Lift the caps on Saturated Fats

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Can a wrongly accused villain be vindicated and emerge as a superhero? That’s the epic battle taking place in nutritional science as experts convene to author the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. With the outcome far from certain, a group of leading nutrition experts have gone on the record stating the current limits on saturated fats are no longer justified. Will that be enough to allow whole-fat dairy to emerge as a victor?

When the dietary guidelines were launched in the 1980s, the medical and nutritional community began a full-out offensive to counter heart disease’s stranglehold on human health. That’s when the leading experts began advising Americans to consume a diet low in saturated fats.

When the revised guidelines came out five renditions later, the nutritional panelists advising USDA and Health and Human Services added a specific limit of receiving 10% of calories from these “dubious” fats. That recommendation has endured since the 2005 conclave.

In the passing years, mounting evidence has been gathering that all fats are not equal. Foods such as unprocessed meats, dark chocolate, and whole-fat dairy may be relatively high in saturated fat content but show no association with heightened cardiovascular risk or mortality. If that weren’t enough, there is now evidence that saturated fat intake may be associated with a lower risk of experiencing a stroke.

This evidence has come to light because nutritional and medical advisers know far more about fats these days. Unsaturated fats and carbohydrates both conspire to raise low-density lipoproteins (LDL). That’s the bad cholesterol that clearly has a causal role in the development of heart disease. With that known, will nutritional advisers to the U.S. government finally unshackle the ill-informed connection between saturated and unsaturated fats?

This is a high-stakes question for foods high in saturated fats such as whole-fat dairy. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans sets the stage for menus at schools, hospitals, feeding programs for the elderly, and military bases. Time-strapped doctors and nutritionists rely on the food specs when advising patients.

A group of world-class experts from University of Copenhagen, the University of California at Berkeley, and Tufts University, just to name a few, agree that the current science fails to support the continuation of the government’s policy limiting consumption of saturated fats. The question now stands, will government-appointed advisers finally correct an injustice?

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