemiologic studies, he found “no relation what so ever” with total fat in the diet and breast cancer or heart disease
-He believes fat content should be removed from food packaging, since it confuses the consumer and has been consistently proven to be neutral.
You can read more about Willet’s research and ideas here.
Dr. Lewis Kuller – Distinguished University Professor of Public Health, Pittsburgh University
-Dr. Kuller believes the main problem with our obesity epidemic is changing eating behavior
-He cited much seminal research from the past, including the Ancel Keys ecologic data and animal models for evidence of the link between high LDL and
-Believes if Americans ate a diet consisting of 7% of calories from saturated fat, we would reduce the risk of heart disease, via its potential effect on LDL cholesterol
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian – Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate Physician Brigham and Women’s Hospital
-Started by stating that all the evidence Dr. Kuller presented were ecologic studies, animal models, and biomarker relationships
-It is very dangerous to say LDL causes heart disease. You cannot determine causation, since it is just a correlation
-There is “no evidence” that saturated fat increases heart disease. He cited many recent meta-analyses of prospective studies and clinical trials, showing the relationship is usually null.
-The women’s health initiative, one of the largest clinical trials to test this idea, found no difference between the low fat group and the control group, even though the experimental group also had counseling.
-50% of our diets are refined carbohydrates and starches
-The average carb consumed in America is worse than saturated fat
-He also believes most nutrition on food packages should be removed
-All that should be recommended is an increase in polyunsaturated fats, since they consistently show a benefit
Dr. Alice Lichtenstein - Senior Scientist and Director, Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab, Tufts University
-Cited studies in the past which found a replacement of saturated fats with unsaturated fats decreased incidence of heart disease.
-Agrees that total fat is not detrimental
-Believes decreasing saturated fats is important for heart health
It seems that the consensus in 3 of the 4 speakers seemed to be that total fat has no effect on heart disease. Everyone seemed to agree that processed carbohydrates are bad. Very interesting research findings and ideas, considering the general acceptance of the low-fat dogma for the past 30 years. It remains to be seen if this research will have any effect on public policy and dietary recommendations.
Conference, Nutrition and Weight Loss