A major study that claims to be the first of it’s kind has systematically looked at every randomized diet study in the scientific literature conducted between 1950 and 2007 and found insufficient evidence to associate the consumption of either meat or saturated fat with heart disease. The McMaster University study DID find associations between heart disease and the consumption of trans fat and diets with a high glycemic load (Glycemic load is a complex topic that I talk more about here).
At first blush this appears to be an exhaustive, high quality review of the available literature. At the risk of being overly simplistic, I’ll summarize the results in a table:
|Dietary Item||Association with heart Disease||Comment|
|Vegetables||Good||Your mother was right.|
|Nuts||Good||Are peanuts nuts, dietarily speaking?|
|Trans-Fat||Bad||I trust pigs more than chemists.|
|Diets With High Glycemic Load||Bad||Who wants a Big Gulp?|
|Mediterranean Diet||Good||But hard to interpret.|
|Monounsaturated Fat||Good||Pork Fat Rules!|
|Fish||Probably Good||MMmmm…. Bacon Wrapped Scallops|
|Whole Grains||Probably Good|
|Alcohol||Probably Good||Beer brats?|
|Fruit||Probably Good||Cherry Glazed Pork Cheeks?|
|Saturated Fat||No Association||Told You so!|
|Polyunsatured Fat||No Association|
|Total Fat||No Association|
|Eggs||No Association||Have we been sold…|
|Milk||No Association||a lie!|
“This is cause for concern,” the article says, “because dietary advice to limit the intake of a certain nutrient (dietary fat) may result in increased consumption of another (carbohydrates) which can have adverse effects on CHD risk factors.” Which is another way of saying that you’ve got to eat something. If you avoid everything with saturated fat you tend to load up on carbs which is a dietary choice of dubious value.
Interestingly, the study shows that monounsaturated fat consumption is associated with lower rates of heart disease while saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat had no association with heart disease. Lets look at a chart of common dietary fats and their proportions of good fats (monounsaturated) with neutral fats (saturated and polyunsaturated), according to the USDA Database (butter and margarine contain water and the fat content doesn’t add up to 100%):
|Fat Source||Monounsaturated Fat||Neutral Fats|
So pork fat (lard) comes out pretty good, having more “good” fats than all other fat sources except olive oil and canola oil. But of all these fats, pork fat from pastured hogs is the only one that’s loaded with vitamin D. See? pork fat is good for you.