Unsaturated fats for optimal cardiovascular health: A presidential advisory from the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association’s Presidential Advisory on Dietary Fats, Cardiovascular Disease and the American Heart Association

If Dr. Ken Berry meant to say you need to consume saturated fat to protect your brain and nerves, then he fails Biochem 101. Your body can produce all the saturated fat it needs from carbs and protein. You do not need to consume any saturated fat. You don’t need to eat any saturated fat. Ironically, ALA can be found in Canola Oil, which Dr. Berry dislikes, but is not present in tropical plant oils. Later, we’ll talk more about that.

A diet high in saturated fats is not good for your heart. The American Heart Association continues recommending low saturated fat diets, with the sat fat replaced by mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and not carbohydrates, because animal and human studies and even properly controlled epidemiology show that these diets are the best (see below for an extensive review of meta-analyses [1]). The DASH hypertension and Mediterranean diets (which have lots of monounsaturated fats and seafood to provide DHA) are two examples. What is Dr. Berry’s direct evidence that his diet is better for longevity than the Mediterranean?

It is well known that the body uses saturated fat to produce cholesterol. (You don’t have to consume any cholesterol to achieve this). Saturated fatty acids raise cholesterol and increase atherosclerosis, and they do so in almost every controlled experimental model, both in humans and animals. This is considered the gold standard in medicine.

Epidemiology can only go so far, as sometimes when one thing (saturated fatty acids) is replaced by another thing (certain carbohydrate), one does not detect any epidemiological effect.

This happens in many countries with high or low saturated fats. It is enough to make saturated fatty acids look benign when used as a single variable. This is not true. These studies show that substituting butter for sugar or carbs with a high glycemic index will give you a diet just as bad for your arteries. It is not until you compare these diets to low-carbohydrate and low-saturated fat ones that one can see the true impact. This double-negative tradeoff between carbs and saturated fatty acids (where carbs act as a statistical \”confounder\”) can be a cruel misdirection that happens occasionally with imperfectly controlled previous observations. But (again), it’s the reason biomedical knowledge is more than just epidemiology.

Dr. Berry’s saturated oils are on the borderline of PUFA deficiencies. It can be a dramatic situation: I’ve found that the only way to cause dogs to develop atherosclerosis is to feed coconut oil as their fat and to avoid monounsaturated or PUFA. Apparently, a small amount of PUFA can be extremely beneficial for the heart. However, larger amounts are not harmful. Some studies suggest that a high PUFA intake can increase the risk of certain cancers. However, this only highlights the importance of eating monounsaturated oils like Canola and olive oil, as well as some PUFA-rich foods. Coconut oil and seafood are both consumed by many cultures.

Canola oil, also known as rapeseed or rapeseed oil, is simply rapeseed oil that has been bred in order to remove erucic acids and other possible toxins. It contains a high amount of monounsaturates and ALA, and is the closest plant oil to being optimal for human nutrition. Canola is better for frying than olive oil, because ALA will oxidize. However, Canola has ALA, which is important for vegans, who require an omega-3 PUFA to convert into brain DHA. Canola can be substituted with olive or seafood oil, but those who are vegan should look for a baking oil that contains ALA. Canola is ideal for this. Linseed is difficult to digest and to work with. This leaves Canola oil as the best alternative omega-3 for vegans. Dr. Berry does not mention his concern about Canola oil beyond saying that it is GMO. He is wrong, because it doesn’t need to be. Canola was developed in the 1970’s using hybrid techniques and not GMO. Although GMO Canolas are available today, certified non-GMO oils and \”organic Canola\” oils are also available. These are marked with a butterfly, and are tested to ensure that no GMO Canolas have crept into them.

The ONLY part of Dr. Berry’s article that I agree with, is to dump your hydrogenated products (Crisco etc.). In the trash. This is why I gave this segment a D instead of the F it would otherwise deserve.

Steven B. Harris, M.D.


The leading cause of death worldwide is cardiovascular disease (CVD), accounting for 17.3 million deaths.


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