Saturated Fat, Heart Disease, and Cancer

By Joel Fuhrman,

Respected Research From Around The World Refutes Internet Myth That A Meat-Centered Diet Is Safe!

Let’s look at what highly respected modern nutritional researchers say in their own words about the link between high saturated fat intake and cancer and heart disease. Proponents of meat-centered diets, like the Weston A. Price Foundation, contend that there is a conspiracy of ignorance among all of the world’s leading research scientists, whom they call “diet dictocrats.” Keep that in mind as you read what researchers say in these condensed summaries of their studies—all of which appeared in prestigious scientific journals.

Heart Disease

“EPIDEMIOLOGICAL STUDIES have confirmed a strong association between fat intake—especially saturated and trans-fatty acids, plasma cholesterol levels and rate of coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality. Meanwhile, it is clear that early atherosclerosis is largely preventable by modifying nutritional behavior and lifestyle. Because fat is energy-dense, moderation in fat intake is also essential for weight control. Saturated fatty acids are very potent in increasing LDL cholesterol concentration in plasma, a dangerous risk factor for early CHD. The results of prospective cohort studies are confirmed by intervention trials revealing that saturated fatty acids enhance early development of CHD. In context with a prudent diet pattern, favorable dietary fatty acid composition offers the best chance for a reduced risk of CHD.”

Wolfram G. Dietary fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Eur J Med Res 2003;8(8):321-4.

“IT IS LIKELY THAT PLANT FOOD consumption throughout much of human evolution shaped the dietary requirements of contemporary humans. Diets would have been high in dietary fiber, vegetable protein, and plant sterols and associated phytochemicals, and low in saturated and trans-fatty acids and other substrates for cholesterol biosynthesis. We conclude that reintroduction of plant food components (which would have been present in large quantities in the plant-based diets eaten throughout most of human evolution) into modern diets can correct the lipid abnormalities associated with contemporary eating patterns and reduce the need for pharmacological interventions.”

Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. The Garden of Eden—plant-based diets, the genetic drive to conserve cholesterol and its implications for heart disease in the 21st century. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol 2003;136(1):141-51.

“IN OBSERVATIONAL EPIDEMIOLOGIC studies, lower blood cholesterol is associated with a reduced risk from coronary heart disease (CHD) throughout the normal range of cholesterol values observed in most Western populations. There is a continuous positive relationship between CHD risk and blood cholesterol down to at least 3 to 4 mmol/l, with no threshold below which a lower cholesterol is not associated with a lower risk. Observational studies suggest that a prolonged difference in total cholesterol of about 1 mmol/l is associated with one-third less CHD deaths in middle age. Dietary saturated fat is the chief determinant of total and LDL cholesterol levels.”

Huxley R, Lewington S, Clarke R. Cholesterol, coronary heart disease and stroke: a review of published evidence from observational studies and randomized controlled trials. Semin Vasc Med 2002;2(3):315-23.

“SATURATED FAT (SF) INTAKE contributes to the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality. Recently, the protective effects of fruit and vegetable (FV) intake on both CHD and all-cause mortality were documented. However, individuals consuming more FV may be displacing higher-fat foods. Therefore, we investigated the individual and combined effects of FV and SF consumption on total and CHD mortality among 501 initially healthy men in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA).Over a mean 18 years of follow-up, 7-day diet records were taken at 1-7 visits. Cause of death was ascertained from death certificates, hospital records, and autopsy data.

“Men consuming the combination of >= 5 servings of FV per day and <= 12% energy from SF were 31% less likely to die of any cause and 76% less likely to die from CHD, relative to those consuming fewer FV and > 12% SF. These results confirm the protective effects of low SF and high FV intake against CHD mortality. In addition, they extend these findings by demonstrating that the combination of both behaviors is more protective than either alone, suggesting that their beneficial effects are mediated by different mechanisms.”

Tucker KL, Hallfrisch J, Qiao N, et al. The combination of high fruit and vegetable and low saturated fat intakes is more protective against mortality in aging men than is either alone: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Nutr 2005;135(3):556-61.

“MOST COUNTRIES IN ORIENTAL ASIA have not yet experienced the ‘western’ coronary heart disease (CHD) epidemic despite substantial economic development. An exception has been Singapore. We compared mortality and CHD risk factors in Singapore with two Oriental locations, Hong Kong and mainland China, which have not experienced the CHD epidemic. Mortality data from World Health Statistics Annuals age standardized for each location were supplemented by local data. Risk factor data was obtained from population-based surveys using similar protocols in each location. Measures included diet, blood lipids, blood pressure, height, and weight. CHD mortality in the year chosen for comparison, 1994, was significantly higher for Singapore Chinese males than Chinese males in Hong Kong or China. Female CHD mortality was also relatively higher in Singapore Chinese. The only CHD risk factor markedly higher in Singapore Chinese was serum cholesterol. Dietary differences in saturated fat consumption were consistent with this. Although there was little difference in total fat intake, a higher consumption of dietary saturated fat and lower consumption of polyunsaturated fat, accompanied by higher serum cholesterol, appear to explain the relatively high CHD mortality in Singapore compared with Hong Kong and mainland China. Differences in body mass index, blood pressure, and smoking between locations did not explain the differences in CHD mortality.”

Dwyer T, Emmanuel SC, Janus ED, et al. The emergence of coronary heart disease in populations of Chinese descent. Atherosclerosis 2003;167(2):303-10.

