On the heels of the FDA’s announcement, a new report from the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that people with elevated cholesterol levels are twice as likely to develop heart disease as people without elevated cholesterol.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Jennifer R. Shuman, also found that the more saturated fats people consume, the more likely they are to develop high blood pressure and heart disease.
The researchers said that eating a variety of foods that contain a higher percentage of saturated fats can be beneficial.
“The diet that we recommend to patients with elevated total cholesterol [and] high triglycerides is also a very good one,” Dr. Shumann told ABC News.
“We’re recommending low-fat dairy and meat, low-glycemic index carbohydrates, and low-calorie, low salt foods, which is a combination that’s very beneficial.”
Dr. Andrew Weil, the former chief nutrition officer of the National Institutes for Health and current director of the American Heart Association’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said he was surprised by the findings.
“This study raises a lot of questions, and a lot to consider, but it’s one more thing that suggests to me that saturated fats are not as good as other fats,” he told ABCNews.com.
“I think we’re seeing evidence now that people who eat saturated fat in excess, and the ones that have elevated levels of triglycerides, tend to have more heart disease and more heart attacks.”
Shuman said it is important to remember that a person’s risk of heart disease may be determined by their own body chemistry and genetic makeup.
“So what we’re trying to do is help people get their heart healthy, and that’s why we advocate low-carbohydrate diets,” she said.
“If we really want to get heart healthy and we really think that the saturated fat is just not as important as the carbohydrate, we’re going to have to start eating the right foods.”
The study is not the first to link saturated fats to heart disease, however.
In a 2012 study published in the Journal of the British Medical Association, researchers examined data from more than 50,000 people and found that those with elevated levels found that saturated fat intake correlated with a higher risk of having a heart attack.