27 February 2013
Heart Foundation response to claims in David Gillespie’s book Toxic Oil
The Heart Foundation has previously debated most of the points David Gillespie raises in his book and we continue to disagree.
There is no single cause of chronic diseases, including heart disease. However there is scientific consensus that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat, in particular polyunsaturated fat, reduces your risk of heart disease. The Heart Foundation believes that to say otherwise is dangerous, misleading and wrong. Following such advice is fraught with risk and if followed could lead to the rapid development of serious health conditions.
To reduce your risk of heart disease, the Heart Foundation recommends maintaining a balanced diet eating a variety of foods including 2 & 5 fruit and vegetables a day, wholegrains, lean meats, oily fish, low reduced or no fat dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes and oils. A healthy, balanced diet is just that – balanced. It does not involve cutting out any food group entirely.
The considerable weight of evidence for the recommendation of a dietary shift from saturated fats to unsaturated fats for positive health effects is insurmountable. This position is also held by the worlds leading health organisations, such as World Health Organisation, British Heart Foundation and American Heart Association. In addition leading professional and government organisations, such as the Dietitians Association of Australia, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and National Health Service UK (NHS UK) support this dietary transition.
The Heart Foundation makes its recommendations based on good quality, strong scientific evidence and is continually reviewing the evidence base on which those recommendations are made - this includes the research quoted in this book.
The Heart Foundation is an independent charity. We are committed to helping Australians lead a healthy lifestyle and to reducing death and suffering caused by heart disease, the number one killer of Australian men and women.
Quoting selective research without looking at the vast body of evidence and attacking our integrity won’t dissuade us from this cause.
Heart Foundation position on polyunsaturated fat:
Everyone needs a certain amount of fat in their diet. Healthier fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats - omega-3 and omega-6.
Good quality consistent evidence demonstrates that omega-6 polyunsaturated fats reduce your ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol in your blood and increase the 'good' HDL cholesterol. This helps to lower your risk of heart disease.
There is also scientific consensus that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat, in particular polyunsaturated fat, reduces your risk of heart disease. This position is supported by the World Health Organisation, other leading International Heart Associations, the CSIRO and the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA).
For this reason, the Heart Foundation recommends replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat as one way to improve your heart health.
Heart Foundation position on saturated fats
Unhealthy fats include saturated fats and trans fats. Too much saturated and trans fat increases cholesterol and contributes to the build up of fatty material, called plaque, on the inside of your blood vessels. This process makes it harder for blood to flow through blood vessels, and is a major cause of heart disease which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Some of the largest clinical trials and analyses ever completed, including more than a million patients, have continued to confirm the link between cholesterol and heart disease.
Claims that margarine and some oils are unhealthy because they’ve gone through an extensive industrial process and have trans fats.
Australian margarines are made from locally grown polyunsaturated and monounsaturated plant seed oils, water, milk and salt for taste.
You would find most of these ingredients in your pantry or fridge at home. The remaining <1% is the preservatives (citric acid or lemon juice) to keep the spread tasting fresh. They also contain carotenoids for colour. Carotenoids give colour to carrots and tomatoes.
Processing is necessary to ensure that the ingredients are combined to form a final product; baking at home or making mayonnaise is also a form of processing. The nutritional benefits of foods are not determined by whether or not a food has been processed (or naturally occurring) but by the nutrients in the product.
In the 60s and 70s margarine still contained trans fats due the process of hydrogenating oils to produce a solid spreadable fat. Hydrogenation is a chemical process where oils, which are liquid at room temperature are converted into solid or semi-solid fats – a side effect of which is the production of trans fats.
In Australia hydrogenation is no longer used in margarines, and polyunsaturated oils on the supermarket shelf contain negligible trans fats as they have not undergone hydrogenation.
The process of esterification is now used in margarines in Australia - the healthier oils are combined with other ingredients such as milk, water and salt to develop a smooth consistency for spreading. Lecithin (found in egg yolk) is added for helping to mix water with oil. This makes it possible to develop margarines that are lower in saturated fats and virtually free of trans fats.
The Heart Foundation, through the Tick Program, led the way in removing trans fat from margarines in Australia in the 90s and Australian margarines now have some of the lowest levels of trans fats in the world and significantly less trans fat than butter.
Heart Foundation position on sugar
The Heart Foundation recommends limiting high sugar foods or drinks that have little or no nutritional value, such as soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, cordials, confectionery, sweet biscuits and cakes.
The Heart Foundation recently partnered with Cancer Council and Diabetes Australia to launch the ‘Rethink Sugary Drink’ campaign. The campaign makes recommendations on the sale and availability of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks in an attempt to tackle obesity rates by encouraging Australians to switch to water and reduced-fat milk. Visit: www.rethinksugarydrink.org.au
There is no scientific consensus that sugar as a nutrient causes heart disease. While overall kilojoule intake is important, other factors such as reducing levels of salt and saturated fat are more important in preventing heart disease.
The Heart Foundation believes that people need to look at the total make-up of a food, not just one element such as sugar, to determine if it is a healthier choice.
Heart Foundation Tick
The Heart Foundation Tick is earned and never bought. Every single product (no exceptions) must meet our strict nutritional standards to earn the Tick. Food companies pay a licence fee only once their product has met these standards: it’s just like passing your driving test and paying an administration fee to receive your licence.
License fees charged are the only income source for the Tick and they cover the costs of running the Tick program including:
- Regular random audits of licensed products
- Reviewing the criteria and making them tougher over time (some products previously approved will need to be reformulated or drop out of the program)
- Establishing new criteria
- Public education about healthy eating
- Supporting national nutrition research and education
- Administration of the Tick Program.
Every cent that comes into Tick goes back into testing products to ensure our standards are met, making the foods we eat healthier and funding nutrition research.
: Emma Bourke
, Media and Communications Manager, 0411 310 997