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Experts Question Study Downplaying Link Between Saturated Fat, Heart Disease

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It has become prevailing wisdom that foods high in saturated fat like butter and cheeseburgers are bad for heart health.

But as CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, a new study raises questions about the link between saturated fat and heart disease.

The scientific study found that there’s not enough evidence that eating saturated fat – like the kind found in bacon cheeseburgers – increases heart attacks and other heart problems. But, Gomez explained, that does not mean eating those foods are good for you.

By now, we’ve been trained to view foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol as a heart attack on a plate, Gomez reported. It’s been commonly believed that those types of foods clog our arteries and may lead to a heart attack or stroke.

But an analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine of nearly 80 studies on the effect of dietary fats finds there’s not enough evidence to say that eating saturated fat increases the incidence of heart attacks or strokes.

It also found that high consumption of polyunsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils may not lead to less heart disease.

“This conglomerate of studies are very difficult to interpret,” said Dr. Valentin Fuster of Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Fuster, an internationally-renowned cardiologist and former president of the American Heart Association, is concerned that this study will be misinterpreted.

“The message can be taken as ‘I can eat anything I want and there is no problem.’ And this is wrong,” Fuster told Gomez.

The American Heart Association agreed with Fuster’s reaction in a statement released Tuesday:

“The paper does not invalidate the existing policies and recommendations that aim for offering sound dietary advice to healthy people.”

Dr. Fuster said that other better controlled studies clearly indicate the benefit of what’s been called the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fish, olive oil and fresh vegetables with minimal amounts of butter, red meat and other saturated animal fats.

Nutritionists say a little fat keeps you satisfied.

“The tendency to reach out for the sugars is less – the refined foods, the processed foods – because you’re satisfied,” holistic health coach Andrea Beaman said.

The bottom line of this analysis, Gomez explained, is that this is not a license to pig out on a bacon cheeseburger with a buttered bun.

Moderation is key, but experts advise a diet focused on fish and vegetables is better for your heart and has also been shown to prevent cancer.

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