Top 8 Reasons Not to Fear Saturated Fats

Girl Eating KebabHumans have been eating saturated fats for hundreds of thousands of years.

They were demonized a few decades ago and claimed to cause heart disease, but new data shows that to be completely false.

Here are the top 8 reasons not to fear saturated fats.

1. Saturated Fats Increase The Size of LDL Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a molecule that is absolutely vital to life.

Every cell membrane in our bodies is loaded with it. It is used to make hormones like cortisol, testosterone and estradiol.

Without cholesterol, we would die… and our bodies have developed elaborate mechanisms to manufacture it, to make sure we always have enough.

But a protein that carries cholesterol in the blood, Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), has been associated with an elevated risk of heart disease.

However, new data shows that there are subtypes of LDL:

  • Small, Dense LDL: Particles that are small, dense and can easily penetrate the arterial wall (1, 2, 3).
  • Large LDL: Particles that are large and fluffy like cotton balls. These particles are NOT associated with an elevated risk of heart disease (4, 5).

Saturated fats raise the large subtype of LDL… which means that the cholesterol-raising effects of saturated fats (which are mild) are irrelevant (6, 7).

Bottom Line: Saturated Fats only mildly elevate Large LDL, a benign subtype of LDL that is not associated with heart disease.

2. Saturated Fats Raise HDL Cholesterol

Meat

A fact that is often ignored in the fear mongering against saturated fats, is that they also affect another type of cholesterol… HDL.

HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is also known as the “good” cholesterol.

It transports cholesterol away from the arteries and towards the liver, where it may be either excreted or reused.

The higher your HDL levels, the lower your risk of heart disease… and saturated fats raise blood levels of HDL (8, 9, 10).

Bottom Line: Eating saturated fats raises blood levels of HDL (the “good”) cholesterol, which should lower your risk of heart disease.

3. Saturated Fats Do Not Cause Heart Disease

Doctor With Thumbs Up

A massive review article published in 2010 examined data from 21 studies and a total of 347.747 individuals.

They found absolutely no association between saturated fat and the risk of heart disease (11).

Other systematic reviews that look at the evidence as a whole found literally no evidence of an association (12, 13).

No, the idea that saturated fat caused heart disease was a myth all along, based on flawed studies by biased scientists that were in love with their theories.

Somehow this became common knowledge and both the media and health professionals accepted it as a fact that “artery-clogging saturated fat” was harmful.

Bottom Line: There is absolutely no evidence that eating saturated fat is associated with heart disease. It is a myth that was never proven.

4. Saturated Fats May Lower The Risk of Stroke

Foods High in Saturated Fat

A stroke is caused by a disturbance in blood flow to the brain.

Strokes can damage brain tissue and are among the most common causes of disability and death in western countries.

In fact, strokes are the second leading cause of death in middle- and high-income countries, right after heart disease.

There are multiple studies showing that saturated fat consumption is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, although it isn’t always statistically significant (14, 15).

Bottom Line: Stroke is one of the leading causes of death. Several studies show that saturated fat consumption is associated with a reduced risk of stroke.

5. Saturated Fats Don’t Damage Easily in High Heat

Saturated fats are much less likely to react with oxygen than unsaturated fats.

Healthy Foods

Unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturates, contain many double bonds and are therefore especially prone to oxidation (16).

When unsaturated fats react with oxygen during high heat cooking, they form toxic byproducts and go rancid.

Therefore, saturated fats like butter and coconut oil are better options when you need to cook something at a high heat.

Bottom Line: For high-heat cooking, saturated fats are the best choice because they are more stable and don’t react with oxygen as easily.

6. Foods With Saturated Fats Are Nutritious

There are many healthy foods that are naturally rich in saturated fat. These foods tend to be highly nutritious and contain an abundance of fat soluble vitamins.

A Little Girl Eating Meat

Prime examples are meats, eggs, organs and high-fat dairy products. The key here is to eat animals that ate foods that were natural to them, such as grass-fed cows.

Grass-fed beef, pastured eggs and dairy from grass-fed cows are much more nutritious than their “conventionally” raised counterparts. They are especially rich in fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, E and K2 (17, 18, 19, 20, 21).

Bottom Line: Natural foods that contain saturated fats are usually very nutritious and especially rich in fat soluble vitamins.

7. Diets High in Saturated Fat Are Good For Weight Loss

Grilled Steak

We often hear that “high fat diets” make you fat.

It’s only half-true, though.

These diets are fattening… but it’s because they usually contain sugar and refined carbs as well, NOT just a lot fat.

Diets that are high in fat but also low in carbs actually have the opposite effect.

Low-carbohydrate diets, which are usually high in saturated fat, actually make you lose MORE weight than diets that are low in fat. They also improve ALL biomarkers of health much more than low-fat diets (22, 23, 24).

