Could saturated fat be good for you?

Could Saturated Fat Be Good For You?

A juicy steak, whole milk and eggs…

Three foods you may have banished from your diet long ago.

All because for decades, experts have preached that saturated fat clogs our arteries and leads to heart disease.

In fact, when you hear the term “saturated fat,” you usually also hear “artery-clogging” somewhere in the same sentence. In other words, it’s a given that saturated fat clogs your arteries.

And saying anything different makes people think you need a one-way ticket straight to CRAZY TOWN.

Until now.

Because the latest research has found that saturated fat may not be the arterial villain it has been made out to be.

And in fact, saturated fat may sometimes be the better choice to put on your plate.

The Fat Folktale

Even though saturated fat is flagged as the bad fat, heart disease is still the number one killer.

Saturated fat’s bad rap probably dates back to the work of American physiologist Ancel Keys, Ph.D. His landmark study helped shape our common beliefs about fat.

In his research, Keys compared fat intake and heart disease mortality in six countries: the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Italy, and Japan.

His study found that, while Americans feasted on the most fat, we also had the greatest number of deaths from heart disease. On the other end of the spectrum, the Japanese, who ate the least amount of fat, had the fewest deaths from heart disease.

And the other countries? They fell somewhere in between.

Keys called this correlation a “remarkable relationship” and began to publicly put forward the idea that consumption of fat causes heart disease. This became known as the diet-heart hypothesis.

Since then, our notion of saturated fat = bad has been validated by all the major nutrition dioceses. Today, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends getting less than 10 percent of calories each day from saturated fat.

The American Heart Association, the Natural Cholesterol Education Program and other authoritative sources go even further, recommending that adults consume less than 7 to 10 percent of calories from saturated fats.

And yet, today cardiovascular disease is still the number one killer of Americans.

What gives?

Surprising New Data

No evidence found that saturated fat causes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The answer may be found in a remarkable 2010 meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers pooled data from 21 studies and included nearly 350,000 adults. The results showed no significant evidence to conclude that saturated fat causes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Before that, the Women’s Health Initiative study found that eating less saturated fat didn’t result in lower rates of heart disease or stroke.

More recently, researchers from the University of Vienna report that the effect of diets high in total fat, including saturated fats, on blood lipids in overweight people is open to interpretation. This 2013 meta-analysis included 32 published clinical studies comparing low-fat and high-fat diets.

They found that the low-fat diets were better at reducing LDL-cholesterol, equating to about a 2 percent reduction in risk of heart disease. But the high-fat diets were better able to boost HDL-cholesterol (the good cholesterol)… equating to about a 7 percent reduction in risk AND they helped keep blood triglycerides in check.

Saturated Fat: From Vilified to Vindicated?

Turns out that added ingredients to processed meat is the one causing cardiovascular diseases.

So maybe saturated fat isn’t the problem. Processed meats are loaded with sodium, which increases blood pressure and risk of stroke. Low-fat hot dogs and processed deli turkey have less saturated fat than a steak, for example, but also contain, on average, up to four times as much sodium per gram.

It may also have something to do with the alternatives. Historically, when we’ve cut back on saturated fat we’ve replaced it with something worse: refined carbohydrates.

Foods like white bread, white rice, potatoes, sugary drinks, and the like get digested very quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike. Over time, eating these carbs can raise the risk of heart disease as much as, or even more than eating too much saturated fat.

And swapping beef for a bagel ups your triglycerides and lowers your HDL—two risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Fat Choices

One major fact that experts have ignored is that there are several kinds of saturated fat commonly found in foods, and they’re not all created equal.

I’ve looked at one kind and told you about its benefits in my blog post about lauric acid here (found in coconut).

There’s also palmitic (found in palm oil, butter, and eggs) and myristic acids (found in cheese, milk, butter, and beef) that appear to increase inflammation and LDL cholesterol, but they may also raise HDL in the process, which would help cancel out the negative.

Finally, there’s stearic acid (found in chocolate and beef), which has no negative effect on blood cholesterol. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee stated in its scientific report that stearic acid should not be considered a “cholesterol-raising” saturated fat. This fat is the reason most experts say dark chocolate is okay.

So what does that mean for you (and me)?

When it comes to heart health, saturated fat intake may not be as criminal as it’s been made out to be. That being said, while I’m not quite ready to start ordering a double burger with a side of steak, I do think this new research is fascinating. I will keep tabs on what’s going on in the scientific world and keep you up to date.

In the meantime, I’m still not suggesting you pile the pastrami on rye on your plate. Processed meats are loaded with sodium, nitrites and often added corn syrup and other sugars which make them poor choices for reasons other than saturated fat.

