More evidence comes in that saturated fat does not cause heart disease

Back in April I wrote about my ‘love-hate relationship’ with dairy products. The love part of my relationship relates to the fact that many dairy products are rich in protein and low in carbohydrate, coupled with the fact that I actually like the taste of things like cream, yoghurt and cheese. The hate part of the relationship is based on some science and a lot of experience that leads me to believe that dairy products are quite-common triggers of food sensitivity reactions that can manifest as a variety of issues including sinus and nasal congestion, asthma and eczema. Actually, I personally had eczema for many years which appears to be rooted in a sensitivity to cow’s milk. You can read more about this here.

So, my issues with dairy products are not based in the usual concerns about saturated fat. I for a long time have not been concerned about saturated fat because, well, there really isn’t any evidence that this dietary component causes heart disease (or any other disease, for that matter). And fat does not appear to be explicitly fattening, either. So, when individuals do eat dairy products I never urge them to drink watery skimmed milk and joyless low-fat yoghurt. I eat yoghurt reasonably frequently (usually as part of my breakfast), and it’s a 10 per cent fat Greek yoghurt that is my usual default food.

When I express my views on the claim that low-fat airy products are somehow healthier than their full-fat versions the general reaction can perhaps be best described as a mixture of shock and relief. Shock from the fact that we have been so consistently misled regarding the role of saturated fat in health. Relief from the fact that watery milk and joyless yoghurt will no longer need to be endured.

This is the background to my interest in a recent study published on-line in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which assessed the relationship between diary fat and risk of heart attack [1]. Studies of this nature usually assess food intake through questionnaires. These are prone to inaccuracy. The authors of this study took a different tack: they measured the levels of two saturated fats specific to dairy products by the names of pentadecanoic acid and heptadecanoic acid.

In men, there was not statistically significant relation ship between dairy fat and risk of heart attack at all.

In women, the results indicated that, if anything, higher levels of dairy fat in the body (and therefore diet) are associated with a reduced risk of heart attack.

It should be noted that one of the eight authors of this study declared previously receiving speaking fees from the Swedish Dairy Association and the International Dairy Federation.

Notwithstanding this, the results of this study again support the idea that saturated fat does not cause heart disease. And the results also support the idea that there’s no need to eschew full-fat dairy products for the sake of our health.


1. Warensjo E, et al. Biomarkers of milk fat and the risk of myocardial infarction in men and women: a prospective, matched case-control study. 19 May 2010 [epub ahead of print publication]

10 Responses to More evidence comes in that saturated fat does not cause heart disease

  1. Martin 11 June 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    When you say you are sensitive to milk, surely, this is processed milk… have you tried raw?
    What ‘levels’ did they measure? Is this in the blood so you can judge what people have really been eating?

  2. Malcolm Robinson 11 June 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Hi John,

    Do you think saturated fact is significant in Multiple Sclerosis?

    I am currently following your dietary advice and am back in my 32inch trousers (from 34) which is great.


  3. Megan 12 June 2010 at 1:17 am #

    I thought it was a fact that something like 80% of brown eyed men lacked the capacity to digest cows’ milk. Is there real evidence for this or is it a myth?

  4. RarestOne 13 June 2010 at 5:59 am #

    @Megan, I thought there is evidence that the color of eyes is analogous to freckles. If so, how can a freckle be allergic to ANYthing?

    I’d love to know more about the science supporting the capacities of brown eyed men (or any color for that matter)(and women too). Thanks.

  5. Mack Parnell - Personal Trainer (London) 14 June 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Dairy products are definately a good daily source of protein but is best to limit the cows milk and up the yogurt intake as the protein within yogurt is more easily digested as it is allready part broken down during the yogurt making process.
    Also the cultures within yogurt produce enzymes that help with the digestion of lactose.
    I definately aggree with the consumption of full fat anything as almost all of the time the low fat substitute will contain more sugar, sweetners or some other ingredient that will make it worse for your health anyway.

  6. markus 14 June 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    there’ a lot of confusion over milk useability in humans –
    Lactose intollerance may be confused with casein autoimmunity.
    the former can be cured in many people by elimination then incremental reintroduction, as many peole can re-prgroamme their bodies to produce lactase
    milk (especially unpasteurised – real milk) is too important a product to discourage or demonise so freely

    autoimmunity to milk casein may actually be the result of the consequences of hyper sensitisation brought on by consuming real non-human foods containtining gliadin or other lectins (whole wheat, peanuts respectivley for instance) (

    ‘Usefulness of screening program for celiac disease in autoimmune thyroiditis’ ( suggests that, first: “coelaic disease patients develop other auto immune diseases”; second, “on withdrawl of gluten they not only loose both their anti endomysial antibody titers (traditional marker of coeliac disease) but they also loose their auto immune disease antibodies too”; and third, “is that it’s not overnight, 3-6 months is more like it.”

  7. Jackie Bushell 14 June 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Linking brown-eyed men with the inability to digest milk may relate to the fact that lactase production in adult humans varies greatly across populations. Humans produce lactase as babies (so that we can digest mother’s milk) but as we get older, production declines. Some people retain enough to digest a certain amount of milk into adulthood, while others lose the ability completely.

    The decline of lactase production varies from individual to individual, but there are also very marked variations depending on racial origins. For instance, the incidence of lactase deficiency is around 100% for Japanese and Chinese people and certain races in Africa, whilst only 3% of Swedes and Danes are lactase deficient. The figures for Switzerland and Finland are about 17%, Greece around 75% and England around 25%. Incidence in the USA is around 10% to 73% (the lower number relates to white populations, the higher to black populations).

    Some forms of milk can be tolerated by lactase-deficient people. For instance, sour milk, acidophilus milk and yoghurt may be tolerated because the lactose is already broken down, or ‘predigested’ by the friendly bacteria that turns milk into these products.

    Many people have a problem with milk because they are allergic to the protein it contains but this is a different problem.


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