Research shows FSA is wrong to condemn these natural, unprocessed foods, says Joanna Blythman

Isn't it time the nutritional profile of saturated fat was rewritten ? For the past half-century, public health gurus have treated it as the devil incarnate, on the basis of "evidence" that was as solid as a buttery hollandaise sauce.

For years, there has been research suggesting that the "lipid theory" is leaky. The authoritative Framingham study, Nurses' Health Study and the Women's Health Initiative Study in the US all failed to find evidence that reducing fat intake significantly reduces your risk of heart disease or cancer.

Last year, the Archives of Internal Medicine published a review of major studies linking various nutritional factors and heart disease and similarly found no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease.

So far this year, the anti-saturated fat thesis is melting away like butter in the sun. We have a thorough meta-analysis of 21 epidemiological studies, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that found no association between saturated fat and the risk of either heart disease or stroke.

This chimes with the recently published conclusions of consultation for the World Health Organi­zation and Food and Agriculture Organization on the relationship between fats, physiology and health. These noted that intake of saturated fatty acids "was not significantly associated with coronary heart disease mortality". It concluded that in intervention studies (where people went on a low saturated fat diet to see how they compared with individuals who did not) fatal heart disease was "not reduced ... the low-fat diets".

So when is the Food Standards Agency going to reconsider its advice? The Harvard School of Public Health has updated its healthy eating pyramid, with a new category of 'healthy fats and oils' being given pride of place at the foundation of a healthy diet along with vegetables, fruits and wholegrains. The FSA, meanwhile, is still reeling off its crude anti-satfat mantra.

Why does the FSA persist in demonising natural, unprocessed foods that have served us well for centuries and which taste good whole milk, cream, butter, cheese and red meat while advocating complex low-fat technofoods such as margarine that taste bearable at best? Can't it bring itself to say it was wrong? Or is it just too scared of the big guns who make billions from flogging us low-fat snake oil?

Joanna Blythman is a food journalist and author of Bad Food Britain

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