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The Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Statin Controversy: A Commentary from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition
27 March 2014
Taylor & Francis
Many Americans are led to believe that high blood cholesterol as a result of heavy saturated fat intake causes cardiovascular disease. As such, Statin drugs are often prescribed to curb CVD risk by lowering cholesterol. This conventional knowledge is boldly challenged, however, by a new paper available from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the Official Publication of the American College of Nutrition and a publication from Routledge.
While many studies show a correlation between high cholesterol and CVD, this alone does not prove a “cause-and-effect” relationship. “In fact,” the authors point out, “if analyzed carefully, there are more studies that disprove the ‘cause and effect’ hypothesis than even come close to proving it.” A trend of vilifying saturated fats based on flawed research is traced back through the second half of the 20th century, eventually meeting overdue criticism in a 2010 meta-analysis and a 2012 paper contrasting scientific literature with U.S. and European advisory committee guidelines. While saturated fats have been blamed for causing CVD, more recent scientific literature points instead to processed sugars, trans-fats, and starchy/processed high-glycemic carbs as the more likely culprits. “Our nutritional courts,” the authors claim, “tried and convicted the wrong man.”
Statin drugs designed to treat high levels of LDL cholesterol began to be widely prescribed in 2001. The commentary authors suggest that “We must treat the patient thoughtfully and choose statin drugs carefully with extreme diligence to avoid unnecessary side effects.”
While these drugs have been linked to lower risk of CVD, numerous studies and clinical trials over the past decade have forced the medical community to re-examine the role of LDL cholesterol in statin use benefits. Some even began to demonstrate that reducing LDL alone was counterproductive in reducing some measures of CVD risk. As such, the authors advocate a more creative and thorough approach to addressing CVD risk, free of the “dogmatic polices” built around saturated fat and cholesterol centric thinking.
The commentary authors invoke legendary physician Francis W. Peabody in support of their convictions, quoted as saying, “The most important aspect in the care of the patient, is the care of the patient.”