Newspapers the world over have recently declared that a single meal rich in saturated fats will disrupt the functioning of your arteries and contribute to the inflammation of your blood vessels, following an Associated Press story by Joe Milicia.1 Milicia reported on a recent study2 published by a team of researchers led by Dr. Stephen J. Nicholls of the Australian Heart Research Institute in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology entitled, "Consumption of Saturated Fat Impairs the Anti-Inflammatory Properties of High-Density Lipoproteins and Endothelial Function."
The news article quoted the Kansas City cardiologist Dr. James O'Keefe as claiming the study showed that "when you eat [saturated fat], inflammation and damage to the vessels happens immediately afterward." Of course, the study showed no such thing.
Dr. Nicholls, the lead author of the study, was quoted in the article as saying the study showed the "need to aggressively reduce the amount of saturated fat consumed in the diet." The AP article then clarified for us that this meant reducing our intake of beef, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, milk, cheeses, coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter, and replacing them with safflower oil, sesame oil, sunflower seeds, corn and soybeans. Wow! This study had the power to make sweeping conclusions about over 15 different foods! But in reality, of course, the study showed no such thing.
…this was a well-designed and interesting study; the authors of the report, however, unfortunately made unjustified conclusions from their data in the report itself, and the press articles further sensationalized the story and distorted the study's findings, making rather hysterical claims, unfortunately with the support of the study's lead author.
You may be surprised to find out that arterial function was actually better after the coconut oil meal than the safflower oil mea
l! Or that, contrary to the claims of the Associated Press article, the authors never measured inflammatory components in the subjects' blood. Or further, that they provided absolutely no evidence that different types of fatty acids, such as saturated or unsaturated, had anything to do with their findings!
In fact, they completely overlooked an alternative explanation that has substantial evidence in the scientific literature to support it: the differences they observed between the anti-inflammatory effects of the different diets may have been due largely or entirely to the difference in vitamin E content of the diets rather than the type of fatty acids present in the oils