8. Saturated Fat Tastes Amazing

Bacon, cheese, meat, eggs, butter… a life rich in saturated fat sure as hell beats a life without it.

20 Comments

  1. Very well done. The 2001 “Journal of Foodservice” article that you referenced (17) is especially important because it shows that scientists have long suspected that industrial seed oils pose a health hazard. From the abstract:

    “The purpose of this report is to alert the foodservice industry, particularly the fast-food industry, of an emerging health issue. Considerable evidence has accumulated over the past two decades that heated cooking oils, especially polyunsaturated oils, may pose several types of health risks to consumers of fried foods and even people working near deep fat fryers…The literature reviewed raises serious questions concerning the willful addition of large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids into the human diet without accompanying measures to ensure the protection of these fatty acids against heat- and oxidative-degradation. It is hoped that this review will stimulate interest in the foodservice industry in this important area of potential health concern, and also foster the research and development activities necessary to reduce the exposure of humans to lipid oxidation products.”

    Sadly, the omega-6 industrial seed oil debate has is still just so much background noise as far as the general public is concerned. Amongst themselves, scientists hold sharply divided opinions as to the benefits or hazards associated with high omega-6 intake.

  2. Very interesting.
    But I’m afraid the people of today don’t understand this because of the industrial culture the TV show us, which demonizes fat, promotes carbs and low-fat products… I hope in the future people will see the reality, there is so much to do.

  3. When I was trying to lose weight, (I lost 30+ lbs in 7 months), I cut down on carbs and fats. I was was taking omega 3 fats though. I personally think saturated fat from ghee is healthy, but still I would not overdo on fats if I am trying to lose weight. I stick with plenty of salads and proteins.

    They say, fat is very filling so its very hard to overstuff yourself with fats. But still we need to watch their consumption, as too much fat can make us fat.

    • I think it’s dangerous to remove both carbs and fats. Your body needs energy. Proteins can be “burned” rather than be used as blocks to build and repair, but that metabolism can pose health issues. For more info search “rabbit starvation”. Clearly you didn’t suffer that problem, so I suppose you were getting enough carbs and/or fats from your meals.

  4. Love this new site. Lost 14 lbs in 3 months.

  5. Deirdre says:

    Kris, thanks for the article. Two questions come to mind…

    What does help lower cholesterol so?

    Why aren’t more media/health professionals talking about this?

  6. Sereyvorn says:

    Great points about saturated fats.

    People are more confused then ever. They believe that eating fat will automatically make them “fatter”, simply not true.

    Most people accumulate much of their fat, and overweight, due to an over consumption of carbohydrates and processed foods.

  7. I definitely don’t think this issue is as black and white as your making out, there is still much conflicting evidence.

  8. James Quarello says:

    You refer to rabbit starvation in one response above. Funny I heard that very same thing last night on an episode of Survivor Man. Les Stroud, the “Survivor Man”, was eating rabbit and spoke about how one can starve just eating rabbit meat due to the lack of fat. He went on to say, that wouldn’t be a problem as long as the entire rabbit was consumed, i.e. the organs and bones.

    At the same moment I had an epiphany, here was a man living off the land, “surviving” just as humans had done for millennia. He was eating meat roasted over an open fire. Eating whatever plants, fruits are available (if any) at the time from the land. In other words a paleo diet. Obviously humans have been consuming fat from our creation, not processed foods and especially not carbs and sugars except those found naturally.

  9. Ann-Christine Straw says:

    I read the book: “Drink, Eat and Be Healthy” by W.C. Willett from Harvard Medical School. There it is clearly stated, that saturated fats are bad and should be kept to a minimum. Unsaturated fats on the other hand are good. I am confused now…

    Also… (not topic related) it says whole-grains are massively important and should make a big part of our diet.

    Has anyone read this book? Any thoughts?

    • Conventional MDs and nutritionist think you are an oven, obviously not. A calorie isn’t a calorie when comparing carbs to fat. Carbs are sugar which make your body knock down the sugar spike, then you get hungry and eat more carbs… saturated fat on the other hand satiates you when you eat it, it does not make you fat and it does not clog your arteries… unless you overcook, fry or burn it to make nasty free radicals.

      If you want to lose weight, have the benefits of protection from fat… eat a low carb, high fat (saturated) diet and the pounds will melt off!

  10. Stephen-in-Samui says:

    Kris: You may find this article interesting in one of today’s newspapers (10th April 2014). The readers’ comments are interesting too:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2600848/High-fat-diet-increases-risk-common-type-breast-cancer.html

  11. But please keep in mind that people having MS (Multiple sclerosis) should NOT eat saturated fats (referral to Swank’s diet). This diet slows progression of the disease as well as benefit overall health

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