Surprise, Surprise! Animal Fat Beats Vegetable Oil In ‘Rediscovered’ Study

Well, I am shocked: researchers recently discovered some lost data from a 40-year-old study on heart disease, analyzed the lost data, and discovered … wait for it … the animal fats we’ve been consuming for hundreds of thousands of years appear to be better for our health than the chemically extracted vegetable oils we’ve only been consuming for the past 100 years.

I know, I know … you can’t believe it either, can you? The new analysis has (fortunately) been making a bit of a splash in the media. Here are some quotes from an article published in the online edition of Forbes:

In an exceedingly strange turn of events, data from a clinical trial dating from the 1960s, long thought to be lost, has now been resurrected and may contribute important new information to the very contemporary controversy over recommendations about dietary fat composition.

The American Heart Association has long urged people to increase their consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including omega 6 PUFAs, and reduce their consumption of saturated fatty acids. The recommendations are based on the simple observation that PUFAs lower total and LDL cholesterol while SFAs have the opposite effect. However, the cardiovascular effects of substituting PUFAs for SFAs have never been tested in randomized, well-controlled clinical trials, and a growing proportion of experts now suspect that simple changes in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol may not tell the whole story.

Let’s just stop and re-read part of that paragraph.

However, the cardiovascular effects of substituting PUFAs for SFAs have never been tested in randomized, well-controlled clinical trials …

We’ve never had anything remotely resembling actual proof that substituting vegetable oils for animal fats prevents heart disease. But the lack of proof didn’t stop an entire industry from building up around the belief that vegetable oils are better for our health – just visit your grocery store and look at all the tubs of Smart Balance and other butter substitutes touting the fact that they contain less saturated fat.

The lack of proof didn’t stop The Guy From CSPI from harassing the restaurant industry into substituting vegetable oils for the lard and tallow they once used to fry foods. (And a chicken-fried steak hasn’t tasted the same since.) The lack of proof didn’t stop schools, hospitals, company cafeterias, and just about every other institution that serves meals from dumping butter in favor of margarine.  The lack of proof doesn’t stop the average doctor, dietitian or nutritionist from believing that hundreds or even thousand of studies have shown that animal fats cause heart disease.

Let’s read on:

One trial that actually tested the hypothesis was the Sydney Diet Heart Study, which ran from 1966 through 1973. In the trial, 458 men with coronary disease were randomized to a diet rich in linoleic acid (the predominant omega 6 PUFA in most diets) or their usual diet. Although total cholesterol was reduced by 13% in the treatment group during the study, all-cause mortality was higher in the linoleic acid group than in the control group. However, in the original publications, and consistent with the practice at the time, deaths from cardiovascular (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD) deaths were not published.

Now, in a new paper published in BMJ, Christopher Ramsden and colleagues report that they were able to recover and analyze data from the original magnetic tape of the Sydney Diet Heart Study. The new mortality findings are consistent:

  • All cause: 17.6% in the linoleic group versus 11.8% in the control group, HR 1.62, CI 1.00-2.64)
  • CV disease: 17.2% versus 11%, HR 1.70, CI 1.03-2.80
  • CHD: 16.3% versus 10.1%, HR 1.74, CI 1.04-2.92

Once again, let’s re-read part of the text above and let it sink in for a moment:

Although total cholesterol was reduced by 13% in the treatment group during the study, all-cause mortality was higher in the linoleic acid group than in the control group.

One of the goals of the original study was to lower cholesterol levels by swapping vegetable oils for animal fats. That goal was achieved – yahoo! Open the champagne.

And then the study subjects had to go and ruin the party by dying prematurely at a higher rate — from both heart disease and all causes combined — despite their lower cholesterol levels. The operation was a success, but unfortunately the patient died.

I’ve read the full text of the study, which includes this paragraph in the discussion section:

The traditional diet-heart hypothesis predicts that these favorable, diet-induced changes in blood lipids will diminish deposition of cholesterol in the arterial wall, slow progression of atherosclerosis, reduce clinical cardiovascular risk, and eventually improve survival. As expected, increasing n-6 from safflower oil significantly reduced total cholesterol. However, these reductions were not associated with mortality outcomes. Moreover, the increased risk of death in the intervention group presented fairly rapidly and persisted throughout the trial. These observations, combined with recent progress in the field of fatty acid metabolism, point to a mechanism of cardiovascular disease pathogenesis independent of our traditional understanding of cholesterol lowering.

That’s the polite, academic way of putting it. Allow me to interpret for the non-academic masses:

The Lipid Hypothesis is a crock of @#$%. Cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease. Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease. TIME magazine, your doctor, your government health officials, and everyone else who warned you to cut back on saturated fats, switch to vegetable oils, and lower you cholesterol to save yourself from heart disease had no @#$%ing clue what they were talking about.

This wasn’t some namby-pampy observational study based on food-recall surveys, by the way. It was a controlled clinical trial. The subjects in the intervention group were given the safflower-oil products to consume, they received ongoing dietary counseling, and they kept daily food diaries … until they died, anyway.

The explanation we’re given for the “lost” data just now being discovered and analyzed is that a computer data tape was misplaced back in the day. (For those of you who were born after 1970, that’s how digital data used to be stored – on magnetic tape.) The explanation is probably true … but given that the original study was completed around the time the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! theory was sweeping the medical world, I can imagine another scenario:

“Did you finish crunching the numbers, Jenkins?”

“Yes, sir. The men who switched to safflower oil lowered both their total cholesterol and their LDL by a significant amount. Thirteen percent, in fact.”


“Yes, but … uh …”

“Well?  What are you waiting for?”

“How soon do I get tenure, sir?”

“Out with it, Jenkins!”

“The men who switched to the safflower oil also had significantly higher rates of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and overall mortality.”

“Hmmm.  That’s not at all what we expected.”

“I know, sir.”

“Good thing you misplaced the data.”

“No, sir, I have it right—”

“I said, good thing you misplaced the data.

“Oh. Right. And, uh, for how many years did I misplace it, sir?”

“I’d say … let’s see … about forty years.”

“Why forty years, sir?”

“Because we’ll all be retired by then.”


68 thoughts on “Surprise, Surprise! Animal Fat Beats Vegetable Oil In ‘Rediscovered’ Study

  1. Ulfric M Douglas

    “…All cause: 17.6% in the linoleic group versus 11.8% in the control group”
    You are 49% more likely to die if you eat Safflower oil instead of animal and dairy fats.


    (I’m just using the normal bogus filthy lying scum way of presenting percentages here, not the proper way)

  2. D

    The first 10min of this movie was terrible boring, I suggest that you do not make anymore movies. Besides it looks like you were eating salads at these places as well, yes maybe not the healthiest of choices, but still better than all burgers or nuggets. I think you wanted to prove your point and you still are fat as the world would look at you. I think you should look at some real docuumentaries, and then see for yourself.

    If it makes you happy to believe I’m still fat, knock yourself out. But if you watch the followup sequence I posted recently, you’d have to be rather dishonest with yourself to believe that.

  3. K

    @Dana said “but I find that if I’m eating animal fat for most of my fat intake, my body can deal with carb-related insult to a greater degree than if I’m eating vegetable oil instead”

    I’m interested to read this since I went primal and it threw my health into a downward spiral so I started eating starchy carbs again and my health started coming back. But I have stuck with the change from vege oils to sat fats. Some people do better low carb than others. And it wasn’t just a short term carb flu. My liver and heart started getting pretty stressed.

    Our ancestors came from different parts of the world with different food sources. There’s no single diet that’s right for everyone, so if you’ve found something that works for you, stick with it.

  4. Jo

    I was watching the breakfast news here in NZ and they dragged out their regular nutritionist (‘we use evidence based science’) to discuss this. She basically took the same view identified in the comment by Nads earlier that the marg had trans fats in. She reassured us that there is ‘overwhelming evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease’. What interested me is that she looked very uncomfortable saying all of this. She wasn’t seriously challenged by the interviewer. Made me wonder whether she was starting to question it herself. I hope so.

    I still can’t decide if those people are merely ignorant or intentionally dishonest. They claim there’s “overwhelming evidence” or “thousands of studies” showing that saturated fat causes heart disease, and yet they can’t actually name the studies — because they don’t exist.

  5. Galina L.

    “I still can’t decide if those people are merely ignorant or intentionally dishonest. ” Probably neither, some are just like solders – they are under orders of their association. A registered dietitian who has a blog (she tell her patients to eat according to their blood sugar meter), once said in her comments that a dietitian is US was recently disciplined by the association for telling his/her patients to eat butter instead of a margarine for health reasons. Most probably the dietitian who is telling people about the standard health diet advice on TV morning news just can’t stray too far away from the party line without some unwanted consequences.

