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Food for Thought: The Evils (?) of Saturated Fats

Fat Full Fall

Quick quiz:  Where have you heard this phrase before?

“…as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol…”

If you ever catch a TV commercial for food or drugs – um, pretty much all of them that are low-fat or cholesterol related – you’ve heard the voiceover say this.  Our culture is pretty much brainwashed with the fact (fact?) that saturated fats are bad for you. (Cholesterol gets a bad rap, too, but you’ll have to read about eggs to hit that topic today. We’re talking pure, unadulterated fat around here.)  So why all the fuss? What is it about saturated fats that the medical and food processing communities say is so evil?

The Bad Rap for Saturated Fat

Saturated fat has been blamed for causing cancer and heart disease. Bacon, butter, and red meat are the poster children for obesity and heart attacks, are they not? (They may have been framed – keep reading!)

Here are the accusations against saturated fat:

  1. High saturated fat intake is linked to high blood cholesterol.
  2. High blood cholesterol is linked to increased rate of heart disease.
  3. As the rate of heart disease increased over the last century, saturated fat was blamed, in part because foods high in saturated fat are also often high in cholesterol (see above).
  4. The fat around the heart is highly saturated, so many thought that heart attacks were caused by a build-up of saturated fat caused by eating too much of it.

And the rebuttals:

  1. From the Framingham Heart Study (Nourishing Traditions, p. 5):  “The more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum [blood] cholesterol….the people who ate the most saturated fat…weighed the least and were the most physically active.”
  2. From a 2001 Harvard research review article (In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, p. 43):  “The amount of saturated fat in the diet may have little if any bearing on the risk of heart disease (Pollan’s words).”  And the review found “a weak and nonsignificant positive association between dietary cholesterol and risk of CHD [coronary heart disease].”
  3. The first case of heart disease was recorded in 1912, and obviously rates have increased ever since (Let’s Get Well by Adelle Davis). Consumption of saturated fats has actually decreased (Real Food by Nina Planck and ibid. Pollan) while hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) came on the scene in the late 1800s, just in time to be a potential suspect for heart disease’s rise to fame.
  4. The fat around the heart matches beef fat and other fat only found in animals. The heart needs this fat – “It draws on this reserve in times of stress.” (NT p. 11)

Saturated fats have been called “artery-clogging”. Don’t you get an image of the man eating the steak with the baked potato drowning in butter keeling over from a heart attack? So what is arterial plaque made of? It’s about 26% saturated, and the rest is unsaturated. (from The Lancet, 1994 by Felton, as quoted in NT.)  Saturated fats have been given a bad rap. They are not the culprit behind the massive increase in heart disease over the last century.

How Americans have Changed their Fats

The most striking lists I’ve read this year:

Top fats eaten at the turn of the 20th century (1900, for those who get that stuff mixed up, like me):

  1. butter
  2. coconut oil
  3. lard
  4. tallow (beef fat)
  5. olive oil

Fats eaten at the turn of the 21st century (or right about now):

  1. olive oil
  2. corn oil
  3. soybean oil
  4. canola oil
  5. safflower oil

Notice that olive oil is the only one on both lists, so great has our fat consumption changed. Nothing on the second list is high in saturated fat. If sat-fat is the cause of heart disease, one would think heart disease would be decreasing by leaps and bounds, but it’s doing the opposite.


Why we SHOULD eat Saturated Fats

  1. They are highly stable and do not go rancid easily. (Just wait until you learn about what rancid fats can do to your body…and which ones might be sitting in your pantry right now!)
  2. Saturated fats make up half the structure of cell membranes. They are responsible for the stiffness of the cell wall, while unsaturated fats cover flexibility. The cell membrane needs to be just right for the body to function properly, so obviously both kinds of fat are necessary. (from Real Food, p. 175)
  3. Bone healthFor calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50 percent of the dietary fats should be saturated. (NT p. 11)
  4. Omega-3s are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fats. (I’m waiting for a commercial to tell me THAT!)
    Specifically about butter and coconut oil:
  5. They are used for quick energy.
  6. They have antimicrobial properties.
  7. They build your immune system.

(See more at 7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat)

But What About “Saturated Fat is Bad For Me?”

Maybe this doesn’t sound right. Maybe this sounds like the exact opposite of what you’ve always been taught.

It is.

Mayo Clinic will still tell you saturated fats are “harmful fats”, grouped right in there with trans fats. The U.S. Government Dietary Guidelines (which are being revised currently) also say to limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated fats.

I’m sharing the conflicting information with you so you know my head is not in the sand. But I don’t really know what to do with these claims. I have to go with what feels right after praying about it. You may think I ought to base my family’s food choices more in factual information, but “go with my gut” is all I have left when sources are on opposite sides of the issue, and all of them are backed up with research! I’ve found that the philosophy of:

  1. Eating food that grows or eats things that grow
  2. Eating food as close to how God created it as possible (little processing)
  3. Eating foods that have been eaten for centuries

resonates with me. I can buy into traditional foods. Saturated fats have been a part of the diets of cultures throughout time, often quite prized for good health, strength and longevity. Who am I to debate history?

Want to read what others are saying on the topic?

Are you a believer? Take the Monday Mission challenge: switch to butter. Also tell me where are the sneaky trans fats in your house! (And see my guilty list.)

