Scientific evidence no longer supports the notion that saturated fat consumption is linked to increased heart disease risk, yet some professionals and organizations still perpetuate this outdated idea. During his presentation at the 2017 Palm International Nutra-Cosmeceutical Conference (PINC), Malaysian Palm Oil Council CEO Kalyana Sundram, Ph.D. said, “The politics of fat nutrition must be buried once and for all.” He stressed that consuming appropriate levels of healthy saturated fats, such as Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil, is the future of diet and health.
Sundram referenced Ancel Key’s longitudinal study which studied the link between fat consumption and coronary heart disease. Several flaws have been found in Key’s analysis such as using data from only 7 out of the 22 countries involved. Sundram also discussed George McGovern’s 1977 Senate Committee on Health and Nutrition which faced pressure from the meat industry when discussing dietary goals. The committee’s report was used to support the 1980’s anti-tropical oil campaign. He also mentioned a 1980’s committee heavily supported by the sugar industry which gave sugar, “a clean bill of health.”
Numerous studies have shown that saturated fat consumption is not linked to increased heart disease risk. These include a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2012 which found that the European countries which consume the most saturated fat have the lowest risk of heart disease, and a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 which found that saturated fat intake was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease.
Trans fats, however, have been linked to increased heart disease. These are byproducts of an industrial process which makes an unsaturated oil act more like a saturated fat. These unhealthy fats are being phased out of the American food supply.
Sundram also mentioned an Italian activist’s report connecting consumption of Nutella, which contains Malaysian palm oil, with increased cancer risk despite a lack of scientific evidence. He stressed that safety is the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s top priority. “The palm oil industry is regularly confronted by misinformation which is then absorbed by the media and churned into a frenzy of inaccurate news and opinions, designed ostensibly to inform and educate but achieving neither objective.”
Sundram’s complete PINC presentation is available here: