For as long as we can remember we’ve been told that saturated fat is bad for us. From doctors, to dietitians, to friends and family members, it seemed to be common knowledge that if you wanted to be healthy it meant avoiding saturated fat at all costs. So where did this belief come from? Does it hold any truth? And it is possible that there could be saturated fat benefits? Let’s take a look.
A Flawed Study Gone Viral
In 1958 a man named Ancel Keys did an an awful thing. He published a study that made it look like saturated fat and cholesterol were associated with heart disease.
Tell me more about this study…
In his study, Ancel Keys looked at a handful of countries around the world, comparing the amount of saturated fat in their diets with their rate of heart disease. His original study included 22 countries, but he published it with only six; tossing out the ones that didn’t prove his already pre-conceived theory that saturated fat and heart disease were connected.
This two minute video sums it up perfectly:
Companies like Proctor and Gamble jumped on this band wagon real quick because it meant more sales for their new vegetable oil product, Crisco, which unlike animal fat, had very little saturated fat. With all this big money backing and “proven science” saturated fats soon became public enemy #1.
Okay, So What’s The Real Deal with Saturated Fats?
Since Keys’ study in 1958 numerous studies have been done on the subject, completely debunking his incredibly flawed theory. Like this one, which included almost 350,000 men and women, and this one, which followed over 58,000 men and women for 14 years.
In fact, cultures all over the world eat (and have been eating for hundreds of thousands of years) diets high in saturated fat and have virtually no heart disease, like The Tokealu of New Zealand, The Maasai Tribe in Kenya, The Eskimo tribes in the arctic subsist, just to name a few.
Studies have also been done, taking people from these cultures listed above, putting them on a western diet, and wouldn’t you know, they develop heart disease.
Modern Nutrition is Based on Bad Science
So why is everyone (including the USDA) still singing the same ‘ol low-fat tune? It’s the same answer to a lot of questions, corruption.
Since its inception, the USDA has been granted powers by both Congress and presidential executive orders that, progressively and collectively, have made it the policy-setter for both agricultural policies and nutritional guidelines. This is an obvious and serious conflict of interest that has led to an epidemic of chronic disease. It’s also why federal guidelines relating to diet are so grossly divergent from nutritional science.
– Dr. Mercola
Think about that for a second. The people who are making our food arethe same people creating our nutritional guidelines and telling us what to eat. See the problem there? So for arguments sake, let’s push aside these “guidelines” for a second and look at saturated fat benefits from a nutritional stance.
Now, onto the good stuff! Saturated Fat Benefits
Natural fats, including saturated ones are the fats that our bodies have evolved to eat. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about it.
– Dr. Jason Fung
1. Preventing Heart Disease (no, this is not a typo)
Doctors and scientists alike can agree that one of the best things you can to do to lower your risk of heart disease is to raise your levels of HDL cholesterol. How do you raise HDL cholesterol? Exercise, lose weight, and yep, you guessed it, eat more saturated fats. Saturated fats are proven  to increase blood levels of HDL cholesterol. And when HDL level are high, heart disease risk is low.
2. Immune Health
Particularly the saturated fats found in coconut oil and butter (or ghee) contain myristic acid and lauric acid which play a key role in immune health. When your body is deficient in these saturated fatty acids your white blood cells lose their ability to recognize and destroy bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. For us type 1’s, with already compromised immune systems, we can take all the help we can get when it comes to immune health!
3. Help Bodily Processes
Every cell in our body requires fat to function optimally. Our muscles need it, out tissues need it, our organs need it, and our hormones need it. To touch on a couple organs,
The brain is mainly made up of fat and cholesterol. Most of this fat is saturated fat. A diet low in saturated fat deprives the brain of its normal functions and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Saturated fat is especially important for pregnant and nursing mothers as this is when a baby’s brain development is at its highest.
Saturated fats have been proven to help cleanse and protect the liver by encouraging liver cells to dump their fat stores. This emptying and filling of fat stores in the liver help to cleanse and protect the liver from toxic build up. And since a healthy liver is at the center of a healthy digestive system, you are helping your whole body when you support your liver.
4. Hardy Under Heat
Heat in the cooking process will toxify most all vegetable oils, creating harmful carcinogens. Yes, I’m looking at you olive oil. However, saturated fats like coconut oil, butter (or ghee), and lard are particularly resistant to heat, making them the preferred oils/fats for cooking.
5. Help with Nutrient Absorption
Certain vitamins & nutrients require saturated fat for absorption. Vitamins A, D, E, and Calcium, for example, need saturated fat for proper transportation & absorption. This is why I always take Vitamin A & D with avocados or coconut oil. And why eating your salad with dressing helps you absorb the nutrients better. Why eat all this nutrient dense food if you can’t absorb it?!
6. Boost Metabolism & Aid Weight Loss
But wont eating fat make you fat? Not quite…
In general, increasing dietary fat will lead to to less cravings and fewer bouts of overeating; which are huge contributors to weight gain.
The saturated fat Coconut Oil in particular has been proven to help individuals lose weight and boost metabolism. A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that medium-chain fatty acids (like those found in coconut oil) were 3x more effective at increasing metabolism than long-chain fatty acids (found in olive oil, soybean oil, fish, meat, nuts, and avocados).
An interesting observations was made by Ray Peat who has a Ph.D. in Biology with a specialization in physiology (Physiology is the branch of biology dealing with the functions and activities of living organisms and their parts, including all physical and chemical processes.) Here is an excerpt from his article.
In the 1940’s, farmers attempted to use cheap coconut oil for fattening their animals, but they found that it made them lean and active. Eventually, they found that a diet of soy beans and corn– which converts to sugar in the body– suppressed the thyroid and caused the animals to fatten up without even eating as much food.
So I Can Eat All Of The Fats?
When it comes to vegan fats (like nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados), load them on! But keep in mind that when it comes to animal fats quality really matters. Body fat is where we (and animals) store toxins that don’t belong anywhere near our essential organs. Toxins can come from the food we eat, the environment we’re in, and the amount of stress on our bodies, so making sure your animal fat comes from a quality source is important. My first choice is always local pasture raised meat from the farmer’s market. If that’s not an option, my second choice is pasture-raised organic from the grocery store.
Some of my favorite sources of saturated fats are:
Sources https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/trans-fat-coronary-disease-hormonal-obesity-xxxvi/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071648?dopt=AbstractPlus https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20685950?dopt=AbstractPlus
http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/3/621.full http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/01/enjoy-saturated-fats-theyre-good-for-you.aspx https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1386252
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/09/29/dr-perlmutter-gluten.aspx Keys, A. et al; 1986; The Diet and 15-year death rate in the seven countries study, inAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 124, No.6, pp.903-915 Hu, F.B et al; 1999;