The Saturated Fat Studies: Buttering Up the Public

The Saturated Fat Studies: Buttering Up the Public
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Dairy industry campaign to “neutralize the negative image of milkfat among regulators and health professionals as related to heart disease” seeks to undermine latest guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

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Time magazine’s recent cover exhorting people to eat butter could be viewed as a desperate attempt to revive dwindling print sales, but they claimed to be reporting on real science, this systematic review and meta-analysis published in a prestigious journal, which concluded that current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage cutting down on saturated fat, like the kind found in meat and dairy products like butter.

No wonder it got so much press, since reducing saturated fat intake is a major focus of most dietary recommendations worldwide aiming to prevent chronic diseases including coronary heart disease. So, to quote the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “What gives? Evidently, shaky science…and a mission by the global dairy industry to boost sales.”

They interviewed an academic insider, who noted that some researchers are intent on showing saturated fat does not cause heart disease. In 2008 the global dairy industry held a meeting where they decided that one of their main priorities was to “neutralize the negative impact of milkfat by regulators and medical professionals.” And when they want to get something done, they get it done. So they set up a major, well-funded campaign to come up with proof that saturated fat does not cause heart disease. They assembled scientists who were sympathetic to the dairy industry, provided them with funding, encouraged them to put out statements on milkfat and heart disease, and arranged to have them speak at scientific meetings. And the scientific publications we’ve seen emerging since the Mexico meeting have done just what they set out to do.

Here are some of the materials from that meeting. What does the industry think is the key barrier to increase worldwide demand for dairy? Yes, there’s global warming issues, other milks competing out there, but #1 on the industry’s list is the “Negative messages and intense pressure to reduce saturated fats by governments and non-governmental organizations.” In short, the negative messages are outweighing the positive, so indeed, their #1 priority is to neutralize the negative image of milkfat among regulators and health professionals as related to heart disease.

Okay, so if you’re the dairy industry, how are you going to do it? Imagine you work for Big Butter. You’ve got quite the challenge ahead of you. If you look at recommendations from around the globe, there is a global scientific consensus to limit saturated fat intake with most authoritative bodies recommending getting saturated fat at least under 10% of calories, with the prestigious U.S. Institute of Medicine and the European Food Safety Authority recommending to push saturated fat consumption down as low as possible.

The latest guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend reducing trans fat intake, giving it their strongest A grade level of evidence. And the same with reducing saturated fat intake, and since saturated and trans fats are found in the same place–meat and dairy–cutting down on foods with saturated fat will have the additional benefit of lowering trans fat intake. They recommend pushing saturated fat intake down to like 5 or 6% of calories. So that’s what you see when you go to the American Heart Association’s website: no more than 5% or 6% of calories. People don’t realize how small that is. One KFC chicken breast could take you over the top. Or, two pats of butter and two cubes of cheese and you’re done for the day—no more dairy, no meat, no eggs. That’d be about 200 calories, so they are in effect saying 90% of your diet should be free of saturated fat-containing foods. So that’s like the American Heart Association saying OK, two meals a week can be packed with meat, dairy, and junk, but the entire rest of the week should be unprocessed plant foods. That’s how stringent the new recommendations are.

So this poses a big problem for Big Cheese and Chicken. The top contributors of cholesterol-raising saturated fat are cheese, ice cream, more cheese, chicken, then non-ice cream desserts like cake and pie, and then pork. So what are these industries to do? We’ll find out, next.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Time magazine’s recent cover exhorting people to eat butter could be viewed as a desperate attempt to revive dwindling print sales, but they claimed to be reporting on real science, this systematic review and meta-analysis published in a prestigious journal, which concluded that current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage cutting down on saturated fat, like the kind found in meat and dairy products like butter.

No wonder it got so much press, since reducing saturated fat intake is a major focus of most dietary recommendations worldwide aiming to prevent chronic diseases including coronary heart disease. So, to quote the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “What gives? Evidently, shaky science…and a mission by the global dairy industry to boost sales.”

They interviewed an academic insider, who noted that some researchers are intent on showing saturated fat does not cause heart disease. In 2008 the global dairy industry held a meeting where they decided that one of their main priorities was to “neutralize the negative impact of milkfat by regulators and medical professionals.” And when they want to get something done, they get it done. So they set up a major, well-funded campaign to come up with proof that saturated fat does not cause heart disease. They assembled scientists who were sympathetic to the dairy industry, provided them with funding, encouraged them to put out statements on milkfat and heart disease, and arranged to have them speak at scientific meetings. And the scientific publications we’ve seen emerging since the Mexico meeting have done just what they set out to do.

Here are some of the materials from that meeting. What does the industry think is the key barrier to increase worldwide demand for dairy? Yes, there’s global warming issues, other milks competing out there, but #1 on the industry’s list is the “Negative messages and intense pressure to reduce saturated fats by governments and non-governmental organizations.” In short, the negative messages are outweighing the positive, so indeed, their #1 priority is to neutralize the negative image of milkfat among regulators and health professionals as related to heart disease.

Okay, so if you’re the dairy industry, how are you going to do it? Imagine you work for Big Butter. You’ve got quite the challenge ahead of you. If you look at recommendations from around the globe, there is a global scientific consensus to limit saturated fat intake with most authoritative bodies recommending getting saturated fat at least under 10% of calories, with the prestigious U.S. Institute of Medicine and the European Food Safety Authority recommending to push saturated fat consumption down as low as possible.

The latest guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend reducing trans fat intake, giving it their strongest A grade level of evidence. And the same with reducing saturated fat intake, and since saturated and trans fats are found in the same place–meat and dairy–cutting down on foods with saturated fat will have the additional benefit of lowering trans fat intake. They recommend pushing saturated fat intake down to like 5 or 6% of calories. So that’s what you see when you go to the American Heart Association’s website: no more than 5% or 6% of calories. People don’t realize how small that is. One KFC chicken breast could take you over the top. Or, two pats of butter and two cubes of cheese and you’re done for the day—no more dairy, no meat, no eggs. That’d be about 200 calories, so they are in effect saying 90% of your diet should be free of saturated fat-containing foods. So that’s like the American Heart Association saying OK, two meals a week can be packed with meat, dairy, and junk, but the entire rest of the week should be unprocessed plant foods. That’s how stringent the new recommendations are.

So this poses a big problem for Big Cheese and Chicken. The top contributors of cholesterol-raising saturated fat are cheese, ice cream, more cheese, chicken, then non-ice cream desserts like cake and pie, and then pork. So what are these industries to do? We’ll find out, next.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

So how did they do it? Sorry for the cliffhanger, but then the next video, The Saturated Fat Studies: Set Up to Fail, would have gone from too long to way too long.

For those unfamiliar with Trans Fat in Meat and Dairy (and refined vegetable oils), that’s why I made a video about it.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine “as low as possible” position, echoed by the European Food Safety Authority, is described in my video: Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero.

What happened when a country tried to put the lower saturated fat guidance into practice? See the remarkable results in Dietary Guidelines: From Dairies to Berries.

Don’t think the dietary guidelines process could be undermined by underhanded corporate tactics? Sad but true:

And check out my 2019 video, Is Butter Really Back? What the Science Says. 

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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