What Do You Tell Your Patients About Saturated Fats?

August 23, 2017

Nutrition can be a confusing topic for patients. This is especially true when even the experts don't agree, as is the case with the effect of coconut oil and other saturated fats on heart health.

Recently, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a "Presidential Advisory" on dietary fats and cardiovascular disease to "set the record straight" on the harms of saturated fats. The statement strongly recommended replacing saturated fats with poly- and monounsaturated vegetable oil to help prevent heart disease.

"The AHA leadership decided that they needed to put out a new advisory on diet — particularly fats — because of various commentators on nutrition suggesting that saturated fat was innocuous, which has been widely covered in the media, but these comments were not scientifically based," lead author of the advisory, Frank Sacks, MD, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, told Medscape Medical News.

Numerous experts quickly shot back with an opposing viewpoint.

"As quite a few of the authors state in their conclusions, the results clearly do not support the current national dietary guidelines which limit saturated fats to 10% of daily calories, or those by the AHA and American College of Cardiology, which further limit those fats to 5%-6% of calories for people with high cholesterol," wrote Nina Teicholz and Eric Thorn, MD in a Medscape commentary.

Prominent medical expert George D. Lundberg, MD, agreed, stating that there is "no evidence that low consumption of total saturated fats and high consumption of polyunsaturated fats affected relative risks for coronary artery disease."

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