The Truth about Fats: British Heart Foundation

I recently stumbled across an online article from BHF’s website (1), which I was disgusted with, although not totally surprised, by the inaccuracies of the article. It makes me irate that people who are supposed to have your interests at heart would pump out so much dogma.

When you scratch under the surface and follow the money and vested interest trail, it becomes pretty transparent about where their interests lie. Just take a look at their sponsors; ASDA, Tesco, Flora, Warburtons.

OK, let’s get to the article, “The Truth about Fat – There’s a lot written about fat in the press, not all of it accurate. Pascale Varley clarifies those fat myths”.

“MYTH: All fats are the same”
“REALITY: All fats are high in energy and have identical calorie value (9kcal per g), so their effect on your waistline is the same. The big difference is their effect on your cholesterol levels, so it’s important to consider the type as well as the amount of fat you are eating.”

Pascale is inferring that fats make you fat. This is not the case; in fact fats are processed by the body differently to carbs and even proteins; carbs cause the secretion of huge amounts of insulin in order to deal with the excess glucose in the bloodstream from carbs (carbs equals glucose). Therefore when you eat a diet high in carbs, as is specified by the Government’s “Eatwell Plate”, you find it hard using up all the glucose as energy or storing it as glycogen (emergency glucose), resulting in carbs being stored as fat, commonly referred to as “fat spillover” (2). Insulin is not called the fat storage hormone for nothing (3).

In terms of fats altering cholesterol levels, from the saturated point of view, the outdated dogma from the 1950’s that blames saturated fats for increasing cholesterol levels, has been disproven beyond any doubt (4, 5). In terms of refined vegetable oils (e.g. peanut, groundnut, soybean, rapeseed or canola, grapeseed, generic vegetable oil, sunflower, safflower, corn); while they do not raise actual cholesterol levels, unfortunately they damage the LDL cholesterol due to their highly inflammatory nature, resulting from the heat and chemical extraction process; polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils actually do find their way into LDL cholesterol, making them much more likely to become oxidised, forming oxidised LDL particles (67891011).

These are the LDL particles that build up inside the walls of the arteries (12), and are a major cause of heart disease and death (13).

“Industrially produced trans fats and too much saturated fat can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by raising the level of harmful LDL cholesterol, which can contribute to blood vessel blockage.”

Pascale is correct on trans fats and incidentally refined vegetable oils can often contain large amounts of trans fats. In one study that looked at soybean and canola oils found on store shelves in the U.S., about 0.56% to 4.2% of the fatty acids in them were toxic trans fats (14). In terms of saturated fats, this is a myth (15) from the highly flawed “7 Countries Study” (16) in the 1950’s. 

“Trans fats have largely been removed….. Saturated fats are also in whole milk, cream, cheese, cakes and chocolate.”

Pascale may be correct on trans fats, but these oils would need to be tested to confirm their removal; however this is just a smoke screen anyway as we have postulated that vegetable oils are very detrimental to health.

According to Pascale, we are exceeding recommended amounts of saturated fats; recommended by The Establishment, that is the Government who are in the pockets of the food and Big Pharma industries, as well as charities who rely on the aforementioned for donations.

Yes Pascale, saturated fats include butter, ghee, lard plus coconut oil and palm oil. Unfortunately for the BHF and The Establishment, they are all healthy, especially in the grass fed version (for the first three) and the virgin, non hydrogenated version (for the last two). I notice Pascale points out coconut and palm oils inclusion in baked goods; I think you will find that these will be the cheap, hydrogenated versions that are highly inflammatory and cause oxidised LDL cholesterol (the bad type) and heart disease.

“Swapping saturated fats in your diet for unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) can help lower cholesterol levels. Find unsaturated fats in avocados, olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils, oily fish, seeds and nuts.”

No Pascale, saturated fats are very healthy and have many benefits (17). I notice Pascale has also lumped polyunsaturated fats together; this is a very big mistake as these fats include Omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids, and even though both are classed as essential, the ratio of them is very important for health and disease prevention.

These fatty acids play important roles in many biochemical pathways, including those related to inflammation, immunity and blood clotting.

The problem is we need to get Omega 3 and Omega 6 in a certain balance. When this balance is off kilter, it can interrupt these important biochemical pathways (18).

For example, these two types of fatty acids often compete for the same enzymes and the same spots in cell membranes (1920) and have related but opposing roles; for example, both of them are used to produce signalling molecules called eicosanoids.

Eicosanoids made from Omega 6 tend to be pro-inflammatory, while those made from Omega 3 tend to be anti-inflammatory (2122).

Throughout evolution, we consumed balanced amounts of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. The problem today is that this balance has been drastically skewed towards Omega 6.

Not only are people eating way too much Omega 6, but their Omega 3 intake is also incredibly low, which is a recipe for disaster.

Whereas back in the day our Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio may have been between 1:1 and  3:1, these days it stands around 16:1, which is way outside of evolutionary norms (23).

Vegetable oils are the biggest source of Omega 6 fatty acids in the diet by far.

MYTH: I need to eat a low fat diet to look after my heart”
“REALITY: As our understanding develops……This is not a low-fat diet, but the fats are mostly unsaturated. It seems to be the overall combination that makes it so successful.”

There are a few issues here with respect to a Mediterranean diet; firstly it is a thing of the past as more people are turning to fast foods and processed foods (24). Also according to a 2014 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Greece and Italy actually have a greater proportion of overweight children than the United States (25).

Secondly, even if the diet consisted of grains, beans and legumes in previous generations, they would have been in trouble as all three have many health issues. I would be hear all day with grains, so I include a link (26) to one of the foremost authorities on grains and by coincidence he is also a heart surgeon.

In terms of beans and legumes, they are full of anti-nutrients e.g. lectins and phytic acid, which can damage the intestinal lining of the stomach (27); gut permeability leads to alterations in gut flora, which leads further to obesity and diabetes, two key risk factors for heart disease. (28).

“MYTH: Cutting out all fat is good for my heart”
“REALITY: Such a drastic approach isn’t necessary, and excluding fat can mean missing out on nutrients and fatty acids that our bodies need, such as omega 3 and omega 6 fats. These polyunsaturated fats are found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and the oils made from them.”

Well at least Pascale has recognised that fats contain nutrients and telling people not to cut them out completely avoided even the least educated in nutrition to be suspicious; obviously he stops short of that. Again he fails to address Omega 3 and Omega 6 ratios and types of Omega 6 foods that should be banned e.g. heart destroying refined vegetable oils.

“MYTH: Butter is better
“REALITY: Butter is high in saturated fat, so restrict yourself to small amounts and use alternatives for everyday eating.

Try mono or polyunsaturated spreads, such as olive oil or sunflower spreads (a new manufacturing process solved past concerns about their trans fat content). Liquid oils can also be used for cooking and baking instead of butter.”

Grass fed butter is high in Vitamin K2, which helps to prevent hardening of the arteries, which is a common factor in coronary artery disease and heart failure. Research suggests vitamin K2 may help to keep calcium out of your artery linings and other body tissues, where it can cause damage. The latest studies show it’s vitamin K2, rather than K1, in concert with vitamin D, that prevents calcification in your coronary arteries, thereby preventing cardiovascular disease (29).

Pascale just doesn’t understand that refined vegetable oils found in non butter and butter spreads are highly inflammatory and lead to oxidised LDL cholesterol and heart disease. Also liquid oils further degrade under high heat and compared to heat stable fats like saturated and monounsaturated fats, cooking with vegetable oil forms large amounts of disease promoting compounds (3031).

Some of these harmful compounds vaporise and may contribute to lung cancer when inhaled. Just being present in a kitchen where vegetable oils are being used may raise your risk of lung cancer (3233).

“MYTH: Any kind of meat is bad for my heart”
“REALITY: Lean meats such as chicken or turkey, without the skin, are healthier options, as they are lower in saturated fat. Red and processed meats can be high in saturated fats and may also have added salt.

Watch out for the white bits of fat in ham, steaks and bacon, and trim them off where possible.”

Saturated fats are good for you provided they are from a grass fed animal; also red meat form a grass fed animal is full of heart friendly, health promoting omega 3 fatty acids; yes it’s the truth.

Pascale is obsessed with saturated fat, so much so that it has completely clouded the truth, while the real culprits to heart disease (and many other diseases) get away Scot Free.

If you value your health, then I urge you to disregard everything in the BHF article. It is nothing short of a disgrace. If the BHF had a moral bone in their sorry bodies, they would retract the whole article and issue a public apology in every major UK media publication.

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