DR. OZ: Butter, bacon, cheese and meat -- the truth about saturated fat

Dr. Mehmet Oz Dr. Mike Roizen King Features

If the saturated-fat revival sweeping the planet has swept you up and you’re slathering more butter on your toast, chomping more bacon and munching more cheese than ever, you and a lot of other folks are in trouble. Credit Suisse Research Institute reports butter sales are up 20 percent, whole milk’s surged by 11 percent, and red meat and egg consumption are also on the rise in North America.

Dr. Oz

Fueled by books and research claiming that artery-clogging, inflammation-stoking, saturated fat is good for your heart and blood vessels, even journalists (who should know better) and members of the U.S. Congress are questioning the wisdom of scientific advisors who recommend that Americans eat less meat, keep a lid on sat fat and focus on fruit, veggies, whole grains and good fats instead.

But don’t believe B.S. (bad science)! A huge new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is the first to directly compare the heart disease risks of eating saturated fat with consuming other types of fats and different types of carbohydrates – and it confirms that eating sat fat is a felonious assault on your body.

This important study followed 84,628 women and 42,908 men for up to 30 years, rechecking their diet and health via questionnaires every four years. At the outset, all were free of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. People in the study who swapped 5 percent of the calories they’d been getting from saturated fat with the same number of calories from healthier fats (like olive and canola oil, nuts, avocados and the fat in fish) or from whole grains saw their heart disease risk fall by as much as 25 percent. In contrast, those who reached for more refined carbs – white starches like white bread, white pasta, crackers made with refined grains and desserts and other sugary treats – had the same risk for heart disease as those who continued eating the same level of saturated fat.

This study clearly reinforces the findings of the PREDIMED (Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet) study and at least one other large randomized intervention study that indicated substituting healthy fats for saturated fats reduces the risk for breast cancer by more than 50 percent and/or heart disease and stroke by more than 25 percent.

So let’s make it clear: Saturated fat contributes to the buildup of heart- and brain-threatening plaque in artery walls. It fuels inflammation throughout the body (boosting risk for heart disease; stroke; diabetes; dementia; breast, colon and prostate cancer, and more). And when your saturated fat comes from meat, you also take in carnitine, which feeds digestive-system bacteria that churn out an artery-clogging chemical called TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide). Lecithin in egg yolks has the same effect. Meat also delivers a kidney toxin called butyl betaine.

A better way to eat? We like (most of) the advice in the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report that recommends a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low-fat and nonfat (for folks 30-plus) dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat (we’d say none), and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains (we’d say none here, too). So aim for a max of 4 ounces of red meat or one egg yolk per week; you can have a lean steak or a scrambled egg once in a while, and you’ll keep levels of carnitine and lecithin below the danger point.

Instead of butter, bacon and other sat-fat “bombs,” try foods like fish, olive oil, avocados and nuts. Keep sat fat low by choosing nonfat or low-fat dairy products, too.