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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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September 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 6)

Saturated fats don’t cause heart disease—they protect us against it, new study finds
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Saturated fats don’t cause heart disease—they protect us against it, new study finds image

The health advice we’ve been given about avoiding saturated fats is just plain wrong: the fats—from meat, butter, cream and cheese—don’t raise the risk of heart disease and instead have a protective effect, a new study has concluded.

People who eat a lot of saturated fats are less likely to suffer from heart problems, and instead have much healthier bio-markers, such as improved blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin and blood sugar levels.

Despite being told for more than 50 years that saturated fats cause heart disease, the real bad guys are the processed, flour-based products, highly-processed fats and foods with added sugar, say researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway.

Whether we eat carbohydrates or fats, the real key is to make sure that they are not processed, say the researchers who examined the impact of eating large amounts of the two food groups among 38 men, who all had fat accumulated around the abdomen, liver and heart, and were considered obese.

Despite the abdominal fat—usually considered to be a risk factor for heart disease—the men were at very low risk because all the usual markers were "substantially improved" when the men were put on the high carb/high-fats diet, known as FATFUNC. All the carbs and fats were low-processed foods or weren't processed at all.

Although saturated fat intake increased dramatically as part of the diet, the levels of the so-called 'bad' cholesterol, LDL, didn't increase, and the 'good' HDL cholesterol rose only among the men eating the high-fat diet.

"Most healthy people probably tolerate a high intake of saturated fat well, as long as the fat quality is good and total energy intake is not too high. It may even be healthy," said lead researcher Ottar Nygard.

Overall, warnings about eating good-quality fats have been exaggerated; instead attention should be turned to processed flour-based foods, highly-processed foods and those where extra sugar has been added.

(Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2016; doi: 10.3945/%u200Bajcn.115.123463)

Antidepressants increase risk of still birth or birth defects

Around 5 per cent of women take an SSRI antidepressant when they're pregnant—but the drug increases the risk of birth defects and still birth, a new study has discovered.

The risk is "small, but significant", say researchers at Swansea University who looked at the impact of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most common type of antidepressant, on a group of 500,000 children born in Wales, Norway and Denmark.

Three per cent of pregnancies ended in stillbirth or a birth defect, also known as major congenital anomaly, when the mother wasn't taking an SSRI, but this rose to 3.5 per cent among those who were taking the drug during the first trimester or before they became pregnant.

Although the increased risk seems small, lead researcher Prof Sue Jordan said the extra cases were "as serious as they can be".

Around 5.5 per cent of pregnant women in Wales are taking an SSRI during the first trimester, although just 2.1 per cent of Danish women and 1.6 per cent of Norwegians do so.

The researchers are calling on doctors to review their policy of giving out SSRI prescriptions to pregnant women and those planning on starting a family.


(Source: PLOS ONE, 2016; 11: e0165122)

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