Dietary Fats and the Heart

Everything You've Been Taught May Be Wrong

Just a few years ago it was very simple - to keep your heart healthy, just keep the amount of fat in your diet low, and especially avoid saturated fats and high cholesterol foods.

But now we know that much of this “settled science” was shaky all along, if not outright mistaken. Accumulating evidence has slowly dragged our dietary experts out of their low-fat paradigm, and we find the official U.S. Dietary Guidelines in a state of flux.

The following articles summarize current thinking on dietary fats and the heart. If you’ve been trying to be a good citizen for many years, following official dietary recommendations as closely as possible, some of this information may surprise you.

1
Low-Fat Diets and the Heart

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For over 30 years, the American Heart Association and the government told us that fat is bad, and that a low-fat diet is the keystone to a heart-healthy diet. Now? Not so much. 

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2
Does the Ornish Diet Really Work?

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If low-fat diets are no longer recommended by the experts, where does this leave the ultra-low-fat Ornish diet?

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3
Saturated Fats and the Heart

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That saturated fats are unremittingly bad for the heart has been a cornerstone of dietary dogma for decades.  However, accumulating evidence strongly suggests that this dogma has been mistaken.

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4
Dietary Cholesterol and Cardiac Risk

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In February, 2015, Americans heard the startling news that high-cholesterol foods, after decades of being relegated to the forbidden list, are healthy again! Here's why.

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5
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Heart

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If eating fats is now OK, but experts still urge limiting saturated fats, that pretty much means that we'll be consuming lots of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). And the experts say this is great! But, it turns out, not all PUFA are the same. In particular, the omega-6 PUFA may be a problem. Read about PUFA and the omega-6 controversy.

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6
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and the Heart

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Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), such as are found in olive oil, are widely regarded as being heart-healthy, largely thanks to the success of the Mediterranean diet in reducing heart disease.  However, firm clinical evidence regarding MUFA themselves are surprisingly sparse.

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7
Vegetable Oil and Heart Health

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Current dietary guidelines call for the copious use of vegetable oils to maintain heart health. But vegetable oils tend to contain lots of omega-6 PUFA (which may increase cardiac risk).  Worse, vegetable oils are relatively easily oxidized under heat (i.e., with cooking) which may render them dangerous. Be careful with that vegetable oil!

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8
Dietary Guidelines And Global Warming

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In the attempt to salvage its recommendations against saturated fats, the government's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has taken the extraordinary step of expanding its mandate to include the prevention of global warming. If you don't need to avoid saturated fats for the sake of your heart, you need to avoid them for the sake of our planet. Holy cow! 

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What Does a Heart Healthy Diet Look Like?

Obviously, our idea of an "ideal" heart-friendly diet is in a state of flux. However, a consensus is building that the Mediterranean diet may come pretty close.

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