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Saturated Fat Looks Less Scary Through a Scientific Lens

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Next to cholesterol, the main dietary demon is saturated fat. For several decades the American public has been warned that sat-fat will clog coronary arteries and lead to heart attacks.

Foods that have been targeted include butter, egg yolk, meat, cheese, ice cream, milk, cocoa butter, coconut oil and palm oil. Now an interventional cardiologist writing in BMJ (Online, Oct. 22, 2013) says, "Saturated fat is not the major issue." Instead, this physician writes, "scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks."

This is heresy of the highest order, but the science is surprisingly solid. Cutting back on saturated fat in the diet is supposed to lower bad LDL cholesterol. It does, but the type of LDL lowered by reducing sat-fat is not very dangerous. It is larger particles that are less likely to cause damage in coronary arteries. The other type of LDL cholesterol, the small dense particles, increase when the diet is higher in carbohydrates. When people cut back on fat, they tend to increase their carb intake.

The benefits of saturated fats from dairy products, for example, are often overlooked. Fatty acids found in milk products are linked to higher levels of good HDL cholesterol and lower levels of triglycerides, the inflammatory marker C reactive protein and insulin resistance (Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec. 21, 2010).

Meat has also been vilified, but a meta-analysis found that "consumption of unprocessed red meat (eg, unprocessed meat from beef, pork, lamb) was not associated with risk of coronary heart disease or diabetes mellitus" (Circulation, June 1, 2010).

Such research seems to disappear without a trace because it defies dietary dogma. That's why we continue to get questions like this one:

"I've been hearing about the health benefits of coconut oil. It's reputed to raise HDL levels, ward off infection and increase metabolism due to the high concentration of lauric acid. The doctor said to stay away because of the saturated fat. What's your opinion?"

Coconut oil has become very popular because it is less susceptible to oxidation. Over three decades ago a natural experiment was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Aug. 1981). The investigators found that Polynesians eating high amounts of coconut did not have elevated risks of heart disease.

One diet continues to shine. The Mediterranean diet has been shown repeatedly to reduce the risk of heart disease (New England Journal of Medicine, April 4, 2013; Current Atherosclerosis Reports, Dec., 2013). A large study in Spain demonstrated that a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil or in nuts outperformed the low-fat control diet in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke (Diabetes Care, Nov., 2013).

Many people wonder what exactly a Mediterranean diet looks like. It is rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, and legumes, high in fat and includes some meat and wine. There are details about specific vegetables and fish included in the diet in our book, The People's Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, available online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

 

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Many years ago, we were told that butter and eggs will kill us. Eat margarine instead of butter. Now we know that eggs and butter wasn't as dangerous as claimed. But the tran-fat in margarine and hydrogenated oils is very hazardous to our health. Glad I continued to eat eggs and butter and didn't eat hardly anything with tran-fat, which was mostly in junk foods, anyway.

You wrote " The other type of LDL cholesterol, the small dense particles, increases when the diet is higher in carbohydrates." Was there a discrimination made about the type of carbohydrates, i e , was it noted that ALL carbohydrates cause this problem, or only the simple carbohydrates? Thank you.

People's Pharmacy response: It is primarily carbohydrates that are easily digested, but all carbohydrates can do it.

We have always eaten dairy products including Butter, eggs, milk etc. We always figured since neither of us drink or smoke, we would continue to eat butter, milk and eggs. What do you suppose people ate and drank hundreds of years ago? Red Meat, Lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, venison, Milk, eggs, butter. The diet we were intended to eat!!! Doctors!!!!

I make my own lard from rendering fat from pasture raised pork. Once you use it, you will be turned off from the greasy, fishy taste of anything fried in vegetable oil. You haven't had fried chicken until you have fried it in lard! I've also quit listening to anything the "medical industry" says is bad for your health. The "medical industry" is bad for your health!! I was sorry for Paula Deen when she announced she had diabetes and the public jumped on her for her use of butter. Butter didn't cause her diabetes. I believe we evolved in nature to eat food that was grown in nature and not the chemical laden products that pose as being food that you find on the grocery store shelves.

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