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Does saturated fat cause heart disease?

Please consider this question carefully and respond accordingly.

Bear in mind I know exactly what the traditional response will be and am very well informed as to current thinking and guidelines.

Here it is:

Can anyone show me the science that a diet high in saturated fat causes heart disease?

I repeat, can anyone show me hard, clinical evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease?

21 Replies

By inferring I will argue with 'any sensible advice' implies what I have to contribute has no value, which is a little patronising. This topic is an utterly vital one and by opening up the debate we may possibly go down an avenue in the future that may just provide the answers the current advice does not address. All the years of dietary advice have come to nought, as statistics are ever upwards regarding heart disease. But what is undeniable is that what goes into our mouths directly correlates with how healthy our hearts are.

By referring me to papers on cholesterol lowering via choice of fats and statins goes nowhere towards addressing my original query.

I refer you my original question, expanded a little.

Show me the science that definitively proves the connection between saturated fat and heart disease.

I am new to Heart UK, and if this is not the correct forum to ask questions such as this perhaps the blog section is. If this is the case I will be happy to posit my question there.


There may have been years of dietary advice, but much of it is ignored - see the obesity problem for example. Is there much evidence people are eating better?

As you may know, the connection between saturated fat and heart disease relies on the lipid hypothesis and it's called a hypothesis because it is unproven, even if there's a lot of evidence about it. You can almost never "definitively prove" things in an experimental science. All the data seen so far could be freak outcomes (highly improbable but theoretically possible), or explained by factors no-one had considered.

But I believe current evidence suggests that more saturated fat is probably linked to more heart attack risk. Linda linked to two pieces of the evidence, as requested, and the reply was an impossible demand for definitive proof. It's upsetting to see such confrontational behaviour here. I'd rather we explored and looked for understanding than started making demands.


I agree confrontational behaviour helps no one and may put people off joining in to get advice. Confrontation is a dangerous place as you can often find information to support two opposite sides of an argument. Also it's not what you say but the way you say it is coming into play in this discussion. We should never loose are goal of trying to help each other!


It's pretty obvious that saturated fat doesn't cause heart disease in the same way smoking doesn't cause lung cancer otherwise anyone who ate a sausage would keel over and die.

What there is, is a potential link between saturated fat and heart disease. This started with Keyes initial (albeit now considered flawed studies). Check out the link below to the Wikipedia page on Saturated fat. There are a lot links there to studies. None of them will attempt to prove that a diet high in fat 'causes' heart disease, but they do suggest a diet high in saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. What other factors contribute to whether one person develops heart disease and another not, is unclear - similarly to the reasons why one smoker will develop lung cancer and another won't.


In terms of your comment about about 'as statistics are ever upwards regarding heart disease' - that's simply not true. Heart disease in the UK and US (as an example) has fallen significantly since the 1950's ( you'll have to look for the graphs online). In fact, in the last few years, cancer has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death for women in UK (I think I saw this in the institute of national statistics). Why this is - who knows.


This may shed some light on your final statement -


BTW Dr. Craig Thompson's assertions about heart friendly diets and cancer fighting diets being in opposition in the video is also a misapprehension. As the Swedish Nation Board of Health and Wellbeing acknowledged in 2008 (by implication), controlling carbs in the diet is of benefit to both conditions.


Firstly, I have no overweening need to be right. If what I say is in error then I acknowledge this. Perhaps I should have been more clear when I stated that heart disease was 'ever upwards' in that I believe that when the decline in smoking (40% of population in 1978, 27% 2000) and medical intervention is taken into account then underlying coronary heart disease due to dietary factors is on the rise. However, I am prepared to stand corrected.

Getting back to my original question and so as not to get side tracked, I'll nail my colours to the mast:

I do not believe there is any connection whatsoever between consuming saturated fat and coronary heart disease.

Ancel Keys and his cherry picking of data is the basis for the 'everyone knows what causes heart disease' hysteria prevalent today, and we should be looking beyond his contribution.

Now, I am prepared to go toe to toe over this (and I am prepared to back down if proved wrong) but before I do, have a look at this, published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition January 13th 2010.


Perhaps if cholesterol deposits were considered as a symptom rather than a cause we might change the parameters of the the question.

Am I a dangerous maverick tilting at windmills? Perhaps. But this site is devoted to concerns about cholesterol and every aspect should be open to lively and civilised debate.


When y0u brought smoking into the equation did you consider that your %s were of population but population has increased dramatically. As the saying goes there are lies, damned lies and statistics with which you can prove or disprove virtually anything. I think most people find your original question confronttional as if you know everything and I really don't think it sits confortably on this site.


What I like about this site is the opportunity to discuss all aspects of heart disease and cholesterol. We all come from different angles, some of us have definite inherited causes,some already have heart disease, some of us are eternally grateful to statin therapy and some of us are sitting on the fence because of circumstances (that's me!). I like to read all sides of the debate, although it gives me a terrible headache. I've literally gone from I'm not taking these **** statins ever again to, I can't walk around with levels this high.

