Progressive nutritional scientists recognize that total dietary saturated fat intake has little health effect or relevance as a target. Does that make red meat OK?
In 2015 the skeptical cardiologist described the conflict occurring in the nutritional scientific community between the old guard traditionalists and more scientifically open-minded progressives.
I updated that post today and sent out a Substack newsletter with that update and these comments.
Although seven years have passed since that post there has been only slight incremental improvement in messaging and the traditionalists are still in control of the American Heart Association and many other nutrition websites. I just checked what the AHA has to say about meat and dairy and it is still promulgating the outdated, traditional concepts:
The American Heart Association recommends choosing healthy sources of proteins, mostly from plant sources; regularly eating fish and seafood; substituting nonfat and low-fat dairy products in place of full-fat versions; and for people who eat meat or poultry, choosing those that are lean and unprocessed.
In general, red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) have more saturated fat than skinless chicken, fish and plant proteins. Saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. If you eat poultry, pork, beef or other meats, choose lean meat, skinless poultry, and unprocessed forms.
However, (as I mention in my lecture on the optimal diet to prevent atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease), Up-to-Date, the major online reference for physicians has this more progressive recommendation:
And, a “State of the Art Review” (Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food-based Recommendations: JACC State-of -the-Art Review) was published in 2020 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology by a group of prominent nutritionists and provides substantial backing for the progressive SFA paradigm.
I encourage a full reading of the article but here is the abstract:
“across the board recommendation to limit dietary saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake has persisted despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Most recent meta-analyses of randomized trials and observational studies found no beneficial effects of reducing SFA intake on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and total mortality, and instead found protective effects against stroke. Although SFAs increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol, in most individuals, this is not due to increasing levels of small, dense LDL particles, but rather larger LDL which are much less strotrongly related to CVD risk. It is also apparent that the health effects of foods cannot be predicted by their content in any nutrient group, without considering the overall macronutrient distribution. Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, eggs and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of CVD. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.“
N.B. In the last 3 years multiple studies/organizations have concluded that the association between unprocessed red meat consumption and colorectal cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease is very weak. If we stop making dietary decisions based on macronutrient content (e.g. lower SFA content) are there other reasons to eliminate or reduce meat consumption?
A decision to eliminate or minimize meat consumption for many individuals is driven by environmental and ethical concerns.
I’ll examine this issue in a subsequent post.