March 19, 2014 – The shifts and
twists and turns of scientific research can sometimes make even the most
serious health-conscious seniors want to throw all the multi-colored
pills that we depend on to prevent heart problems and boost our
longevity into the trash. Today it is a study telling us that we were
wrong to avoid saturated fats, while favoring the polyunsaturated kind
and to toss down fists full of fish oil pills with omega 3 fatty acid.
We have published dozens of studies in
SeniorJournal.com saying just the
The apple cart has been turned over
by a study from an “international research collaboration” gathered by
the University of Cambridge to analyze data from 72 unique studies with
over 600,000 participants from 18 nations that looked at coronary risk
and fatty acid intake.
They report the evidence produced
by all this research does not support guidelines to restrict the
consumption of saturated fats in order to prevent heart disease. And,
just to be sure they got our attention, they added that there is
insufficient support for guidelines which advocate the high consumption
of polyunsaturated fats (such as omega 3 and omega 6) to reduce the risk
of coronary disease.
They say when different types of
omega 3 and other specific fatty acid types were studied, the effects on
cardiovascular risk varied even within the same broad ‘family’ –
questioning the existing dietary guidelines that focus principally on
the total amount of fat from saturated or unsaturated rather than the
food sources of the fatty acid subtypes.
Gates Cambridge Scholar Dr. Rajiv
Chowdhury, the lead author of the research at the University of
“These are interesting results that
potentially stimulate new lines of scientific inquiry and encourage
careful reappraisal of our current nutritional guidelines,” that’s what
the lead author Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury had to say. He is described as a
Gates Cambridge Scholar.
Clearly, he thinks he has done us a
favor. He adds, “Cardiovascular disease, in which the principal
manifestation is coronary heart disease, remains the single leading
cause of death and disability worldwide. In 2008, more than 17 million
people died from a cardiovascular cause globally. With so many affected
by this illness, it is critical to have appropriate prevention
guidelines which are informed by the best available scientific
The investigators found that total
saturated fatty acid, whether measured in the diet or in the bloodstream
as a biomarker, was not associated with coronary disease risk in the
observational studies. Similarly, when analyzing the studies that
involved assessments of the consumption of total monounsaturated fatty
acids, long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, there
were no significant associations between consumption and cardiovascular
Interestingly, the investigators
found that different subtypes of circulating long-chain omega-3 and
omega-6 fatty acids had different associations with coronary risk, with
some evidence that circulating levels of eicosapentaenoic and
docosahexaenoic acids (two main types of long-chain omega-3
polyunsaturated fatty acids), and arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fat) are
each associated with lower coronary risk.
Similarly, within saturated fatty
acid, the researchers found weak positive associations between
circulating palmitic and stearic acids (found largely in palm oil and
animal fats, respectively) and cardiovascular disease, whereas
circulating margaric acid (a dairy fat) significantly reduced the risk
of cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, when the authors
investigated the effects of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid
supplementations on reducing coronary disease in the randomized
controlled trials, they did not find any significant effects –
indicating a lack of benefit from these nutrients, they report.
And, just to throw fuel on the fire
he has started, and remind me of all the sizzling, juicy steaks I have
passed up in recent years, Chowdhury added that it is not even the
saturated fat in red meat that is harmful.
“Last year, two seminal papers
very convincingly showed that the harm observed in red meat for heart
disease risk can, in fact, be attributed to another harmful chemical
(L-carnitine) abundant in red meat, rather than the long-supposed
saturated fat,” he writes.
He makes me feel not quite so
foolish by adding, “Unless we have more evidence, higher consumption of
red meat should still be considered harmful, but it’s just that the
saturates may not be the principal explanation, as is traditionally
perceived, for the harmful cardiovascular effects of red meat.”
This study, like all the others,
ends with a disclaimer by a spokesman for the British Heart Foundation,
which helped pay for the study.
“This analysis of existing data
suggests there isn’t enough evidence to say that a diet rich in
polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats reduces the risk of
cardiovascular disease. But large scale clinical studies are needed, as
these researchers recommend, before making a conclusive judgment,” says
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at BHF.
But, then Professor Pearson adds a
closing thought that has me puzzled. He says, “Alongside taking any
necessary medication, the best way to stay heart healthy is to stop
smoking, stay active, and ensure our whole diet is healthy – and this
means considering not only the fats in our diet but also our intake of
salt, sugar and fruit and vegetables.”
“Ensure our whole diet is healthy,”
he says. I thought I was doing that by following the advice from
study-after-study telling me that a healthy diet was to avoid saturated
fats, while favoring the polyunsaturated, and consuming as much fish oil
as I could stomach.
There is a contest going on in my
hometown to find the restaurant that serves the best chicken fried
steak. I think I may just join the search!
UK researchers find omega-3 fatty acids slow down osteoarthritis, at least in guinea pigs; I think it worked for me!
By Tucker Sutherland, editor, SeniorJournal.com
Oct. 17, 2011 – As an active
– well very active – tennis player for many years, when I turned 70 I was worried my playing days might end due to my aching knees. I never
took the court without wearing the latest in knee protection devices. Then, shortly after I increased my daily regimen of fish oil pills, the
knee pain disappeared. I was convinced my joints were now better “oiled.” New research says there may be something to this.
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