Vegetable fat not the route to a healthy heart, study finds


Vegetable fat

Replacing animal fat in the human diet with vegetable oil seems not to lower heart disease risk, and might even boost it, according to a study published Wednesday that challenges a cornerstone of dietary advice.

Switching from saturated to unsaturated Omega-6 fats did result in lower blood cholesterol in a trial with nearly 10,000 participants, it said, but not the expected reduction in heart disease deaths.

In fact, those with a greater reduction in cholesterol “had a higher rather than a lower risk of death,” according to the research published by the medical journal BMJ.

For 50-odd years, animal fat in meat, butter, cheese and cream has been the bad boy of the diet world — blamed for boosting artery-clogging cholesterol linked to heart disease and stroke.

In 1961, the American Hearth Association recommended vegetable oils replace saturated fats — a position it still holds even as some research has started to challenge that hypothesis.

The World Health Organization also advises that saturated fats should comprise less than 10 percent of total energy intake.

For decades now, the world has viewed full-fat milk and bacon with suspicion and replaced pork with chicken, and butter with plant-based margarines and cooking oils.

But in the past few years, researchers have started poking holes in the “fat is bad” hypothesis.

The new study, led by Christopher Ramsden at the National Institutes of Health, re-analysed data from a randomised controlled trial conducted 45 years ago with 9,423 residents of state mental hospitals and nursing home in Minnesota.

This is a type of experiment — generally considered highly reliable — in which people are randomly divided into groups to receive, or not, the treatment being studied.

– ‘Less certain than we thought’ –

Part of the Minnesota group had their intake of saturated fat replaced with corn oil, while the rest ate a diet high in animal fat.

“As expected, the diet enriched with linoleic acid (a fatty acid found in plant oils) lowered cholesterol levels,” said a statement by The BMJ.

But “this did not translate to improved survival. In fact, participants who had greater reduction in blood cholesterol had higher, rather than lower, risk of death.”

The team also looked at other randomised controlled trials, and found no evidence anywhere to support the hypothesis that vegetable oils curb heart disease.

“The benefits of choosing polyunsaturated fat over saturated fat seem a little less certain than we thought,” Lennert Veerman, a lecturer at the University of Queensland School of Public Health commented on the study.

Further research is needed, he added, to determine whether all Omega-6 type fats provide similar results.

“While we wait for further clarification, we should continue to eat more fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” Veerman wrote.

In January, updated US dietary guidelines reiterated that saturated fats should make up less than 10 percent of a day’s food intake — a recommendation that now “will be under increased scrutiny”, according to Veerman.

“If blood cholesterol values are not a reliable indicator of risk of cardiovascular disease, then a careful review of the evidence that underpins dietary recommendations is warranted,” he wrote in The BMJ.

Other experts stressed there was an established link between high cholesterol and the risk of heart attack or stroke.

“More research and longer studies are needed to assesses whether or not eating less saturated fat can reduce your risk of cardiovascular death,” said Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation.



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  • Ariemba

    Indigenous primitive energy at work, both from KWS and the Citizen

  • bilahuruma

    Idiots want the tourists to come and share their wealth, but they’re happy to wipe out the one thing that brings the tourists. You reap what you sow, watu. When the last tourist has left, and the last NGO gone back home, who will you turn to with your outstretched hands?

    • mazzdark

      They are not idiots, the dead livestock are their livelihoods, tourism is a silent export and most of the money stays in the hands of majority European owned tour companies and hotels anyway – why should a subsistence livestock owner look to high flying economic ideas when survival is the very cattle the lions are killing…..

    • Quickdraw

      Moronic response from a possible mzungu who thinks this country gets by from your meager tourism dollars. Trust me, bilahuruma, when the last tourist has come and gone, this country will not only survive but thrive – on the resourcefulness of its people, their indomitable and proud spirits, and the as yet untapped sources of economic and social prosperity that even now have you living here (in Kenya) rather than in Europe or elsewhere in the west!

      • Jean

        how stupid are you to make such a comment? You daint know nothing about the kenyan economy!

        • Quickdraw

          No, but I certainly know more than you do about the Kenyan people. If you think Kenya is economically afloat because herds of wild animals roam her lands freely, you need to be given the first place on the queue of people looking to live somewhere else, coz you clearly have limited imagination and therefore contribution to make here.

  • John

    Raabia is going hit the roof.

  • They even killed the cubs? Come on, they could at least have handed them over to KWS!

  • Little Hiti

    KWS has to do more to save the Wildlife, much more. After the fancy dreams of IT innovation fail, fancy oil fantansies, failed devolution etc, Tourism will still provide the hard and very needed dollars. And they will be real, not expected. KWS simply has to do far much more than this.

  • we should be more proactive and stop being reactive. compensating the
    locals for livestock killed or injured is not enough. these lions not
    only pose a threat to the livestock but also to human lives. why can’t
    the govt (KWS) provide sedative dart guns to the locals and train them
    on how to use them?

  • ben nandi

    Give State Burual for Them.A True state burial flags half mast

  • Kate

    Tourism is a large part of Kenya’s economy, and tourism depends on a thriving wildlife as well as other things. To for commentators to imply that it has no role in Kenya’s economic success is quite ignorant. However, regardless of the economic benefits of wildlife to Kenya, the lions should not have been killed. It was criminal and cruel behaviour. There are 7billion people trying to survive in a dwindling and increasingly threatened ecosystem. The answer is certainly not lashing out as soon as one’s livelihood is threatened. The people responsible should face criminal prosecution.

  • Rwebembera William

    This good. It awakens the sleeping KWS to provide security and 24 hour surveillance to this wild resource. In Bunyoro (Uganda) we say, “Alema kugwa bamuniga bweme,” literally meaning that when you are wrestling and you fail to throw down your opponent, manage him while standing.

    In the hardest way, the government of Kenya is being reminded of her cardinal role of protecting the people and their property, and that of safeguarding the national resources.

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