Saturated Fat Is NOT the Enemy

Nutrition advice has performed some pretty spectacular flip-flops over the past few decades. First nuts were thought to cause heart disease, and then eggs were banished from the breakfast table only to be welcomed back later. Margarine was first deemed healthier than butter—until researchers determined that the trans fats were much harder on the arteries. (Trans fats are formed when oil is heated during the production process or when food is fried in vegetable oils, like chips. It is therefore important to use only oils used by cold pressing; such as olive oil and some avocado and coconut oils. The moment oils is heated it turns into trans fats.)

Saturated Fats De-Villianized

Yes you heard me right... the time has come for saturated fats to be de-Villianized as cause of all heart disease.

 "The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades," says Dr. Aseem Malhotra author of a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal.  And it's time for that to change!

Scientists universally accept that trans fats—found in many fast foods, bakery products, vegetable oils used for cooking and margarines—increase the risk of cardiovascular disease through inflammatory processes. But “saturated fat” is another story. The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades. Yet scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks. Furthermore, the obsession with levels of total cholesterol, which has led to the overmedication of millions of people with statins, has diverted our attention from the more egregious risk factor of atherogenic dyslipidemia (bad cholesterol in the arteries which usually form in reaction to inflammation).

Saturated fats, like butter, provide essential nutrients

Recent studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. Instead, it has been found to be protective. The source of the saturated fat may be important. Organic butter is a great provider of vitamins A and D and there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Butter is a key source of the most easily utilized form of Vitamin A, required for support of skin and organs, including endocrine glands, the immune system and the brain. And butter is loaded with antioxidants! It contains vitamin E, good cholesterol (the type that is not oxidized) and is important for brain function. It is a natural source of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), which show promise in research for holding weight to a normal range and preventing diabetes.

Processed meats, not organic, pasture-raised dairy and beef, are dangerous...

One study showed that higher concentrations of plasma palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid mainly found in dairy foods, was associated with higher concentrations of high density lipoprotein (so called HDL or ”good cholesterol”), lower concentrations of triglycerides and C reactive protein (CRP is a marker for inflammation), reduced insulin resistance, and a lower incidence of diabetes in adults.  Red meat is a major source of saturated fat. Consumption of processed meats, but not red meat, has been associated with coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus, which may be explained by nitrates and sodium as preservatives.

Carbohydrates, especially processed ones may be a bigger risk factor for inflammation & heart disease.

Saturated fat may raise LDL cholesterol. But compared to carbohydrates, it also raises HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. If we looked just at LDL, we would predict that saturated fat raises heart disease risk. If we looked at the effect of saturated fat on HDL and triglycerides, we would suppose that saturated fat lowers that risk. If we looked at the combination, we would predict that saturated fat is relatively neutral for heart disease risk compared to carbohydrates.

Dr. Malhotra's editorial suggests the following:

•            Low-saturated-fat diets cut levels of lower-risk large, buoyant LDL particles rather than the small, dense LDL particles thought to worsen cardiovascular disease.

•            Dietary saturated fat may actually protect against cardiovascular risk.

•            Low-fat diets promote an atherogenic pattern of blood lipids and worsen insulin resistance.

•            Low total-cholesterol levels are "associated with cardiovascular death, indicating that high total   cholesterol is not a risk factor in a healthy population."

•            Even in secondary prevention, no cholesterol-lowering drug besides statins has shown survival benefit, supporting the hypothesis that the benefits of statins are independent of their effects on cholesterol.

•            The "Mediterranean diet" confers three times the survival benefit in secondary prevention, compared with statins; it led to a 30% improvement compared with a "low-fat" diet in the PREDIMED study.

So here's my list of the Top Ten Saturated Fats you can enjoy guilt-free!

  1. Coconut oil (it is also more stable at high heat and does not form trans fats easily)
  2. Egg yolks
  3. Avocado
  4. Organic pastured, cultured butter or Ghee
  5. Organic dark chocolate
  6. Sardines
  7. Raw organic cheese
  8. Brazil nuts
  9. Macadamia nuts
    1. Cashews (Needs to be soaked in salted water overnight to get rid of phytic acid that prevents the absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron).