WASHINGTON – “There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of C.H.D. [coronary heart disease] or C.V.D. [cardio-vascular disease],” according to new research on the link between dietary saturated fat and the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study was authored by researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health and the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

Relative risk rates from 21 studies that represented 347,747 people whose diets and health outcomes had been followed prospectively for five to 23 years were combined by the researchers. This National Institutes of Health-funded meta-analysis is among the largest ever done on saturated fat and heart disease and is likely to reverberate through the research community. Researchers concluded that more research should be conducted to elucidate key findings.

“This study is critically important because of its size and statistical power,” said James H. Hodges, president of the American Meat Institute Foundation. “No doubt, it will be viewed with skepticism by some researchers who believe strongly in a link between heart disease and saturated fat. But when it comes to science, we must view new findings with an open mind and critical thought. Without an open mind, we risk enacting misguided public policies.”

Mr. Hodges said he has seen individual studies that have questioned the link between saturated fat and heart disease, and he is not surprised that a summary of the evidence generated these results. The study's findings are critically important in a year when the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans are being revised and changes are being made to our national nutrition policy, he added.

“While this study may not reflect prevailing nutrition advice, it is a very substantial body of work," Mr. Hodges said. “It is important to note the study’s authors relied upon 21 peer-reviewed papers in the scientific literature that represent some of the leading thinkers in nutrition research. The magnitude of this study and its findings merit both respect and thoughtful consideration.”

To read the full paper, click: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.27725v1