If you have high cholesterol, you should avoid foods with saturated fat, right? It seems like a pretty simple concept.
Not so fast.
What has been a general recommendation for years continues to come under scrutiny as a potential falsehood. Recent research is contributing to the growing evidence that dietary saturated fat may not pose an increased risk for high cholesterol and heart disease.
A recent study conducted by an international team of experts, including cardiologists, found that there is no evidence to suggest a low saturated fat diet reduced cholesterol or lowered the risk for heart disease in people with familial hypercholesterolemia.
So, what does boost the risk of heart disease or other health-related complications? Sugar. The research team said that a heart-healthy diet is one low in sugar, not saturated fat.
Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic condition that causes people to have two-to-four times the cholesterol levels of the average person. Many health organizations, including the American Heart Association, recommend that people with high cholesterol limit saturated fat.
But the new research shows cutting items like meat, eggs, cheese, and coconut oil make no difference in blood cholesterol levels in people with the condition. It’s possible these results may translate to people who have high cholesterol from other causes.
A heart-healthy diet that can lead to lower cholesterol is likely one that is low in refined/added sugars. Candies, soda, cookies, sweets, white bread, sauces, and more are likely items that can lead to high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and heart disease.
These findings, published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, are the latest to suggest the relationship between saturated fat, cholesterol, and heart disease is not what most thought.
If you’re working to reduce cholesterol by eating a heart-healthy diet, avoiding fresh meat, dairy, coconut oil, or other foods with saturated fat can be risky, especially if high sugar foods are replacing them.
Building a well-balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, low in processed foods, and low in added sugars is the best way to lower cholesterol, promote weight loss, and limit the risk of heart disease.