For over forty years now as Nick English writes, saturated fat has been seen as nothing but artery clogging, obesity-causing
poison. This “common sense fact” has become so widely accepted that a lot of people who want to improve their diet start by purchasing skim milk, ditching their egg yolks, and beginning a life free of meat (especially pork) and butter.
Increasingly, researchers cite ground-breaking studies that failed to find a convincing link associating dietary saturated fats with coronary heart disease (CHD) or cardiovascular disease (CVD) and are voicing against earlier mainstream ‘wisdom’ that portrays saturated fat as a artery-clogging and heart-stopping villain.
Instead, they found strong evidence linking regular consumption of vegetables, nuts and a Mediterranean diet (which includes monounsaturated fatty acids) lower CHD risk, while Transfats and foods with a high glycemic index/load were associated with a higher risk.
If you have always thought that a heart healthy diet is one that contains no animal fats, no butter, no cheese, no coconut milk and certainly no red meat, such new research findings could come as a welcome surprise.
It’s now time to recognize that this was a mistake and that saturated fat is actually good for you.
This mistake started in 1970, with the first publication of “The Seven Countries Study”. The research looked at the incidences of saturated fat intake and heart disease among 12,763 men from seven different countries, and showed a correlation between the two.
Unfortunately, the study was deeply flawed: It didn’t take into account important factors like smoking rates, sugar consumption, and exercise levels, and it left out an awful lot of data from other countries that contradicted the conclusions. The study’s authors actually had access to twenty-two countries’ data, and didn’t discuss any of the populations that followed diets with plenty of saturated fat and barely experienced any heart disease. Such communities include the Kenyan Masai, the Tokelau in Polynesia, and the Arctic Inuit all eating 60 percent to 75 percent or more of saturated fat in their diets.
Governments followed by making the supposed saturated fat-heart disease connection a matter of public health policy, an ideology which probably culminated with the abominable food pyramid of the 1990s — which recommended up to 11 servings of rice and pasta per day, and about as little fat as possible.
The result? In the past 30 years in the United States, the amount of calories from consumed fat has fallen from 40 percent to 30 percent, while obesity has doubled and heart disease has remained the country’s number one killer.
It is very hard for people to cut fat from their diets and still be satisfied.
Saturated fats: Saturated fats are of different types: myristic acid, pentadecanoic acid, palmitic acid, margaric acid, stearic acid, lauric acid and so on. They are classified as odd – or even – chain. Some come from the diet and some are produced in the body, mostly in the liver.
The kinds of saturated fats circulating in the blood that were associated with heart disease were even chain palmitic and stearic acid, most of which are produced by your liver when you consume sugar, carbohydrates and alcohol (a form of sugar), not saturated fat.
Odd – chain fats, like margaric acid, that come from dairy and butter seem to actually reduce the risk of heart disease. Grass-fed animals have more of these odd chain protective fats.
This study also showed that Omega-6 fats in vegetables oils have no benefits and actually tend to cause heart disease while omega-3 fats from fish or supplements were the most protective against heart disease. However, the Omega-6 fat called Arachidonic Acid (AA) from animal sources, not from vegetable oils, was the only Omega-6 fat found to reduce risk of heart disease.