Old Study Debunks Belief That Unsaturated Oils Lowers Risk of Death


For decades consumers have been advised to use unsaturated fats to live longer, but research from a long-unpublished study disputes the theory.

Research from a study conducted more than 40 years ago, which was mysteriously not published for no apparent reason, shed to light the once-believed idea that replacing a diet mostly comprising of saturated fats with unsaturated corn oil in fact increases the risk of death.

Surprisingly, even when the high-profile study was conducted with by far the largest number of test participants,of almost nearly 10,000  men and women for the randomized controlled trial was not fully published.

A research team from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, headed by Christopher Ramsden said that they have studied data from a blinded randomized trial from a number of state mental hospitals and health facilities in Minnesota.

The study lasted for 4 and a half years with participants were fed either with corn oil rich in unsaturated omega 6 fatty acids and those given a diet high in saturated fat derived from butter, shortening and meat as a controlling factor.

Dr. Robert Frantz, the son of the study’s original head researcher Dr. Ivan Frantz, Jr., said they had to dig through the basement of the family’s home to recover the study files, for which the data had to be converted from magnetic tapes to digital and usable data formats.

In an interview with Ramsden, he pointed out that they made a surprising discovery that those who lowered their cholesterol levels had increased risk of death, instead of the opposite.

The original study measured the blood cholesterol levels of the participants for one year and autopsies conducted for 295 of the test members who died to determine the degree of atherosclerosis, as well as the number of heart attacks and strokes. Half of all the autpsy reports and all of the participants’ cholesterol data Ramden said they were able to recover and scrutinize.

The unpublished documents revealed the results and completed analysis of the randomized study involving 9,423 men and women aged 20-97, with cholesterol findings of some 2,355 subjects given a diet rich in unsaturated fats.

Of all those who participated in the study, the original researchers found the link between changes in serum cholesterol and death caused by myocardial infarctions and coronary atherosclerosis.

The researchers concluded that although  the unsaturated fat diet through the use of linoleic acid was effective in lowering serum cholesterol, it did not support the theory that it reduces the risks of death from coronary heart disease, among others.

Watch: Benefits of switch from saturated fat to corn oil for longer life challenged – CBC


About Author