Controversy over whether reducing saturated fat in the diet matters to your heart and if it is the best prescription for health was the basis of a debate at a national meeting of dietitians. The debate was featured as the Member Showcase at the American Dietetic Association’s 93rd Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Boston in late 2010, with edited transcripts of the debate published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
In this debate, Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, and Lewis Kuller, M.D., DrPH, maintained that traditional low-fat guidance still has some value — while Walter Willett, M.D., DrPH, and Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., DrPH, challenged the importance of total fat intake. An overview of the key issues in the debate can help dietetics practitioners understand and communicate the right health messages.
Selected highlights on the role of saturated fat in the diet:
- Lichtenstein advocated a dietary pattern that maintains energy balance and displaces saturated and trans fat with unsaturated fat.
- According to Kuller, dietary saturated fats increase blood cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol levels should be kept below 100 milligrams to reduce heart disease risk. However, Mozaffarian disagreed with exclusively targeting LDL cholesterol because people respond differently to saturated fat and carbohydrate in their diets; he contended that other biomarkers of disease risk also are important.
- Mozaffarian said that “modern nutritional evidence simply does not support a major effect of saturated fat on coronary heart disease risk.” He said if people eat plenty of vegetable oils, fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts, “it will be much less important what the saturated fat level is.”
One of the key takeaways from this debate is that there is room for saturated fats within the context of a healthy, calorie-balanced diet. An audio recording of the entire debate is available at www.adajournal.org.
Zelman K. The great fat debate: a closer look at the controversy — questioning the validity of age-old dietary guidance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(5):655-658.
Willett WC. The great fat debate: total fat and health. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(5):660-662.
Kuller LH. The great fat debate: reducing cholesterol. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(5):663-664.
Mozaffarian D. The great fat debate: taking the focus off of saturated fat. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(5):665-666.
Lichtenstein AH. The great fat debate: the importance of message translation. 2011;111(5):667-670.
Willett W. The great fat debate: Q&A. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(5):672-675.
Table of Contents