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23 and Me and Saturated Fat

Someone didn't get the memo that all the fuss about saturated fats is based on a bunch of debunked junk science. 23 and Me, the company that provides genetic information from a saliva sample, sent me this message:

People with your genetic result tend to have a similar BMI on diets with greater or less than 22 grams of saturated fat per day, as long as they consume the same number of total calories.
However, diets high in saturated fat have been associated with increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Limit your saturated fat intake. It may not have a large effect on your weight, but it’s important for reducing your risk of heart disease.
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet: they give you energy, help build your cells, and help you absorb certain vitamins. There are three main types of fats, but not all types are equally healthy.
  • Saturated fats: Found primarily in red meat and dairy products, saturated fat has been linked to increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and total cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease. Researchers are still working to understand the complex relationship between saturated fat and health.
  • Trans fats: Found in processed foods like cookies and frozen pizza, trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease. Experts agree that we should avoid trans fats.
  • Unsaturated fats: Found in nuts, fish, and most vegetable oils, unsaturated fats may improve your cholesterol levels and are commonly thought of as healthy fats.
Saturated fat intake is something many of us should keep an eye on; about 70% of Americans eat more than the recommended daily amount of saturated fat. Try to consume less than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fat, which is 22 grams for a 2000 calorie-per-day diet.
Source: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

My response:

I just received this email: "Lori, your weight is likely to be similar on diets high or low in saturated fat with the same number of total calories." 
It isn't the same. I'm 20 pounds lighter on a diet high in saturated fat and low in carbohydrates, even though I gave up my intensive exercise regimen when I gave my diet a radical carbectomy back in 2010. I also stopped getting cavities, stopped having acid reflux, stopped getting hungry enough to eat the carpet, and I have felt better overall. At 47, I take no medications and have the energy I should have had in my 20s. My cholesterol level *improved* on my saturated fat fest. 
The junk science of low-fat diets ("associations" based on food recall questionnaires) has been widely debunked over the past few years. Even Harvard admitted that their Nurses Health Study showed no benefit of following a low-fat diet, which was presumably lower in saturated fat than the diet of the control group. 
Further, telling people to limit their saturated fat intake is terrible advice for people like me who are full of genes for diabetes. My ancestry is largely northern European, where the traditional diet is full of red meat and dairy. The fact that I feel much better on a diet with a good deal of beef, pork, butter, eggs and some fibrous vegetables than I do eating nuts and fruits (both of which I love but give me a stomach ache) makes sense in light of this. 
Please reconsider this response to your customers.

It was actually the Women's Health Initiative, or WHI. Harvard said, back in 2006,

The low-fat, high-starch diet that was the focus of dietary advice during the 1990s-as reflected by the USDA food guide pyramid-is dying out. A growing body of evidence has been pointing to its inadequacy for weight loss or prevention of heart disease and several cancers. The final nail in the coffin comes from an eight-year trial that included almost 49,000 women. Although the media have made much of the “disappointing” results from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Dietary Modification Trial, it would be a serious mistake to use these new findings as reason to load up on sausage, butter, and deep-fried fast food.
In other words, keep eating pasta, broccoli and chicken breast because--well, nobody really knows. After 40 years and countless studies on tens of thousands of people, "Researchers are still working to understand the complex relationship between saturated fat and health." Here's a thought: maybe there isn't one. Or maybe for some of us, it's actually beneficial.


Larcana said…
Love it and they wonder why I don't bite for every email they end me!
I had my DNA done just to see what was there...interestingly I have only a 4.7% chance of having Celiac Disease and guess what ?...I've had it, all my life.
Lori Miller said…
The next day, 23andMe emailed me about participating in a nutrition study. I bit.

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