Instead, if you want to add some saturated fat back into your diet, do so in moderation. Make your meat choices grass-fed beef and poultry, which have a healthier nutrition profile. Eat more nuts and seeds, or try coconut oil as a cholesterol-free alternative to sauté veggies or roast sweet potatoes. And reach for dark chocolate to satisfy a sweet tooth.

What do you think of the research? Will it change the way you eat? Tell me about it. I’d love to hear what you think.

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!

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References:

1. Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(3):535-546. PMID: 20071648.

2. Howard BV, Van Horn L, Hsia J, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of cardiovascular disease: the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled dietary modification trial. JAMA. 2006;295(6):655-666. PMID: 16467234.

3. Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Comparison of effects of long-term low-fat vs high-fat diets on blood lipid levels in overweight or obese patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113(12):1640-1661. PMID: 24139973.

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22 comments

  1. Hello- I have been taking Formula #1 for 10 days now. I have lost theee pounds and have 12 lbs to go. I have been experiencing terrible flatulence and also some diarrhea with the supplements. I know it is the Formula causing this as I quit taking it for two days and those symptoms have disappeared. It is embarrassing as I can’t control the gas and am constantly running to the bathroom. Will this subside or should I stop taking it?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Norma,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Congratulations on the weight loss! That said, I am deeply sorry that you have had some discomfort and do ask that you stop taking the supplements should it continue in the coming days. RealDose Weight Loss Formula NO.1 is made all natural ingredients and is safe for everyday use. However, if you have a medical condition or are taking any medications, please see your doctor before continuing. Make it a healthy day!

  2. Could you please tell me the difference between Omega 3 and Omega 7. Thank you

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Kathy,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Like Omega 3, certain types of fish are good sources of Omega 7. They can also be found in some plants such as buckthorn berries and macadamia nuts. Initial research on the fatty acid shows that it can help with weight loss by making the body more efficient in oxidizing fat. However, it is still pretty early to tell how they work exactly and we too, are curious to get our hands on more concrete research. Stay tuned and we do hope you continue to enjoy our other posts! Make it a healthy day!

  3. I think you should do a little more study on saturated fats. Our bodies are made up of saturated fats. Our brains are about 60-70 percent fat, without it we can’t function. Even our hearts have saturated fat! It was demonized in the 50’s when the vegetable oil industry wanted to monopolize the oil industry. People have lived on coconut oil, beef tallow & lard for centuries with no adverse effects. Only when vegetable oils came on the scene, did heart attack & cancer rose, dramatically! Dr. Bruce fife is an expert on coconut oil. As for eggs not being a good food because they raise cholesterol, the choline in the yoke contains lecithin which breaks down the fat, & makes eggs pretty much a defect food. As for the AMA or the AHA, myself personally would accept very little that comes out of there mouth. Follow the money when it comes to these studies! Do your own research & listen to the tried & true. It’s out there.

    • Agreed and well said. Your statement is absolutely correct, and valid… although I’m not clear on what you meant by eggs being a “defect” food. It doesn’t make sense after saying the yolk lecithin breaks down the fat. Oh and as a friendly tip, “accept very little that comes out of there mouth”… the correct word is their, as in the possessive, belonging to or associated with, rather than “there”, which is defined as in, at, or to that place or position. Example: the house is over there. ;~}

  4. Hi Dr Sisskind,
    My gynecologist just told me that the American journal of medicine just did a vety extensive study and found out that coconut oil is very bad for us. Contrary to everything I read telling us how good coconut oil is for us. She also said that when they come out with results like that you had better listen.
    So I have started using avocado oil instead.
    Please let me know your thoughts on this.
    Thank you

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Connie,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing! I also read the same journal and are currently looking into the research applied. The great thing with medicine is that it is always evolving and looking for ways to improve our health. I may need to read up on both the research for coconut oil and avocado oil, this will take some time but I will be sure to post my own views. I hope you continue to enjoy our articles and make it a healthy day!

  5. Many doctors and nutritionists write articles about healthy and non-healthy foods. There has been several articles about bananas, some say don’t eat, others say ok to eat. What do you say about bananas?

    I would like to see all of you doctors and nutritionists put pressure on the FDA and AMA to clean up our food supply. You mentioned grass fed cows and chickens above, for example. Other items to consider are the chemicals in processed foods, the chemical lining in cans and the feed for farmed fish.

    The FDA should evaluate articles on the internet about supplements and approve the good ones, if there are any, and get the others off the internet. Also take a good look at drugs whose side effects out weigh the benefits and remove them from the market.

    The AMA, in collaboration with the FDA should make available to the medical community the latest discoveries about health issues. They should also see that doctors include classes concerning holistic trends for treatment of patients.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Ted,

      Thank you for sharing your concerns with us! I agree with you on that point which is why we always take try our very best to give out the latest information about health, food and wellness to help our readers make informed decisions. About bananas, I love them and do recommend them quite often. They are still sweet though, and you may need to watch your portions. However, 1 banana a day ( half if it is quite large) is a great addition to any diet. Make it a healthy day!

