A newly published diet and population study puts yet another nail in the coffin of the idea that saturated fats contribute to heart disease. Researchers looked at how specific dietary combinations of proteins, fats and carbs impact cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk biomarkers. They found that high proportions of carbohydrates, not fats, were associated with elevating multiple biomarkers for CVD. 

The majority of the 577 participants in this 12-month study, which was conducted in Malaysia, consume meals made with palm oil, which is 50% saturated fat. The participants were non-smokers and non-drinkers. 

Some people still believe that those following low-fat diets would have better cholesterol profiles compared with those eating high-fat diets.

The study’s senior author, Dr. Kalyana Sundram, pointed out that oversimplification of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, protein) as good or bad has set the tone for the clinicians and public to adopt diets that can often do more harm than good. What we need most are well-designed studies of dietary patterns and associated health outcomes.

“Our study found that higher proportions of carbohydrates in the diet tend to be associated with elevated levels of multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors including dyslipidemia (defined as high triglycerides, elevated total or bad LDL cholesterol or low levels of the good HDL cholesterol), high blood pressure and plaque-promoting small LDL cholesterol particles,” said Sundram. He added that, “Higher proportions of dietary fat intake were not associated with elevating these risk factors.” 

Sundram concluded that given this emerging evidence, it may be time to reassess our traditional understanding of how diet impacts our risk factors for heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

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