Friday, June 19, 2015

Reducing Saturated Fat: Worth it?

We recently published an article that was a "Mythbusters" on nutrition.  One of the controversial parts of the article was whether reducing saturated fats was a worthwhile nutritional focus. Of course, all of the major groups, including the IOM, reinforce the importance of reducing saturated fats.

One of the major studies we relied on was a Cochrane review. Cochrane reviews are the "gold standard" of evidence-based medicine. They take all the of the studies on a topic and use a standardized method to compile the evidence. The Cochrane review we relied on was just updated with new data. The results are the same. The plain language summary is:

"The review found that cutting down on saturated fat led to a 17% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and strokes), but no effects on the risk of dying."

Let's break this down. If you replace saturated fats with other fats (but not with carbs), you will not reduce your risk of death. However, you will reduce your risk of a cardiovascular event. But here are what the numbers look like.

In the regular saturated fat group 83 people out of 1000 had Cardiovascular Events over 4.7 years, compared to 70 (95% CI 61 to 80) out of 1000 for the reduced saturated fat group.

Here is the visual for the regular group:
 And here it is for the reduced saturated fat group:

So out of 1000 people on the reduced diet, 13 less will have an event, with no effect on mortality.
Is it worth it?
Either way, it is beneficial to eat less meat and more vegetables. That reduces mortality.

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