Healthy fats no magic bullet, warns doctor

Consumers shouldn’t think that “healthy fats” such as canola and flax are a magic bullet to eliminate health risks, says a leading obesity and nutrition expert.


“As far as fats go, the unsaturated (fats) are our best bet, trans (fats) are poison and saturated fat seems to be neither here nor there,” said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff of the University of Ottawa and founder of the Bariatric Medical Institute.


“Maybe there’s three categories now: there’s the good-for-you fats, which are probably the unsaturated fats, there’s the neither-good-nor-bad fats, which seems to be the saturated, and then there’s the bad fats, which would be the trans.”


Freedhoff was summing up a major study of medical research on fats and human health, as well as other similar research reviews in recent years.


The study, which was a comprehensive analysis of more than 70 fats, diets and nutrition studies, rejects the idea that people will achieve better cardiovascular health simply by avoiding saturated fats such as those from animals or improve their health simply by adding unsaturated fats.


“Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats,” concludes the study, led by Rajiv Chowdhury of the University of Cambridge in England and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.


The study found that eating less saturated fat while increasing carbohydrates does not appear to lower cardiovascular disease. Dairy fats were found to be beneficial.


Freedhoff said these conclusions, similar to those of other studies, don’t mean unsaturated fats aren’t better than saturated fats.


However, it does mean that adding unsaturated fats and avoiding saturated fats without controlling calorie intake and the nature of a person’s overall diet are not likely to noticeably improve health.