Saturated Fat and High Blood Pressure
It’s been a long time that health authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have been urging us to cut down on the saturated fat we eat. They’ve been assuring us there’s a clear link between saturated fat and high blood pressure and heart disease and all kinds of other health problems.
Saturated fat is found mostly in animal products – meat and dairy products.
So we’ve duly been eating less steak and replacing butter with less tasty margarines. Or not doing so, and feeling guilty about it.
But is it there really such a strong relationship between saturated fat and high blood pressure? In recent years, scientists have become far less certain…
Saturated fat and high blood pressure – does one cause the other?
The answer to that seems to be no, actually.
Studies in both the US and the UK now show clearly that cutting down on the amount of fat in your diet, especially saturated fat, isn’t linked to lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease or better health in general.
Sugar and carbohydrates linked to high blood pressure instead
In fact, studies conducted in the States have recently shown that reducing carbohydrates and replacing them with fat is actually better for you, and can even help with weight loss and cholesterol reduction.
All this sounds very counter-intuitive but the fact is that eating too many carbohydrates appears to be far more detrimental to your health and blood pressure than eating a lot of fat.
Getting too much sugar is the worst thing for you – especially the sugars that are added to many processed foods these days. (Watch out for fructose and hydrogenated corn syrup in particular).
However, starchy carbohydrates like refined grains (white bread, regular pasta etc.) are broken down into sugars. And getting too much carbohydrate is a more sure path to weight gain and higher cholesterol levels and higher blood pressure.
Yep, it is not saturated fat that is the problem.
Sugar and carbs also linked to weight gain
Not only is eating saturated fat not a big risk factor for high blood pressure but it doesn’t necessarily lead to gaining weight. Although fat is higher in calories than carbohydrates, our bodies don’t work like simple calorie counters. The calories don’t just ‘add up’ within us and get turned into fat.
What seems to be key in how much fat gets formed in our bodies is how the food we eat affects our blood sugar and insulin levels, not just how much actual fat we eat. So more and more research shows that eating too many carbohydrates – starches and sugars – leads to more body fat than eating too much fat.
Indeed, since we were told to eat less fat and load up on grains and carbs, high blood pressure, heart disease, and also diabetes and obesity have not gone down in the US and the UK but gone up…
So why were we advised to cut down on saturated fat?
Well, it seems that when the early studies came out showing apparent links between fat consumption and risk of heart disease, the government health authorities didn’t examine the studies thoroughly before deciding on their ‘health’ advice to keep your fat intake down.
Many scientists now point out the these early studies were flawed and limited in scope and that they did not form adequate evidence for the health advice which then followed.
Most recently, a group of researchers, from the University of the West of Scotland and Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, did a review of the original studies that the dietary advice was based on. They concluded that the studies did not in fact provide evidence that cutting down on saturated fat led to better health.
They also found that the studies were not comprehensive. They generally only involved men and most of them did not even test the effects of reducing saturated fat to 10% of one’s daily calorie intake (which was the advice given in the 70’s and 80’s).
“It seems incomprehensible that dietary advice was introduced for 220 million Americans and 56 million UK citizens, given the contrary results from a small number of unhealthy men. […] The present review concludes that dietary advice not merely needs review; it should not have been introduced.”
Pretty damning stuff. (And if you still don’t believe it, read the articles listed at the end of this post for more details.)
For more good foods and drinks which you can enjoy and which aren’t as bad for your blood pressure as you may have thought, click here to get our free report: Eat, Drink and Be Merry (while still lowering your blood pressure).
Don’t eat trans fats though!
Having said that, there are some fats that everyone agrees we should still avoid – trans fats. Many studies, including a 2009 review of 21 studies, have found that higher trans fat intake is associated with higher risk of heart disease. Some researchers think that one of the problems with the early studies on saturated fat and high blood pressure may have been to do with confusing the effects of trans fats and saturated fats.
Although some trans fat (‘trans fatty acids’) occurs naturally in quite small amounts in the fatty part of meat and dairy products, it’s the artificial trans fats that are added to processed foods that you really need to watch out for.
They’re found in many pastries, cakes, pies and other baked goods, as well as in some margarines (another reason to go back to butter). They’re also in many fried foods.
So check the labels before you buy. And, really, it’s best to ditch processed foods anyway and make your own at home – from simple ingredients that you can trust.
There are a huge variety of things you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally. These include altering some of the things you eat and drink, being more active (and there are many ways to do this that don’t involve going to the gym), and finding time and ways to relax more.
Because there are so many things you can do, it can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start. Which is why we’ve put together this book that sorts it all out for you.
The book is laid out in nine steps. Each one covers a few specific aspects of lowering blood pressure naturally. You can work through each step at your own pace. And before long, you’ll find you’re gradually but profoundly adjusting your daily life in ways that significantly benefit your general health and well-being as well as your blood pressure!
I should also mention that lowering your blood pressure naturally is not a path of difficulty and denial. You don’t have to stop drinking or eating chocolate, for example (though quitting smoking will definitely help). You don’t have to go to aerobics or do yoga, unless you want to. There are even blood pressure-lowering exercises you can do while sitting on your sofa.
The key is to just make small changes gradually and consistently. No big hassles. No sudden diets. Just stick with it. And enjoy a cheeky wee glass of wine while you do 🙂
Just click on the link for more information and to download a free sample
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Post by Alison
A few references: