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TODAY   |  March 19, 2014

Studies question health benefit of ‘good fats’

Dr. Roshini Raj and Dr. Sampson Davis join TODAY to chat about the latest health headlines, including a new study on fatty acid consumption and heart health.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> from possible causes of autism to adhd and childhood obesity , there are a lot of health headlines to talk about this morning.

>> sure are. a "today" contributor and the assistant professor of medicine at nyu langone medical center .

>> good morning to both of you. let's start with a study that's going to be surprising to a lot of people. questions something we've been told a lot. fatty acids and good fats help with heart health. but there are some question as to whether there's truth to this.

>> yeah, this is a study that really kind of shook things up in the cardiology community. for years, we've been telling people, you've got to stick to the good fats, the saturated fatty acids , like the omega 3s we talk about. and now the study is calling that into question. it's a metaanalysis. they've compared studies and pooled the results. i'm not crazy about it when they do that because they're kind of like comparing apples and oranges . bottom line , supplements they found had no effect. taking the omega 3 or omega 6 did not decrease the risk of heart disease . and even when it's in your indict, they didn't find an effect. don't really bother with the supplements, we don't have great data on it. i think the mediterranean diet that has a lot of the omega 3s and omega 6s are good. i would still recommend doing it.

>> don't stop. more studies need to be done. this was an analysis. we have to go back in and isolate other factors to take into consideration. we didn't extrapolate high blood pressure , diabetes, these are all contributing factors. i wouldn't stop doing what you're doing right now. more needs to be done.

>> isn't that why we -- i hate these studies. we're told one thing and then six months later it's this. stop it!

>> it is very frustrating. but this one in particular, the american heart association , they're convening two discussions and coming up with recommendations. hopefully they'll have answers for us.

>> what about this new study regarding adhd medications?

>> okay. so we know adhd is rising, childhood obesity is rising. and the question is, is there a link? and this study looked at insurance data. and at the diagnosis of adhd , they found the children that had adhd did have an increased risk of obesity early. those treated with stimulants didn't have the obesity early, but later in adolescence had a rebound increase in obesity. there is a link. what does that mean? well, parents and also clinicians who are treating children with adhd need to be on the lookout for obesity, encourage, you know, the proper diet, exercise to stem that tide.

>> i agree. but i think part of the study, too, the fact that adhd itself had a component of it. and that may lead to behaviors such as overeating. i think it's tough to say it's helping you gain weight with this study. it is something to take into consideration. but i'm not sure there's a direct link .

>> here's something i know has made a lot of headlines. environmental factors . this is something, again, a lot of parents are opening their eyes to what is out there in the research when it comes to this.

>> i think it's good more is being done with autism. and yes, environmental factors do cause all types of issues, but i think it's, again, it's a hard line to draw here to say that environmental factors is directly linked to causing autism. so --

>> yeah, this study didn't in my mind prove an association. but it's -- we do know that for autism, both genetics and environment play a role. in this particular study, they tried to say, well, those who had autism had a higher risk of malformations which were associated with environmental factors . it was a lot of extrapolating. i don't think it proved it. but in the autism community , we're looking for answers, obviously. it's a very tough disease and we want to know what's causing it.

>> and we end on a lighter note. a study launched to test chocolate pills.

>> i didn't know there were chocolate pills.

>> why?

>> we're always talking about dark chocolate and how it's good for you. these are the antioxidant compounds. the truth is, you would need to eat a lot of dark chocolate to get the benefit. so this study is actually looking at a very high concentration of those minus the sugar, minus the fat in a pill form. it's actually sponsored by mars the candy company. but also done at harvard.

>> does that call into question then?

>> well, you know.

>> yes, yes. because it's a conflict of interest here obviously. and plus, you know, at the same time, you're not -- in a way you're not getting the taste of the candy bar itself with this pill form. but it was good to see because there has been studies that shows the dark chocolate increases -- decreases heart issues, decreases blood pressure , decreases the risk of diabetes. this is going to be a good study.

>> it's going to be a