There is no question that one of the biggest debates these days centers on the health risks or benefits of dietary fat. And rather then enter into this discussion from an opinion derived position, I believe it’s fundamentally important to first and foremost see what our most well respected institutions that are researching questions such as this are telling us in the form of peer-reviewed publications.
Arguably, one of the most well respected medical journals on the planet is the New England Journal of Medicine. And last year the journal published a study entitled, Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. The researchers enrolled 7447 individuals whose age ranged between 55 and 80 years. There were slightly more women than men, 57%. There were three different dietary plans used in this interventional study including a standard low-fat diet, A Mediterranean diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil, and a group that received the Mediterranean diet with the addition of fat derived from added nuts.
The study was designed to look for particular “endpoints” and in this case there were three. They included having a stroke, a heart attack, or death.
The study was halted at 4.8 years, far earlier then what was intended. The researchers had performed an “interim analysis” meaning that they looked at the results before the planned end of the study to determine if there were any trends. When the researchers actually looked at the data, it revealed a dramatic difference between those eating the high-fat diets (Mediterranean diet with either extra olive oil or added nuts) when compared to those given the still popular “low-fat” dietary recommendation. In fact, risk for the endpoints, stroke, heart attack, or death (which is certainly a meaningful end point), were found to be 30% reduced in those individuals eating the most fat, in comparison to the low-fat group.
Importantly, the diets enriched with fat were “energy–unrestricted,” meaning that there was no limitation in total calories. As the authors stated: In conclusion, in this primary prevention trial we observed that an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, resulted in a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk persons.
So again, I really feel it’s time to move away from the emotion as it relates to these aspects of dietary recommendations, and take the time to see what current science is telling us.