An international team of experts on heart disease and diet say there is no evidence that a low-saturated fat diet reduces cholesterol in people with familial hypercholesterolemia, Science Daily reported on 6 July.

For decades, people diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolemia have been instructed to minimise their consumption of saturated fats to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Organisations, including the American Heart Association, had suggested they avoid eating food from animal sources, such as meat, eggs and cheese, and to avoid coconut oil.

However, after reviewing dietary guidelines for people with familial hypercholesterolemia, the study concluded there was no evidence for health experts to recommend a low saturated fat diet.

"For the past 80 years, people with familial hypercholesterolemia have been told to lower their cholesterol with a low saturated fat diet," said lead author David Diamond, professor and heart disease researcher at the University of South Florida. "Our study showed that a more 'heart healthy' diet is one low in sugar, not saturated fat."

Diamond and his co-authors said following a low-carb diet was most effective for people at increased risk of heart disease, such as those who were overweight, hypertensive and diabetic.

Published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, the study’s team included five cardiologists.

The team’s findings were consistent with another paper recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which provided strong evidence that food that raises blood sugar, such as bread, potatoes and sweets, should be minimised, rather than tropical oils and animal-based food.

Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic disorder that causes people to have cholesterol levels 2-4 times higher than the average person.