The nation’s dietary experts seem to keep changing their minds about what fats to eat and what fats to avoid. If you’re confused about healthy fats, I can help clear up the questions. Healthy fats such as Malaysian sustainable palm oil are an integral part of a good diet.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report states that cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern. The available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol. This is consistent with the conclusion of the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology report.
The guidelines state that a diet lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health-promoting and associated with less environmental impact that the current U.S. diet. Although dietary cholesterol is clearly not an issue, this report isn’t a free license to eat as much butter as we want. We need to consume foods in moderation if we’re going to make a real difference in our health.
Nutritional science is dynamic. In the 1980s, the Dietary Guidelines suggested consumers avoid too much total fat and saturated fat. Over time, total fat guidelines have been upwardly adjusted with the 2010 Guidelines suggesting diets with up 35 percent of daily calories from fat. The 2015 executive summary suggests no upper limit for total fat consumption. Saturated fat guidelines have similarly evolved and now suggest including up to 10 percent in a healthy diet, and replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fat. This thinking may still be changing, however. Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.
Low-fat diets are not recommended. Current dietary advice puts the emphasis on optimizing types of dietary fats and not reducing total fat. Harvard University professor of nutrition and epidemiology Frank Hu, MD, Ph.D. says, “The single macronutrient approach is outdated. I think future dietary guidelines will put more emphasis on real food rather than giving an absolute upper limit or cutoff point for certain macronutrients.” University of Cambridge cardiovascular epidemiologist Rajiv Chowdhury, Ph.D. said, “My take on this would be that it’s not saturated fat that we need to worry about.”
Dr. Clemens is adjunct Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences within the USC School of Pharmacy, International Center for Regulatory Science. He served on the USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee with primary responsibilities in food safety, and dietary lipids and health. He has been cited and interviewed by more than 500 domestic and international health journalists’ discussions on contemporary health, nutrition and food safety issues.