The salvation of saturated fat.

by Denis Faye | January 20, 2010

It looks like that daily meatball sub wasn’t what stopped Uncle Mort ticker last July after all. According to a new study from Harvard and the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, saturated fat isn’t a factor in heart disease. From the study’s abstract:

A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studiesshowed that there is no significant evidence for concludingthat dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased riskof CHD or CVD. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVDrisks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrientsused to replace saturated fat.

Cool, I guess. Although our already-fat country is just going to use this as an excuse to get fatter. Moms across the nation will be leaving the skin on their Chicken ala Rice-a-Roni, without considering that if they do that, they need to lose the fat somewhere else on the menu.

And even if you do balance the macronutrients, saturated fat may not be bad for you, but it’s not good for you like unsaturated fat, with all the omega fatty acids, etc, so you’re replacing a beneficial food with an “acceptable” food. It’s like divorcing Angelina Jolie to marry Olive Oyl.

Speaking of olive oil, I am, however, probably going to start eating real butter again, simply because it’s more of a real food than the weird olive oil-based spread I’ve been dupped into eating. I already eat enough olives in addition to the spread to fuel an Italian Army Garrison, so I’m not too stressed.

, ,

8 thoughts on “The salvation of saturated fat.

  1. Dave Fish

    Actually saturated fat IS good for you, as long as it doesn’t come from CAFO raised meat. Take a look at this post from Mark Sisson’s excellent blog Mark’s Daily Apple:


    And read Gary Taube’s book Good Calories Bad Calories to find out why 30+ years of preaching against fat (especially saturated fat) has done nothing to decrease the Obesity “epedimic” in this country.

  2. D Faye

    I was hoping someone would point that out! I have a pat response to this, but I really want to give you a little more thoughtful retort. I’m really slammed this week, so give me a little time and I’ll respond.

  3. Dave Fish

    Well let me know if you can cite a study that conclusively shows that saturated fat causes heart disease. Taubes couldn’t find one, and no one else has AFAIK.

  4. D Faye

    D Fish –

    I’m about to dig into that Sisson article, but before I do, I want to point out that your last comment doesn’t apply here. I didn’t say sat fat was bad — I said it wasn’t as good as unsat fat. Big difference.

  5. D Faye

    D Fish –

    You’re not going to get an argument from me about the evils of sat fat. That was the point of my post above. Maybe sat fat isn’t bad. However, my point that eating a bunch of sat fat instead of unsaturated fat isn’t a good idea still stands.

    I read Mark’s post. With all due respect, it’s kind of full of holes. Unless I missed something, all the benefits of sat fat he describes also apply to unsaturated fat, with the exception of the “we use our own saturated body fat as fuel” argument, which is incredibly naive and misleading. Anyone who knows anything about nutrition knows that what you put in your body and what your body uses internally are two different things. Blood sugar is glucose, but I think we’re all agreed that if you just sucked down glucose all day long, it wouldn’t work to your advantage and you’re far better off with an array of carbohydrates that serve different functions.

    Second, that whole “indigenous people who eat a bunch of sat fat” argument is also silly. Again, I’m not arguing that sat fat is bad, but I loath this talking point, so I need to say this. There are scores of other factors at play that completely negate using them as examples. Take the Tokelauans. Sure, they eat a bunch of coconuts and they’re cholesterol is good, but they also have a much less stressful lifestyle than Western society and the rest of that diet is made up of fruit and fish, so there’s no telling what effect that has.

    Also, I’d like to see a chart regarding the life expectancy of all these peoples.

    And then there’s my point about the positive benefits of unsaturated fats — specifically, omega-3 fatty acids. If people stop eating fish because they think the fat in beef is just as good for them, it’ll work against their health. Mark’s post doesn’t address this.

    I don’t like the paleo diet because I think it’s extreme. All through history, there have been extreme diets — including our lame western diet — and they never, ever work. The ones that do seem to work are the ones that preach moderation. The Mediterranean way of eating and several Asian ways of eating seem to be the ones that work the best and the ones that healthy people keep coming back to.

    And honestly, there already plenty of saturated fat in that kind of eating. Olive oil is about 15% saturated fat (of total fats). Salmon is about 14%, almonds 8%. And then there’s the cheese and chicken that kinds it’s way in. I’ve conceded above that a little more sat fat might not be a bad thing. But mark my words, NO ONE will use this new research to moderately raise saturated fat levels. They’ll start eating bacon, burgers, chocolate and pork all day and night and say it’s good for you. People look to research like this as an excuse to indulge – that was my main point. And surely, you’re not arguing in favor of that.

  6. Dave Fish

    My point was that saturated fat has been demonized by the medical community all because of poorly conducted research and hypotheses that where never properly tested. I’m not advocating wolfing down bacon double cheeseburgers from Wendys or Burger King, but it isn’t because bacon or hamburger is bad for you, it is because CAFO raised bacon and hamburger is bad for you. If you obtain pastured meats from animals that where raised on a diet of what they evolved to eat then it really won’t be a problem. And as Taubes points out in his book Good Calories Bad Calories, the culprit for heart disease, high cholesterol and even excess body fat appears to be too much highly refined carbohydrates. So the white flour bun with added HFC surrounding that double bacon cheeseburger is going to do more damage to you than the bacon or the cheeseburger.

    Another point Taubes makes in his book is that fat is more satiating than carbs. People who eat fat and minimize carb intake to well below the standard American diet amount (100 to 150 grams vs. 300 to 400 grams per day) usually eat less calories per day. But Taubes’ main point is that carbohydrates’ effect on insulin levels is what causes our bodies to store excess fat. He even points to studies of people who were given 5000 calories a day, but restricted to few if any carbs, and they didn’t gain weight.

    Also don’t confuse Mark’s Primal Blueprint with the Paleo diet. They are similar but there are important differences which Mark points out in one of his blog entries (search for Paleo on his website).

    You might also want to read Mark’s guides to unsaturated fats as he makes a good case why many of them are actually worse for you than saturated fats. Particularly unsaturated fats made from grains like Canola, sunflower, corn, etc.

    Mark is far from naive when it comes to nutrition and how our body uses saturated fat. I think you misunderstood his point there. The fat we store in our body is saturated fat and gets converted to glucose by the liver.

    So no I’m not advocating eating a diet of junk food, saturated fat laden or not. But people who think they are making a healthy choice by having a bagel with nonfat cream cheese instead of bacon (uncured) and eggs (pastured) for breakfast are deluding themselves. The bagel eater will probably be hitting the snack cart for a fat free blueberry muffin at 10 am while the bacon and eggs eater may only feel mildly hungry come lunch time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *