Questioning ‘new fat’ facts

Dr Paul Hill, Somerset West

Re: The article by Tracy Venter (“Sickly sweet”, Bolander, Wednesday April 4).

I must congratulate Tracy Venter on a well-written article on the dangers of excess sugar consumption.

However, I must take issue with her on the statement that ‘new fat’ research is revealing that excess sugar consumption is more dangerous than consuming excess saturated fats.

The problem is that this so called new fat research evidence is largely opinion based, anecdotal and has not been subjected to robust clinical trials. We simply do not know the end points of a high saturated fat diet over long term.

The medical profession largely believes that excess sugar, saturated fats, trans fats and in fact salt can all be harmful to health.

We generally advise a well-balanced Mediterranean diet to most of our patients, with targeted dietary interventions to certain sub groups of patients depending on clinical indications. This is what is being taught at our medical schools, is agreed on by leading academics and clinicians and endorsed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of SA.

The Mediterranean diet simply implies eating a balanced diet in moderation and without specifically excluding anything from our diets.

This diet focuses on fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, olives and calls for reduction of unhealthy fats and sugars.

The diet is sustainable, sensible and backed by the evidence of population studies done over many years.

Our high risk patients with cardiovascular disease are targeted with many interventions, including advising a low saturated fat diet and very often are prescribed a statin to further reduce cholesterol.

We particularly target the LDL (bad cholesterol) level.

The combination of a statin and low saturated fat diet has proved in many clinical trials to markedly reduce morbidity and mortality in these high risk patients.

This is obviously combined with other factors including exercise, sugar and salt reduction, blood pressure control, non-smoking and reduced alcohol consumption etc.

So while I fully
agree with the fact that while sugar intake is far too high in most countries of the word, I would caution against giving advice that a high saturated fat
diet is acceptable practice. That is simply not supported by best available medical evidence.