Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Case for Not Restricting Saturated Fat on a Low-Carb Diet

The August issue of the open-access journal, Nutrition & Metabolism, featured a commentary by researchers from the University of Connecticut, Storrs - Jeff Volek and Cassandra Forsythe - The case for not restricting saturated fat in a low carbohydrate diet.

On point and supported by the evidence, the commentary was in response to a review published by Drs. Arora and McFarlane in the same journal - The case for low carbohydrate diets in diabetes management. The point of contention in the commentary from Volek and Forsythe was not the use of low carbohydrate diets for diabetic management, but the recommendation to emphasize mono and poly unsaturated fat over saturated fat to achive calorie balance on a low carbohydrate diet.

To support their view that saturated fats do not need to be specifically restricted, they point to their own data and the evidence from other researchers - twelve studies in all - that suggests:
  • The atherogenic potential of saturated fats varies greatly depending on the chain length and whether it is present alone or added in foods
  • The effect of saturated fat cannot be assumed to be independent of specific dietary conditions
  • Evaluation of overall health effects of saturated fat requires consideration of markers in addition to LDL-cholesterol
  • Concern that recommendations to limit saturated fat would lead to their replacement with carbohydrate which can have undesirable effects (increased triglycerides with decreased HDL-cholesterol)

In their conclusion, they stated that "[W]e believe that the recommendation to restrict saturated fat in favor of unsaturated fat on a low carbohydrate diet is unnecessary and may even diminish some of the beneficial physiological effects associated with carbohydrate restriction. At the very least, the food restriction required to reduce saturated fat will compromise the palatability of the diet and ultimately the acceptance of the approach to diabetes management recommended..."

Both of these articles are worth reading through - they're grounded in science and use evidence as support.

What's more important is that the two taken together show how respected scientists can work through differences of opinion by highlighting evidence worthy of consideration that may have been overlooked in previous reviews.

While some may see the point and counter-point as simple disagreement that takes one research team to task, I see it as the evolution of science and our understanding of the evidence that is a necessary part of the process that enables science to progress and perspectives to shift to evidence-based approaches!

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