More evidence comes in that saturated fat does not cause heart disease

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Back in April I wrote about my ‘love-hate relationship’ with dairy products. The love part of my relationship relates to the fact that many dairy products are rich in protein and low in carbohydrate, coupled with the fact that I actually like the taste of things like cream, yoghurt and cheese. The hate part of the relationship is based on some science and a lot of experience that leads me to believe that dairy products are quite-common triggers of food sensitivity reactions that can manifest as a variety of issues including sinus and nasal congestion, asthma and eczema. Actually, I personally had eczema for many years which appears to be rooted in a sensitivity to cow’s milk. You can read more about this here.

So, my issues with dairy products are not based in the usual concerns about saturated fat. I for a long time have not been concerned about saturated fat because, well, there really isn’t any evidence that this dietary component causes heart disease (or any other disease, for that matter). And fat does not appear to be explicitly fattening, either. So, when individuals do eat dairy products I never urge them to drink watery skimmed milk and joyless low-fat yoghurt. I eat yoghurt reasonably frequently (usually as part of my breakfast), and it’s a 10 per cent fat Greek yoghurt that is my usual default food.

When I express my views on the claim that low-fat airy products are somehow healthier than their full-fat versions the general reaction can perhaps be best described as a mixture of shock and relief. Shock from the fact that we have been so consistently misled regarding the role of saturated fat in health. Relief from the fact that watery milk and joyless yoghurt will no longer need to be endured.

This is the background to my interest in a recent study published on-line in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which assessed the relationship between diary fat and risk of heart attack [1]. Studies of this nature usually assess food intake through questionnaires. These are prone to inaccuracy. The authors of this study took a different tack: they measured the levels of two saturated fats specific to dairy products by the names of pentadecanoic acid and heptadecanoic acid.

In men, there was not statistically significant relation ship between dairy fat and risk of heart attack at all.

In women, the results indicated that, if anything, higher levels of dairy fat in the body (and therefore diet) are associated with a reduced risk of heart attack.

It should be noted that one of the eight authors of this study declared previously receiving speaking fees from the Swedish Dairy Association and the International Dairy Federation.

Notwithstanding this, the results of this study again support the idea that saturated fat does not cause heart disease. And the results also support the idea that there’s no need to eschew full-fat dairy products for the sake of our health.


1. Warensjo E, et al. Biomarkers of milk fat and the risk of myocardial infarction in men and women: a prospective, matched case-control study. 19 May 2010 [epub ahead of print publication]

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