Four decades of medical wisdom that cutting down on saturated fats reduces our risk of heart disease may be wrong, a top cardiologist has said.
Fatty foods that have not been processed such as butter, cheese, eggs and yoghurt can even be good for the heart, and repeated advice that we should cut our fat intake may have actually increased risks of heart disease, said Dr Aseem Malhotra.
Writing in the 'British Medical Journal', he argues that saturated fats have been "demonised" since a major study in 1970 linked increased levels of heart disease with high cholesterol and high saturated fat intake.
However, Dr Malhotra, a specialist at Croydon University Hospital, said cutting sugar out of our diets should be a greater priority.
He said: "From the analysis of the independent evidence that I have done, saturated fat from non-processed food is not harmful and probably beneficial. Butter, cheese, yoghurt and eggs are generally healthy.
"The food industry has profited from the low-fat mantra for decades because foods that are marketed as low-fat are often loaded with sugar. We are now learning that added sugar is driving the obesity epidemic."
A recent study indicated that 75pc of acute heart attack patients have normal cholesterol concentrations, suggesting that cholesterol levels are not the real problem, Dr Malhotra argues. He also pointed to figures suggesting that the amount of fat consumed in the US has gone down in the past 30 years while obesity rates have risen.
Bad diet advice has also led to millions of patients being prescribed statins to control their blood pressure, he argues, when simply adopting a Mediterranean diet might be more effective.
However, Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Studies on the link between diet and disease frequently produce conflicting results because, unlike drug trials, it's very difficult to undertake a properly controlled, randomised study. However, people with the highest cholesterol levels are at the highest risk of a heart attack."
Meanwhile, a separate study has warned of an obesity timebomb facing overweight children. It claimed that families are in denial about their child's weight, experts say.
New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says parents and children must be encouraged to face up to the fact that obesity can lead to health problems in later life.
"Efforts to manage a child or young person's weight are not always supported and are sometimes undermined by members of the wider family," it says.
"This is possibly because of a lack of understanding of the aims of lifestyle weight management programmes and the importance of managing the weight of obese or overweight children and young people." (© Independent News Service)