To Answer Last Weeks Ending Question
If, as we have been told, heart disease results from the consumption of saturated fats, one would expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fat (since apparently saturated fat causes heart disease) in the American diet, right? Actually, the truth is, the converse is true. From 1910 to 1970, the proportion of animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62% and butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to only four pounds. During the same 60 year period, the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening, and refined oils increased nearly %400, while the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased about %60.1 This is just one example, that not only have we been lied to about saturated fats, but we have been duped into believing that vegetable oils are the “heart healthy” choice.
What Does “Science” Say?
There are numerous clinical trials, studies, and other research that have carefully examined the supposed link between saturated fats and heart disease and found it flawed. Six major clinical trials on saturated fat that have been used to support the assumption that saturated fats cause heart disease. However, none of them actually showed that eating fewer saturated fats would prevent heart disease and lengthen lifespan. In fact, none of these trials showed that restricting saturated fats reduced total mortality, or death from any cause.
- The Oslo Study (1968): Found eating a diet low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats had no influence on the rates of sudden death2
- The L.A. Veterans Study (1969): Found no significant difference in rates of sudden death or heart attack among men eating mostly animal-foods diet and those eating a high-vegetable oil diet. In fact, more non-cardiac deaths, including cancer, were seen in the vegetable oil group.3
- The Minnesota Coronary Survey (1968): Funded by the National Institutes of Health, this study shows that more than 4 years of eating a low-saturated fat, high-PUFA diet led to no reduction in cardiovascular events, cardiovascular deaths, or total deaths.4
- The Finnish Mental Hospital Study (1968): Found a reduction in in heart disease in men following a low-saturated fat, high-PUFA diet, but no significant reduction in women.5
- The London Soybean Oil Trial (1968): Reported no difference in heart attack rate between men following a diet low in saturated fats and high in soybean oil and those following an ordinary diet.6
- The U.S. Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (1982): Found people who ate a low-saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet a marginal reduction in coronary heart disease. However, their mortality rate from all causes was higher.7
- More recently, three meta-analyses that collectively included data on hundreds of thousands of people have found that there is no difference in the risks of Heart disease and stroke between people with lowest and highest intakes of fat.8,9,10
Alright now that we have seen that the evidence to support a low-saturated fat diet is shaky at best.
What Is the Truth About Saturated Fat?
LDL (Cholesterol) Isn’t All Bad
A major reason for the confusion about the dangers, wrongly, associated with saturated fats is related to their effect on LDL cholesterol, known by many as the “bad” cholesterol. But, what’s important to understand is that when you hear the terms LDL and HDL, they’re both referring to lipoproteins, which are simply proteins that carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. Saturated fats have shown to actually raise protective HDL cholesterol while also increasing LDL. Before you dismiss saturated fat because of this increase in LDL. It’s important to understand that this isn’t necessarily bad, once we understand that there are different types of LDL:
- Small, dense LDL cholesterol (Bad)
- Large, Fluffy LDL cholesterol (Good)
Research has confirmed that large, fluffy LDL particles do not contribute to heart disease. The small, dense LDL particles, however, are easily oxidized, which may trigger heart disease. Research has shown that people with high levels of small, dense LDL have triple the risk of heart disease, of those with high levels of large, fluffy LDL.11 If saturated fats promote the production of the large, fluffy LDL particles, what foods increase the production of small, dense LDL particles. Dense LDL particles are increased by eating refined sugar and processed carbohydrates, found in foods such as bread, bagels, and soda.12
The Many Vital Roles Saturated Fats Play in Our Body
In closing, I’d like to make it clear that saturated fats are necessary to promote health and prevent disease. It’s now becoming more known that saturated fats provide a number of important health benefits, including:13
- Provide the building blocks for cell membranes, hormones, and hormone-like substances
- They play a vital role in the health of our bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated
- Act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. As well as, an antiviral agent
- Lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease
- Protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins, such as Tylenol
- Enhance the immune system
- Help convert carotene into vitamin A
- Boost HDL levels
- Serve to fuel mitochondria and is a much cleaner fuel (produces less free radicals) than carbohydrates
- Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes. They are what gives our cells necessary stiffness and integrity
Fact of the week
Scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, does not support the assertion that “artery-clogging” saturated fats cause heart disease.14 Actually, evaluation of the fat in artery clogs reveals that only about 26% is saturated. The rest is unsaturated, of which more than half is polyunsaturated.15