07 February 2013


Supports Chapter Five - Fats: from tonic to toxic

I have been extolling the virtues of butter over margarines made with linoleic acid-rich vegetable oils ever since 1971. Now, the medical fraternity is finally getting the message - and, more importantly, publishing it!

This week, not only the BMJ but many UK Newspapers have published articles which vindicate my stance. But, as you will read, there are some who really don't want to know.

Swapping butter for margarine and vegetable oils could trigger a heart attack, scientists have warned.

Decades of dietary advice has been turned on its head after experts uncovered startling new evidence about the dangers of eating “healthy” spreads.

A study revealed an ingredient in vegetable fats triggers inflammation – which plays a major role in chronic illnesses from heart disease and cancer to arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

The findings will have major implications for millions of Britons who have stopped using butter in favour of trendy, and less fatty, spreads and oils following healthy-­living guidance.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the ­British Heart Foundation, said: “Our understanding of the effect of different fats on the heart develops all the time as research into this complex issue is published. Replacing saturated fats with ­unsaturated alternatives is a well-known recommendation for your heart which is based on many large and in-depth studies.

“However, this research highlights the need for us to further understand how different unsaturated fats affect our risk of heart disease.

“Whichever fats you use it’s important to be sparing with them. Try to grill, bake, or steam your food, rather than frying. Measuring out oils instead of pouring straight from the bottle is another good way of making sure you’re not overdoing it.”

The new research, published online in the British Medical Journal, was carried out by experts from the US Government’s National Institutes of Health in Maryland. They recovered missing data from a study in the 1960s involving 458 men aged 30-59 who had suffered a heart attack or angina.

Using modern statistical methods to compare death rates, they found there was no evidence of the benefit of replacing saturated fats with omega-6 linoleic acid, found in vegetable fats.

In fact, they said replacing the animal fats with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) from vegetable fats increased risk of death in those patients with cardiovascular disease.

Those who increased their intake of the “healthy” fats over three years were almost twice as likely to die.

The omega-6 linoleic acid group in the study had a higher risk of death from all causes (62 per cent), as well as from cardiovascular disease (70 per cent) and coronary heart disease (74 per cent), compared to others.

Linoleic acid is present in high amounts in some commonly used vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, safflower and soya bean.

Once in the body, it is converted into a chemical called arachidonic acid which can trigger the release of other chemicals leading to inflammation, a leading cause of a host of chronic diseases.

In the UK, people consume on average of 10g per day of linoleic acid, found in about nine level teaspoons of polyunsaturated margarine or three teaspoons of sunflower oil. Coronary heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer with about one in five men and one in seven women dying from the disease.

It causes around 94,000 deaths each year. There are also at least 2.6 million people living with the condition.

Angina, the most common symptom of coronary heart disease, affects two million in Britain.

Dr Christopher Ramsden, for the NIH study, said: “Advice to substitute vegetable oils rich in PUFAs for animal fats rich in saturated fats has been a cornerstone of dietary guidelines for the past half century.

“These findings could have important implications for worldwide dietary advice to substitute omega-6 linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fats in general, for saturated fats.”

Professor Philip Calder, a nutritional immunologist at Southampton University, said the study provided “important information” on a health issue causing “considerable debate”.

It's about time that 'debate' reached its conclusion. We have evidence from over 50 years of study into fats and heart disease. The only fats that have shown harm are the 'healthy' vegetable oils and products made from them. No study has ever found statistically convincing evidence that butter is anything other than beneficial.

Caveat emptor
Although UK law requires food labels to warn of saturated fat content, it is 'high in polyunsaturates' that the buyer should beware of.

Christopher E Ramsden, Daisy Zamora , Boonseng Leelarthaepin, et al. Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis. BMJ. 2013 Feb 4;346:e8707. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e8707.