If you search hard enough you can sift through endless scientific papers debating the fat/diet hypothesis...believe me I've done it. I've lost two and a half stone,brought my blood glucose and pressure down but unfortunately not my cholesterol. I cut out snacking, junk food, refined carbs, pork pies some cheese and bread and took more exercise.


The question you have to ask yourself is how do i feel in myself.Is the pursuit of lowering your cholesterol pure folly.


On the contrary, studies repeatedly show that low-fat diets do not result in any less deaths from CHD than a 'standard' diet.

Also, as many people that suffer heart attacks have 'normal' cholesterol levels as have 'high' cholesterol levels.

There is no correlation.


Is that "no correlation" still true in the FH population?

Also, why the handwaving instead of naming the studies?


@ offshoretinker

I think, I can understand your concern. Since I smoke (and I don't think about giving it up) I noticed a lot of funny diagnosises. Usually when a friend gets a certain disease diagnosed and he/her smokes, it gets blamed on the smoking. If he doesn`t smoke, well, then there are other possibilities. So, it seems a little bit insane, more like propaganda than real science.

I think there is the same problem with saturated fats causing heart attacks. Some studies seem to prove it right, some studies can not prove any correlation.

I personally got the best informations about nutrition and their relation to health from the book by Adelle Davis "Let's eat right" and from Dr. Rath who made some researches about vitamins and the relation to heart attacks or high cholesterol.


What I like about both of them is, that they don't care about "authorities" or "experts" opinion and rather do their own studies, even if their studies lead to the result, that usually very cheap and natural ingredients can give a better cure then all this expensive high tech medicine.

I mean, I'm not a doctor nor any expert in this subject, it simply was all very simple and logically explained and I follow this simple rules - lots of proteins, very little carbs and sugars, never sweeteners or taste enhancer, good portions of natural fats (like on meat or cold pressed oils), vegetables and a good dosage of vitamins and minerals (which is much higher than this funny bogus RDA).

So even though I smoke, drink lots of coffee and have some overweight, my last medical check and blood test showed no problems and I still look 5-7 years younger than my actual age (43).


Look and smell the homes of non smokes against thoe of smokers which even the walls get stained with nicotine and the furniture smells of the stale nicotine which means visting non smokers have to wash or air even their outer wear after leaving to get rid od the stench. I would have thought that that alon would tell anybody that if you are actually inhaling it your lungs must be in a poor condition but you sound as though you are determined to prove that nothing is bad for you!


With regard to research I suggest you cast your net a little wider rather than base your nutritional interest on just one:


With regard to smoking which you appear to regard as a confusable side issue:

I lost my grandfather at 59 to smoking, my father at 59 to smoking (cancer) and my brother has just had lung volume reduction surgery. This involved removing one third of of his ravaged left lung to allow the remainder to work a little more efficiently (emphysema). He is currently awaiting evaluation for further surgery to the other lung.

I will leave it to your imagination my opinions on people who continue to smoke knowing the likely outcomes.


Thanks for your honest reply and I'm really sorry for this tragedies in your family so I can really understand your attitute against smoking.

Regarding Adelle Davis, I don't know if these facts on that website are true or not, even if, it doesn't mean (to me), that the whole concept is wrong. Nowadays the health-industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, which kills every year thousands of people with wrong diagnosises or treatment and deadly side effects of pharmaceuticals. And this industry needs sick people to make more profit - I know this sounds crazy and psychotic but there is enough evidence out there. They fight every concept which could lower their profits and every person who is popular enough and promotes simple solutions.

In Germany, where I come from, they forbid to sell vitamins in proper dosages. Recently they passed the EU-directive in Brussels which forbids to sell tea or herbs if it claims that it supports your health. And these decisions are forced or driven by the lobbyists of the pharma industry. Our former chancellor H. Kohl who forced this law against vitamins was a former pharma referent.

So, I'm not single sided on pro or con of either of these parties. I'm happy there are doctors and there are companies who produce drugs and medications, because sometimes they help. But I'm also very much aware of the risks and that's why I'm also very happy that guys like Adelle Davis, Linus Pauling, Dr. Matthias Rath etc. speak up and show alternatives.

Regardless of all this high class PR and promotion from the pharma industry I decided a while ago, that the only person I can really trust, is myself. So if I see something which makes sense, I give it a try. And if I feel good with it and medical checks prove that I'm healthy, than there can't be nothing wrong with it, no matter how much dirt is thrown on the source of that knowledge.


Good luck on your journey.



If you do ever decide to quit smoking let me know and I'll support and mentor you.


Thank you. Wish you also the best of luck and a long and healthy life.


I think you would be hard pushed to find a test which proves that saturated fat alone will cause a heart attack as there are many orher factors to be taken into consideration. Complete Diet, excercise, working conditions, family genes, lifestyle and levels of stress. Any of these conditions together with saturated fat could be a killer but everyone is different and has various tolerances. This was not the type of question to ask of the ordinary public you should contact one of the University Hospitals specialising in Cardiac care or the BHF who could possibly put you in touch with a specialist in this field.


Please read the question again carefully.


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