Scientists from Bjørknes University College in Oslo, Norway, have joined a growing group of nutrition experts in challenging the long-standing notion that saturated fats promote heart disease. In making their case in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the trio of researchers contends there is, at best, weak evidence that high intake of saturated fats cause heart disease. To counter the “saturated fats are bad” claim, these scientists put forth a new model called the “Homeoviscous Adaptation to Dietary Lipids” (HADL) and urge fellow researchers to discuss and test the model. It’s a refreshing approach versus those who continue to browbeat decades-old nutrition claims regarding fat.
The Norway team points out that saturated fats play a central role in one of the greatest controversies in nutrition science. As that controversy continues in some camps, they remind fellow researchers that saturated fats can be found in a wide variety of foods, including human breast milk. Why then is this lipid considered to be dangerous to human health?
In their HADL model, the scientists contend that there’s a logical explanation for why the body’s cells change its cholesterol content, and thereby the blood cholesterol, when fats in the diet change. These factors can include low-grade inflammations and insulin resistance. The team goes on to say that the data gathered in recent decades is inconsistent and unconvincing when it comes to saturated fats’ potential role in heart disease. Also, the entire concept lacks a biological and evolutionary explanation.
These nutrition experts contend the mechanisms that regulate circulating cholesterol may become disrupted due to insulin resistance and other cardiovascular disease risk factors. Some of that risk involves obesity, and more than 70% of Americans are either obese or overweight.
While not cited in the Norway work, it is known that high insulin levels trigger the human body to synthesize and store fat. It’s one of the reasons that the American Diabetes Association concluded in 2019 that low-carbohydrate diets or extremely low-carbohydrate diets, known as keto diets, were the only nutritional therapies that consistently resulted in beneficial outcomes for adults with diabetes. That’s because carbohydrates, not saturated fats, appear to be the root cause of many of our diet-related health problems.
Have some scientists had nutritional science all wrong? That’s a tough pill to swallow for a proud lot. But the Norway group has joined like-minded scientists from the University of Copenhagen, the University of California at Berkley, and Tufts University in making that very assertion. If that’s the case, foods such as unprocessed meats, dark chocolate, eggs, and whole fat dairy may hold the key to countering diabetes, obesity, and other diet-related health issues without impacting heart health.