The European Society of Cardiology met in Barcelona last week and one research study presented there has shaken up many people’s beliefs about fat in our diet. The study basically concluded that we shouldn’t worry so much about how much fat we eat. If research like this sounds contradictory, or makes you confused or even angry, read the next two paragraphs in italics. If not, jump the next two paragraphs to read the results!
Research that makes some people angry
When studies like this come out, some people get very irritated. They may think “Who can you believe anymore? How can you say one thing one time then the next time you say the opposite?” Two responses: one, if you have been following our posts here, you know that we have, for a few years actually, been saying that the trend in nutrition is that sugar carbohydrates are the worst thing for you and that many fats (such as fats from nuts, avocados, olives, and dairy), are not so bad and may be even healthy.
The second response is that this back and forth is the way medical research is. You might think you are going crazy sometimes if you follow carefully the medical literature, like we do at ProcuraMed. One study says one thing, the next study says something else. We know that, and we try to present you a balanced approach; knowing that some studies are higher quality than others. We try to get to the truth, and sometimes that takes time.
The fat and carbohydrate research
One reason this study got so much attention was that it involved so many people (135,335) in so many countries (18) and covered low-, medium-, and high-income countries. It followed the diet of these people over an average of 7.4 years, comparing their diets with their cardiovascular health and their death rate during the study.
The study results
The specific statistics are complex, but to summarize: high carbohydrate intake was associated with a higher risk of death during the study. People that ate more fat, no matter what type of fat, had a lower risk of dying during the study. Perhaps most surprisingly, people that ate more saturated fats had a lower risk of suffering a stroke. Finally, how much fat a person eats did not seem to influence their risk of heart attack or death from heart disease.
More specifically, the results showed that people with a high level of carbohydrate intake (mostly bread and rice), had an almost 30% higher risk of dying during the study than people on a low-carbohydrate diet. And people who ate a high fat diet had a 23% lower chance of dying during the study than people on a low-fat diet.
What this study means
The message is that for optimal health, we should be focused on cutting down on carbohydrates—especially simple carbohydrates such as white rice and white breads and pasta—and not worry so much about our fat intake. The best fats are the monosaturated variety, as found in nuts, olive oil, avocados, and fish, and that dairy fats (milk and cheese) are also good.
“My hope is that our results will stop the whole population from feeling guilty if they eat fat in moderation. While very high fat intake—when it accounts for 40% or more of your dietary intake—may be bad, the average fat intake is about 30% and that’s okay. We’re all afraid of saturated fat, but actually we shouldn’t be. Saturated fat in moderation actually appears good for you.”
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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)