TAMPA, Fla. — Cutting out fats is a common go-to “prescription” for people with high cholesterol. A new study says those doctors and dietitians have it all wrong, however: it’s actually carbs that’s the problem.
An international team of researchers say they can’t find any reason patients with high cholesterol should avoid eating saturated fats like meat, eggs, and cheese. The group, which includes five cardiologists, adds that a low-carb diet is actually best for people with increased risk of heart disease.
Doctors say patients with high cholesterol as a result of a genetic disorder have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). The condition can cause a person’s cholesterol levels to be two to four times higher than normal.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), men with FH will develop heart disease up to 20 years earlier than normal. Half of men with untreated FH will likely have a heart attack before age 50. For women, 30 percent of untreated FH patients will likely have a heart attack by age 60.
Track sugars when fighting cholesterol
Even the AHA recommends patients lower their consumption of foods high in saturated fat. Still, researchers say the evidence just doesn’t support this.
“For the past 80 years, people with familial hypercholesterolemia have been told to lower their cholesterol with a low saturated fat diet,” says David Diamond, a co-author from the University of South Florida, in a statement. “Our study showed that a more ‘heart healthy’ diet is one low in sugar, not saturated fat.”
The study authors say the low-carb diet is helpful for a variety of people at risk of heart disease, including those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or weight problems.
The study is published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. The researchers add that their results are consistent with another recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. That paper says foods like bread, potatoes, and sweets raise blood sugar and should be avoided.