At least since the middle of the 20th century, Americans have been warned not to eat saturated fat. The idea was that fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter or the fat found in meat like beef or lamb, would raise cholesterol and clog coronary arteries. More recent research reveals, however, that saturated fats are not all alike in their effects (Santaren et al, Journal of Lipid Research, online Sep. 19, 2017). In addition, other components of the diet as well as the microbes that reside in the intestines have an important impact on the effects of eating saturated fat (Li & Tang, Current Atherosclerosis Reports, Aug. 25, 2017). A diet containing saturated fat does not necessarily result in sky-high cholesterol, as one reader reports.
Lab Results When You Eat Saturated Fat:
Q. I enjoyed your article about saturated fats. My husband and I have been eating saturated fat and avoiding all the “white stuff” like flour and sugar. We have been separating “fuels” by having protein and fats, or lean protein with healthy carbs at our meals.
I have lost 30 pounds. My cholesterol went from 204 to 160 and my triglycerides from 140 to 41.
A. For decades, nutrition scientists have told us that people who eat saturated fat end up with clogged coronary arteries. This seemed logical, but it was not based on solid scientific evidence.
The PURE Study:
The most recent study called PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) followed more than 135,000 people for seven years. During that time, about 4,700 of these individuals had heart attacks or strokes and nearly 6,000 died.
You might expect those who were enjoying butter and cheese to be among the most vulnerable. Instead, however, those who consumed a high-carbohydrate diet rich in sugars and processed flour were more likely to suffer such consequences (Dehghan et al, The Lancet, online, Aug. 29, 2017).
According to the authors,
“High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings.”
Surprisingly, the more saturated fat these individuals consumed, the lower their risk of stroke. Other research suggests that fatty acid oxidation helps drive critical changes in mitochondria and the lining of blood vessels (Zaina & Lund, Current Atherosclerosis Reports, Sep. 2017; Ghosh et al, Journal of Biomedical Science, July 27, 2017). These alterations may lead to atherosclerotic plaque. The challenge is to avoid fatty acid oxidation.