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29 November 2023

Butter, red meat are not bad for you after all

Low-fat dietary guidelines were never supported by scientific evidence, says a new report published in the British Medical Journal. (Supplied)

By Staff

We have been hearing the health warnings for years: avoid foods high in saturated fats like butter, whole milk and red meat because they are bad for your heart.

Leading medical organisations and government health officials have been urging us to cut fat and cholesterol for nearly four decades.

But now a new report published in the British Medical Journal calls that long-standing advice into question. Researchers reviewed and analysed the clinical trials that were originally used back in the 1970s and 80s as the basis for warnings about dietary fat, and they found that the evidence just did not add up.

The clinical trials, all published before 1983, looked at dietary fat, serum cholesterol, and the chances of developing coronary heart disease.

“They did not find any relationship between dietary fat intake and deaths from (coronary heart disease) or all causes," said the new report, published by CBS TV network and newspapers in the United Kingdom this week.

“Even study participants who significantly reduced their cholesterol levels during the course of the trials did not end up living longer.”

Yet despite the shortcomings of the original data, government officials in the US and Britain used those studies as the basis for issuing dietary guidelines that urged millions of people to reduce the amount of fat in their diets.

Those guidelines -- formally introduced in the U.S. in 1977 -- recommended limiting fat to no more than 30 per cent of total calories and saturated fat to no more than 10 per cent.

Butter became public enemy number one, and millions of Americans grudgingly gave up eggs, cheese, cream, whole milk, and thick, juicy steaks, all in the name of heart health.

Critics say that move had terrible unintended consequences.

The authors of the latest study conclude that those low-fat dietary guidelines were never supported by scientific evidence and "should not have been introduced."

"These studies find that people do not live longer by cutting out saturated fat. They simply never did," it said.