A Griffith University scientist has described the recent attempts to disassociate diets high insaturated fats and cholesterol from heart disease, as potentially ‘very dangerous’.

Professor Ian Hamilton-Craig from the Griffith Health Institute’s Heart Foundation Research Centre refutedsome of the statements from a recently aired television show which featured US medicalpractitioners questioning the role saturated fats and cholesterol play in heart attacks.

The two-part program called Heart of the Matter is broadcast in Australia by ABC. It includedinterviews with practitioners including a cardiologist, a nutritionist and a physician. All stated thatthe long-held belief that saturated fat and cholesterol are conducive to heart disease is a ‘hugemisconception’ and ‘100% wrong’.

“The National Heart Foundation guidelines have for the past 40 years, provided us with theevidence and the medical advice that lowering intakes of saturated fats and cholesterol is a powerful way of reducing our blood cholesterol levels,” says Professor Hamilton-Craig, anadvocate of the low saturated fat Mediterranean diet.

Part of a very complex risk scenario

“These US practitioners’ attempts to disassociate diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol fromheart disease are potentially very dangerous and should be viewed in the context of overall diet,lifestyle and other factors. Fat and cholesterol are only part of a very complex risk scenario.

“By avoiding saturated fats, avoiding sugars and not over-eating, people will not only be doingtheir cardiac health good, but also helping to lower the rate of cancer, as shown in many
overwhelmingly positive studies of the Mediterranean diet such as The Lyon Heart Study and thatpublished in The New England Journal.

“The Mediterranean diet is based on fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, lean meat, fish and complexcarbohydrates such as pasta and bread, as opposed to refined carbs like sugars, sweets and
desserts which are low in the Mediterranean diet,” he says.

“Australians need to understand that the Mediterranean diet is not necessarily a low fat diet butdoes involve a relatively low intake of saturated fats, which are derived from full-cream dairyproducts and animal fats.

“Instead, it has a relatively high intake of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) derived mainly from extravirgin olive oil.

“Their diet also avoids sugars, with dessert often being fresh fruit. A glass of wine a day is theaverage, which also provides benefits for cardiac health.”