“DURING THE PAST SEVERAL DECADES, reduction in fat intake has been the main focus of national dietary recommendations to decrease risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).Several lines of evidence, however, have indicated that types of fat have a more important role in determining risk of CHD than total amount of fat in the diet. Metabolic studies have long established that the type of fat, but not total amount of fat, predicts serum cholesterol levels. In addition, results from epidemiologic studies and controlled clinical trials have indicated that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is more effective in lowering risk of CHD than simply reducing total fat consumption. In this article, we review evidence from epidemiologic studies and dietary intervention trials addressing the relationship between dietary fat intake and risk of CHD, with a particular emphasis on different major types of fat, n-3 fatty acids, and the optimal balance between n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. We also discuss the implications of the available evidence in the context of current dietary recommendations.”

Hu FB, Manson JE, Willett WC. Types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr 2001;20(1):5-19.

Breast Cancer

“EARLY LIFE HAS BEEN IMPLICATED in the etiology of breast cancer. Women who had a higher consumption of vegetable fat and fiber during adolescence had a lower risk of breast cancer, whereas the risk of breast cancer was increased among women who consumed more butter.”

Binukumar B, Mathew A. Dietary fat and risk of breast cancer. World J Surg Oncol 2005;3:45.

“PUBMED SEARCH FOR LITERATURE on the consumption of dietary fat and risk of breast cancer published from Jan 1990 through Dec 2003 was carried out. Results: Increased consumption of total fat and saturated fat were found to be positively associated with the development of breast cancer.”

Frazier AL, Ryan CT, Rockett H, et al. Adolescent diet and risk of breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res 2003;5(3):R59-64.

“WE HAVE CARRIED OUT a meta-analysis of this [dietary fat and breast cancer] to include all papers published up to July 2003. Case-control and cohort studies that examined the association of dietary fat, or fat-containing foods, with risk of breast cancer were identified. A total of 45 risk estimates for total fat intake were obtained. Significant summary relative risks were found for saturated fat and meat intake. Combined estimates of risk for total and saturated fat intake, and for meat intake, all indicate an association between higher intakes and an increased risk of breast cancer. Case-control and cohort studies gave similar results.”

Boyd NF, Stone J, Vogt KN. Dietary fat and breast cancer risk revisited: a meta-analysis of the published literature. Br J Cancer 2003;89(9):1672-85.

Other Cancers

“DIET PLAYS A ROLE in the prevention and development of gastrointestinal cancers. The majority of available research consists of case-control studies, but the number of clinical trials is growing. The dietary recommendations to reduce gastrointestinal cancer risk include lowering total energy, fat, and saturated fat intake; avoidance of grilled and smoked foods; avoidance of alcohol; and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, and fiber.”

Thomson CA, LeWinn K, Newton TR, et al. Nutrition and diet in the development of gastrointestinal cancer. Curr Oncol Rep 2003;5(3):192-202.

“MORTALITY FROM COLON CANCER has rapidly increased in the past decades in Japan, and the increase has generally been ascribed to the Westernized diet, characterized by a high intake of fat and meat. However, fat and meat consumption in Japan stopped increasing in the 1970s. The secular trend of colon cancer incidence and mortality was examined in relation to changing patterns of the consumption of selected foods and nutrients and other related factors in Japan, focusing on the relationship with fat and meat consumption. The incidence and mortality rates of colon cancer both increased almost linearly on a log scale until the early 1990s, the increase then ceasing. The temporal change in fat and meat intake coincided with the incidence of colon cancer approximately 20 years later. In the early years, red meat accounted for 70-80% of the total meat intake in the mid 1960s and thereafter. The current observation adds to evidence that red meat intake is an important determinant of colon cancer risk.”

Kono S. Secular trend of colon cancer incidence and mortality in relation to fat and meat intake in Japan. Eur J Cancer Prev 2004; 13(2):127-32.

“WE ANALYZED DATA FROM the prospective Multiethnic Cohort Study to investigate associations between intake of meat, other animal products, fat, and cholesterol and pancreatic cancer risk. During 7 years of follow-up, 482 incident pancreatic cancers occurred in 190,545 cohort members. Dietary intake was assessed using a quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Associations for foods and nutrients relative to total energy intake were determined by Cox proportional hazards models stratified by gender and time on study and adjusted for age, smoking status, history of diabetes mellitus and familial pancreatic cancer, ethnicity, and energy intake. The strongest association was with processed meat; those in the fifth quintile of daily intake (g/1000 kcal) had a 68% increased risk compared with those in the lowest quintile. Intakes of pork and of total red meat were both associated with 50% increases in risk, comparing the highest with the lowest quintiles.

“Intake of total and saturated fat from meat was associated with statistically significant increases in pancreatic cancer risk, but that from dairy products was not. Red and processed meat intakes were associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.”

Nöthlings U, Wilkens LR, Murphy SP, et al. Meat and fat intake as risk factors for pancreatic cancer: the multiethnic cohort study. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005; 97(19):1458-65.

Causes Of Disease

The occurrence of heart disease does not hinge on whether or not meat is processed, or whether the animal ate grass or not. Heart disease occurs because of intrinsic properties of animal foods and the fact that if you get a significant percentage of calories from animal foods, you will not get the full spectrum of natural antioxidants and phytochemicals you need. The only way to get all of the nutrients and phytonutrients you need is to eat a diet consisting primarily of unprocessed plant matter.

Fortunately, nutritional science has advanced to the point where you can choose a dietary approach that enables you to dramatically lower your cholesterol, maintain a normal blood pressure into later years, and not have heart disease or strokes.

Hundreds of my patients have reversed the heart disease they developed while on either the standard American diet or the Atkins diet. Many have lowered their cholesterol over a hundred points (without drugs) and are living proof that nutritional excellence is the therapy of choice.


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