  6. Kenneth Acheson, Ph.D

    The article states high sodium causes high blood pressure. There was a medical study back in the 1980’s that rejected this myth, yet it persists.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Kenneth,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! A body with high salt content retains water and the extra fluid in your circulatory system causes your blood pressure levels to be raised. In a normal diet with a healthy body, you will not be feeling these effects. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  7. An interesting/informative article. I once read somewhere that it was preferable to eat an egg whole. Only eating the whites is somehow lacking in the overall nutritive value of an egg (the yolk and white of the egg provide sustained value). Is this true?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Krystin,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! Not necessarily as eating egg white does contain a good amount of value too. But yes, “healthy” people can enjoy an egg a day prepared in any fashion. When preparing omelets or other dishes with beaten eggs, however, consider adding herbs and spices with antioxidant properties. This can help reduce the formation of cholesterol oxidation byproducts (COPs) that can occur when you cook any cholesterol-containing food. For example, consider rosemary, sage, marjoram, summer savory or thyme, which are rich in rosmarinic acid and other antioxidant compounds. Make it a healthy day!

  8. I recently watched Dr Mark Hyman’s (author of the forthcoming book Eat Fat, Get Thin) Fat Summit online and learned a lot about the myth that eating fat makes us fat. I’m now trying to focus on cutting unhealthy carbs as much as possible, making sure the fats I eat are healthy ones, eating foods that are as close to “whole” as I can, eating lots more vegetables, and cutting down on processed foods. It’s so hard to know what to eat when there are many conflicting messages about nutrition, but I feel this is a good approach to what I eat. On a side note, I’ve been taking your Omega-3 supplements for quite some time now, and my last set of lab tests showed my inflammation markers were down to zero! The only one I haven’t used are the Real Reds (I’m allergic to blueberries, unfortunately!). Thanks for making such great products and sharing your wisdom with us.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Bonnie,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your experience with us! I am delighted to learn that your laboratory results have shown great improvement. Our RealDose Super Critical Omega 3 TG only played a minor role in your success and it is undoubtedly your healthy changes that have made the most impact. I shall be praying for your continued success and should you have any questions or concerns about health, I am here for you. Make it a healthy day!

  9. I once read in one of your articles that when egg yolks are broken and cooked they become inflammatory but if the yolk is not broken and cooked they do NOT become inflammatory. Is this still true and if you have that article I would like to read it again. I have searched your site for it but cannot find it. It may have been something you mentioned about egg yolks within another health topic. I would like to read that article again or if you can just answer why broken egg yolks are more inflammatory. Thank you. I enjoy all of your articles and emails.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Janise,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I clearly remember that article too and will do our best to get it back on our site. In the article we suggested keeping your eggs whole when cooking. This recommendation relates to the production of cholesterol oxidation products (COPs). When you heat any food that is high in cholesterol, the heating process produces COPs, which are reported to increase the risk of cancer and heart disease, in part, due to a pro-inflammatory action.

      However, poached or hard-boiled whole eggs are fine; otherwise, use egg whites only (they give you high-quality protein and are fat-free). If you think egg whites are boring, check out the recipes for omelets and frittatas—you’ll never miss the yolk with all the added vegetables, herbs, and other ingredients, which also give you the phytonutrients.

      Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  10. Dear Dr. Sisskind,
    Thank you for your very informative article. I was wondering about the correlation between an increased consumption of beef and cancer. Also, my son in law is Honduran and the people of their country eat a lot of beef. I believe in eating everything in moderation and staying away from processed foods.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Gina,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I did a little research and found that the study making headline news is an observational study linking protein intake with an increased risk of mortality among some adults. The study design can only show a correlation and is not designed to assess cause and effect. Separately, the study design has some limitations, including what type of diet information was collected for such a long study.

      However, if your concern is about beef or meat consumption in general, we recommend that healthy adults consume a daily protein intake of at least 0.36 grams per pound(0.8 grams per kilogram). For example, a 150-pound woman needs at least 54 grams of protein each day. Protein intake should be in the range of 10 to 35 percent of total calories. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  11. Dear Dr. Sisskind, Just read your article re: good choices for saturated fats and how certain choices of fats are better for your health. As I am looking to be making better choices, this information will certainly change how I eat and be more aware. Thank you.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Janet,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! I am glad that our article has helped you in making better food choices and do pray that our other posts will be as useful. Feel free to share with your friends and loved ones. That said, if there is a particular topic that you want discussed, please do not hesitate to let us know! Have a healthy day!

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