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Should you eat more saturated fat?

Posted May 26 2010 9:00am


If you’ve eliminated all fats from your diet in the hopes of losing weight, you might be surprised to find out that eating good fats will actually help you lose weight.

Until recently, based on all the information I’ve read, I thought it was very important to make the distinction between bad fats such as saturated fats (think vegetable oil and deep fried foods) and good fats such as Omega-3, Omega-6, extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil.

I had posted a few explicit reviews of the many reasons why good fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6 are so important for your body. If you’ve missed them, you can still read them here:

>>> You need Omega-3 essential fatty acids everyday

>>> As you age, you need Omega-3 for healthy skin, hair and nails!

I just read a new study that confused me about the whole “good fat/bad fat” story. If you are still confused about what types of fat to eat and trying to make sense of things (like the rest of us), I’ve found an incredibly interesting article from Jonny Bowden where he talks about a new study on saturated fat.

>>> This is a longer article, but it’s packed with great information:

According to a new study in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Nutrition in which researchers examined data from 21 different studies from across the world involving over 350,000 subjects, there isn’t a shred of evidence that saturated fat is associated with an increase in the risk of either coronary heart disease (CHD) or cardiovascular disease (CVD).

You read that right.

Our meta-analysis showed that there is insufficient evidence from prospective epidemiologic studies to conclude that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr Ronald Krauss from the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California.

Yet avoiding saturated fat has been the cornerstone of “official” dietary advice for years, based on the assumptions that it increases the risk for heart disease, (not true), that it raises cholesterol (sometimes true but fairly irrelevant) and that cholesterol itself is a solid marker for the risk of heart disease (very far from true).

Meanwhile this misinformation — dare I say “disinformation”– has informed our food choices for decades. The food companies jumped on it, pushing margarine as a substitute for butter, and “healthy” oils like soybean, sunflower, and corn oil as replacements for saturated fat. This has caused a massive imbalance between Omega-6s and Omega-3s in the diet, which in turn contributed mightily to the epidemic of inflammation we’re now seeing.

I believe – as do many of my colleagues – that inflammation is a far more serious risk factor for heart disease than cholesterol ever was.

Omega-6 fats, you may recall, are pro-inflammatory, while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. They are supposed to be in balance, with an idea ratio of about 1:1- 4:1. We currently consume a ratio of at least 15:1 Omega-6: Omega-3, with some estimates putting the ratio even higher. My friend Jade Beutler, CEO of Barlean’s Organic Oils, likens it to putting Mike Tyson in the ring with Pee Wee Herman.

The current study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is not the first time the demonization of saturated fat has been questioned by responsible scientists.

An excellent 2004 paper entitled “ Saturated Fats: What Dietary Intake ?” made the following statement: “Whether a finite quantity of specific dietary saturated fatty acids actually benefits health is not yet known.”

A terrific conference entitled “Saturated Fat: What is the Evidence?” was put on by the Nutrition and Metabolism society (of which I am a member) as part of the 2008 Western Regional Obesity Course of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. I attended that conference and I can tell you the collective answer to the question “what is the evidence?” could be summed up in two words: Not much. (You can read an excellent report on that conference by Laura Dolson )

Saturated fat has a very different fate in the body when it’s consumed in the context of a low-carbohydrate diet. As researchers Jeff Volek, PhD, RD and Cassandra Forsythe, PhD wrote recently in a paper in Nutrition and Metabolism ,   “We contend that the recommendation to intentionally restrict saturated fat is unwarranted and only serves to contribute to the misleading rhetoric surrounding the health effects of saturated fat.”

I’ll be the first to say that not all saturated fat is created equal. I’m not interested in consuming more saturated fats from French fries, but I think egg white omelettes are ridiculous.

It’s interesting to note that prior to the 1920’s, Americans ate tons of lard, butter, beef and cheese but both strokes and heart attacks were far less common than they are today. Enter the saturation (forgive the pun) of the food supply with hydrogenated oils, high omega-6 vegetable oils and tons of carbohydrates. Now heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.

Obviously there’s more than one factor involved in making us as unhealthy as we are, and no one- least of all me- is claiming that increasing saturated fat (without changing anything else about our diet) is a good thing, let alone a cure-all.

>>> Krizia’s point of view:

I find a lot of these studies confusing because they conflict with each other. My point of view is that I won’t be stuffing my face with deep fried foods on a daily basis simply because this study contradicts many studies suggesting high levels of saturated is not good for you. I eat full fat cheese and butter and meats. I just make sure they are in moderation and that I eat plenty of leafy vegetables as much as I can. I will keep exercising with intensity for the rest of my life to keep my body (inside and outside) healthy and strong.

This new study may make sense to some people, but it worries me that it might be a license for many to pile on the saturated fat.

>>> If you want to learn more from Jonny Bowden:

1) Jonny Bowden has a lot of incredible lessons on health and weight loss. You’ll be able to find more details here: Jonny Bowden weight loss coaching

2) If you’re looking for a way to boost your weight loss, consider checking out Dr. Bowden’s super-charged training program: Diet Boot Camp

>>>> If you’re viewing this healthy eating or healthy living tip as part of an aggregated content stream from different sites, or as a re-blogged post, please check out the content on the original Web site at

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