A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal revealed that the long promoted nutritional guidelines regarding heart health might in fact not be valid, raising some serious questions about exactly how we should be eating in order to avoid heart disease – the world’s leading cause of death.

For several decades now we have been told that we should limit saturated fats found in animal products (meat, butter, dairy) and consume more plant-based polyunsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, vegetable oils) as well as healthy fatty acids such as omega-3 (fatty fish, plant oils) as a means to lower the risk and effects of heart disease. But the conclusion of the study clearly suggests otherwise, reading: “Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”

The study, headed by Dr Rajiv Chowdhury of the University of Cambridge, analysed the data from over 70 studies involving more than 600,000 participants from 18 nations. Ultimately, the most important thing to come out of the study was the idea that there is little evidence backing up our current dietary guidelines with regards to cardiovascular health, and that the next step is to review the guidelines accordingly. As Dr Chowdhury explains: “These are interesting results that potentially stimulate new lines of scientific inquiry and encourage careful reappraisal of our current nutritional guidelines… With so many affected by this illness, it is critical to have appropriate prevention guidelines which are informed by the best available scientific evidence.”

Various medical professionals have since warned the public to not abandon these guidelines just yet, but to rather focus on continuing to eat in a balanced, healthy way and to avoid processed and sugary food as well as trans fat and an excess of carbohydrates. Dr Chowdhury says: “The smaller, more artery-clogging particles are increased not by saturated fat, but by sugary foods and an excess of carbohydrates. It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines.”

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