What’s Up With This Old Controversial Study on Fats?


Diets are definitely some of the most controversial topics in the world. So many parties stand to benefit from certain culinary trends gaining traction that people have good reason to be skeptical of new studies telling them what they should eat. And seeing how much these studies contradict each other, it’s difficult to ascertain which ones to trust.

But one of these studies that came out recently is actually based on a different one from the late ‘60s, and it pretty much invalidates the primary eating habit that is currently being practiced and enforced by most dietary guidelines. And it wasn’t a small study either, but one of the largest and most rigorous experiments in history.

So what’s up with this old controversial study on fats? Well, the main idea is that unsaturated fats, while they do indeed reduce cholesterol levels, might have the opposite effect than the one hoped for on your life span. Yes, the study claims that saturated fats might actually be better for you than vegetable fats.

The experiment started in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and it used a huge sample of mental patients. The sample was divided into two groups, with one being fed the so-called regular American diet, while the second was fed a special diet consisting of less saturated fat, less cholesterol, and more vegetable oil.

As expected, the results showed that the special diet group presented far lower cholesterol levels than the ones in the first group, but that’s where the expected part stops. Researchers were surprised to find that the patients that followed the special diet and lowered their cholesterol actually suffered more heart-related deaths than those in the other group.

Sadly, though, the results were buried for unknown reasons, and the trend that followed is the one prompted today by most health advocates. However, the resurfaced results of the old study now raise huge questions regarding what sort of diet we should follow.

The two main authors of the study have both died a while back, but there is one more person that was involved in the study that is still alive today – a retired biostatistician that was a student back then and that used the data for his master’s degree. Steve Broste, the man in question, had this to say about why the results might have remained unpublished until now:

The results flew in the face of what people believed at the time. Everyone thought cholesterol was the culprit. This theory was so widely held and so firmly believed — and then it wasn’t borne out by the data. The question then became: Was it a bad theory? Or was it bad data? My perception was they were hung up trying to understand the results.

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