Column #230

If we ask 100 people to name the healthiest food groups, what will they say? I don’t think it will matter what they prefer to eat or what they eat most of the time, my bet is 99% of them will name fruit and vegetables followed by whole grains as the healthiest food groups. Protein and dairy will round out their list but with an emphasis on very lean, low fat, and small portions. Most will also agree that lowering sugar and salt consumption is important. Surprisingly, that’s basically what the Mayo Clinic recommends.1

What folks will not suggest is meat first. When they do suggest meat it will most likely be limited to three-ounce portions. In other words, meat and animal fat must be feared. If you asked if they’d recommend meat to someone with Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), I bet most would say no. But that’s not how Dr. Pavel Grasgruber, a sports scientist from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, would answer. He and his team of researchers published a report in 2016 titled: “Food Consumption and the Actual Statistics of Cardiovascular Diseases.” In it they show why statistically meat is best!2

They studied 62 food items that were compared with five CVD indicators involving participants in 42 European countries. Also studied were health expenditure, smoking, body mass index and the historical stability of results.

Now, are you sitting down?

They found exceptionally strong relationships between some factors. Not surprisingly the highest correlation was between higher cholesterol in men and the consumption of meat. Yet the most significant dietary correlation to low CVD risk was high total fat and animal protein consumption. Citrus fruits, high-fat dairy (cheese), and tree nuts were also highlighted for lowering CVD risk. It might be noted that food expenditures showed by far the highest correlation coefficients in that CVD risk increased in proportion to energy obtained from carbohydrates and alcohol, or from potato and cereal carbohydrates.

The report totally debunked the old medical theories regarding clogging of the arteries that have caused so much fear regarding the consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol.

For some years now I’ve been pointing out the many myths behind what is and is not a healthy diet. I’ve persistently pointed to Paleo/Ketogenic nutritionists who emphasize the importance of eating meat and animal fats and ignoring concerns about high cholesterol and clogging of the arteries. My nutritional take was not based on marketing schmooze, but on modern scientific revelations that have come from actually examining old theories. Yes, for going on 100 years the recommendations to avoid meat and animal fat, because they cause clogging of the arteries, were based on untested theories.3 4

Today the old untested theories are still part of the foundation of medical science which uses them to strike fear in everyone regarding saturated fat and cholesterol. Ask anyone who goes to a doctor for a physical checkup and generally they can quote their total cholesterol, HDL, and LDL numbers. They consider low total cholesterol and LDL numbers as signs of better health. That’s why if they have high numbers they take prescription drugs to suppress their cholesterol numbers. But is all that necessary or even prudent?

Here’s what Pavel Grasgruber discovered by using modern research methods. “. . . it is important to note that saturated fat is not only the key trigger of high total cholesterol, but even high HDL-cholesterol and high LDL-cholesterol. Saturated fat also decreases triglyceride levels, but the total cholesterol: HDL-LDL cholesterol ratio remains stable. The main sources of saturated fatty acids are red meat and milk products (whole fat milk, cheese, butter).”2

That statement certainly shows that eating saturated fat increases total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. But now we get to the most important question which is: “Does saturated fat and higher cholesterol levels indicate an increase in CVD risk?” The answer follows.

“Although the concurrent increase of LDL-cholesterol levels is often taken out of context and used as an argument against the intake of saturated fats in dietary recommendations, saturated fat is primarily tied to the less dense, large LDL particles, whereas cardiovascular risk is connected with the denser, small LDL particles, which accompany carbohydrate-based diets. There is also no evidence that the reduction of saturated fat intake (on its own) would decrease CVD risk. On the other hand, it is true, that so far there is no clear evidence that saturated fat would be beneficial for the prevention of CVD. The only possible exception among the sources of saturated fat is dairy.”2

When the old theories that claimed meat and fat increase CVD risk were put to the test with modern scientific analysis they crumbled. In fact, since the study points out that small LDL particles come from carbohydrate-based diets, and the small LDL particles clog arteries, we should avoid the high carbohydrate plant-based foods. That’s the exact opposite of what the old theories claimed. The conclusion that Pavel Grasgruber and his team of researchers made underscores the new reality. Here is their conclusion.

“Our results do not support the association between CVDs and saturated fat, which is still contained in official dietary guidelines. Instead, they agree with data accumulated from recent studies that link CVD risk with the high glycemic index/load of carbohydrate-based diets. In the absence of any scientific evidence connecting saturated fat with CVDs, these findings show that current dietary recommendations regarding CVDs should be seriously reconsidered.”2

This study proves why eating grass-fed and Omega-3 meat and animal fat is far better in preventing CVD than eating high glycemic, carbohydrate-based diets.

To your health.

Ted Slanker

Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.

Don’t miss these links for additional reading:

1. Heart-Healthy Diet: 8 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease by Mayo Clinic Staff

2. Food Consumption and the Actual Statistics of Cardiovascular Diseases: an Epidemiological Comparison of 42 European Countries by Pavel Grasgruber, et al.

3. Too fat? Eat Fat by Ted Slanker

4. The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease by James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, et al.