  6. Marilyn

    “. . .overwhelming evidence. . .” “. . .thousands of studies. . .” Reminds me of the episode Barry Groves wrote about some time ago. He interviewed a woman who had no answer besides “because that’s healthy eating” — over and over — when he tried to get her to give him some proof that people needed X-number of servings of fruitsandvegetables each day.

    In other words, it’s true because I was taught in school that it’s true.

  7. Ulfric M Douglas

    The “butter is bad” thing happened on a crummy chatshow today. There was some food expert (or weight-loss expert, or just some random bald bloke) showing some utterly huge people what they could eat and he mentioned making “whatever” with coconut fat rather than butter because (obviously!) it’s much healthier.
    I say give it one more year before all this gets turned around and the telly pundits start pretending they always advocated real butter, fatty steaks and eggs.
    Now … if I EVER see coconut oil on sale in my supermarkets I’ll buy some. So far it really is UNOBTAINIUM.
    (Thanks for cleaning up my double post above by the way)

    I guess if they’re recommending coconut oil now, it’s at least a small improvement. Coconut oil was the target of a Guy From CSPI scare campaign because it’s a saturated fat.

  8. Kristin

    “Eat your carbs, then take your medicine. Lovely advice.”

    I think you said a mouthful said (bad pun sort of intended.) I know that back in the 70s diabetics were on strict low carb diets. I know because I knew a few. It made sense. Since I’m not diabetic I haven’t paid much attention over the years but recently researching low carb I was appalled to find that the ADA now recommends a high carb diet. It has to be because they can now just medicate the patient as the primary treatment.

    I’m soooo glad, LLg, that your father decided to listen to you. My father died last month probably of a blood clot but with years of heart medication and the dozens of attendant medicines they cram at you and dutifully eating a low fat diet and remaining obese and developing skin ulcers that never healed (not enough cholesterol.) When I went home for his funeral I found a copy of Atkins Revolution in his library. When I questioned mother she said “Oh, he got that as a present about 10 years ago but never got around to reading it.” My father was killed by the medical system he trusted implicitly. So BRAVO that your dad is turning his back on it.

    Sorry to hear about your dad.

  9. Marilyn

    I suppose the simplest way for things to get turned around would be for the government and all the other controlling agencies to just quietly make no statements at all for a while and let people start making their own decisions. There would still be the various food products claiming healthfulness, but at least they wouldn’t have government/medical industry backing. That way, nobody would have to admit mistakes.

    That would at least be an improvement.


    “Now … if I EVER see coconut oil on sale in my supermarkets I’ll buy some. So far it really is UNOBTAINIUM.”

    ULFRIC – Coconut oil is available in our Costco, 54 oz @ $10.

  11. Ulfric M Douglas

    Hey Walter, what’s the postage from there? (Joking)
    Of course you don’t know it, but I’m up here in Northumberland, England.
    CostCos do exist here, but I’ve never seen one with my own eyes and I guess their product range will be different.

  12. sunshine

    Those test results apply only to Australians, which are unique because they are descendants from convicts brought to the island by the British.

    But then they must apply to Americans with criminal tendencies.

  13. Ulfric M Douglas

    News : Coconut oil found in Tesco in Britain!
    News to me anyway.
    The bad news : 260ml (half a pint-ish) is seven quid!

    I’m not buying that. 🙁

  14. Jacquelin

    I want to thank you, Tom Naughton by posting this. I really don’t agree most ppl says that vegetable old is better that the butter, and I born 1971 and yes I m living in this after xyz years. When I started to use oil in my cooking, its palm mix with peanut oil consider vege oil still ok.. but some still tell me to use canola and some sunflower. I tried using both, found that cutlery dishes is too difficult to wash, it’s sticky and stuck with oil. And recently I found it obvious when I bake a cake for my cell group and they wanted with icing or cream, I went to the shop and I get 1 butter and 1 buttercup (margarine). Once I done with the butter cake, I wash the cutlery and it was so easy the grease to go off before I reach the liquid soap. But when it’s come to the margarine, I found I got to used a lots lots of the soap and its still there. I ponder and its went into my body and its stuck, maybe this causes me fat.
    That ‘s way I come searching for some clue and I found this..
    Thanks again.

  15. dumface

    Listen people, omega 6 are bad for you, thats not news. What this misleading idiot doesnt tell you is that omega 3s are the best, and theyare in some veg oils. Heart attack studies say if eat omega six in a high ratio to omega three you may have another heart attack, reverse the ratio and overwhelmingly you wont. Sat fats have nothing to do with the equation!!!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.