Images used with permission from

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

About The Author

51 thoughts on “Food for Thought: The Evils (?) of Saturated Fats”

  1. Pingback: Health Benefits of Coconut Oil | Emily's Kitchen

  2. Pingback: Health Benefits of Coconut Oil | Wellness Mama

  3. I have a question on reusing coconut oil. The only thing we fry in oil is french fries–either homemade or organic. I save and reuse the coconut oil because it’s so expensive. How many times can it be reused and is it safe to keep in the pantry after frying with it? Thanks!

  4. I agree with your point of view and the research you used to back it whole-heartedly. However, there is one piece I think is missing: the quality of the animal fats that are consumed. I would argue that the saturated fat in conventionally-raised beef or even organic beef is not optimal for our bodies. Healthy, pasture-raised animals produce healthy fats. I suspect that part of the reason saturated fats are black-listed in our culture is because of the abundance of conventionally-raised meats that really ARE bad for you. Hence, meat gets a bad rep and we’re brain-washed into avoiding it. When people find out I pay attention to my health, they often ask “Are you a vegetarian?” (Again, as if to be healthy you must minimize your meat intake.) I take so much joy in breaking those stereotypes. “No,” I tell them, “I eat pasture-raised meat–and full fat dairy, too!”

  5. Tonya via Facebook

    I just read an article in “Science News” that explains how eating oils high in linoleic acid (soybean, cottonseed, and corn oils found in processed foods) rather than oleic acid (like olive oil) actually damages part of the brain that is supposed to tell you when to stop eating.

  6. Pingback: The importance of starting the day with healthy fats | daily digest

  7. I’m pleased to report that scientists have begun to criticize the methodology employed in the selection and interpretation of saturated fat research in relation to dietary recommendations.

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      And I am pleased to receive this info, thanks! Wonder how long the Netherlands will take to get Americans to believe this… 🙂 katie

      1. Hi Katie,

        There’s growing awareness that the anti-saturated fat campaign was a mistake. Note the comments regarding this recent Scientific American article: One of them referred back to this SA article published almost two years earlier:

        Science is really slow to correct itself when findings threaten commerce. Here’s a quote from The Modern Nutritional Diseases: and How to Prevent Them

        “The current relentless pressure to convert the entire population to a low-fat, high carbohydrate dietary regime seems to be driven by a curious set of circumstances. It began with an idea aimed at inducing the public to buy and eat foods that are profitable to the agricultural and food industries as opposed to foods that man was designed to eat. With judicious use of public relations, advertising, pseudo science, and political prowess, this idea has grown into a sophisticated and powerful movement that is changing eating habits throughout the world. Concurrently, the national priority aimed at the treatment of the modern nutritional diseases, rather than their prevention, has focused medical research on patentable new drugs rather than on preventive methods…The consequences are sobering. Older adults suffer premature disabilities and shortened life spans; younger adults, and even children, are increasingly affected by early signs of atherosclerosis, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. Enormous prescription drug and medical care costs have nearly reached the point of overwhelming the national budget. And tragically, a growing body of evidence suggests that the bizarre and increasingly common behavioral problems among young children and teen-agers are related to the combined effects of high sugar intakes and the virtual absence of omega-3 essential fatty acids in the American diet.”

  8. Katie,

    Do you happen to remember your source for the lists above that show the top five oils at the turn of the century?


    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I searched and searched but just couldn’t find that one, even when I wrote the post! I’ve even seen it since and forgot that I should have come back to source it here…maybe a google search for the list will come up with something…so sorry! 🙂 Katie

  9. Pingback: 7 reasons to eat more fat | Health Impact News

  10. Wow, Katie, I just love stories like yours! Sometimes I worry that pushing back at the medical/nutrition establishment might be wrong, but it just feels right…and then transformations like your family’s confirm that I am on the right track! My daughter likes to have butter “just on my plate” too, and it totally worries/grosses out my husband! Thank you for sharing!!!

  11. I am currently seeing a doctor with M.D. after his name, who switched to homeopathic medicine a few years ago after 20 years in emergency medicine. Eating REAL FOOD (including coconut oil, real butter, raw milk and lard and tallow from pastured meats has allowed me to stop taking 80 mg of Zocor, all blood pressure medication and we are working on ridding me of my Type 2 Diabetes meds currently. I have lost 20 pounds and am now down to a normal slim weight and have never been healthier in my life.

    I used to be a “low fat, skim milk, margarine” kind of girl. I was 30 pounds over weight and all kinds of meds that made my legs and feet ache.

    I am thankful, very thankful for a REAL FOOD diet.

    Pass the butter, please.

  12. Katie via Facebook

    Had to share my anecdote in regards to fat in the diet:
    I grew up eating a low-fat diet (we used vegetable oils, tub margarine, and shortening; butter and bacon were occasional indulgences, and we drank 2% milk, very little juice, and didn’t keep junk food in the house) with lots of whole grains and a fair amount of vegetables and fruits. My family was not healthy as modern “nutrition experts” would assume.
    My dad was overweight, depressed, anxious, and has developed type 2 diabetes. My mom suffered from candida, skin allergies, and seasonal sinus allergies, and “crashed” about two years ago with adrenal fatigue. After intensive antioxidant, nutritional and herbal therapy, and eliminating man-made fats and using coconut oil, olive oil, and butter exclusively, she is recovering well.
    I suffered from a susceptibility to sinus and stomach bugs, seasonal allergies, acne, poor eyesight, crooked teeth, depression, compulsive behavior, dry skin, headaches, athletes foot, varicose veins at 18, and a low- grade viral infection, brittle nails, thin hair, and low weight.
    As an adult, I followed the eating style that I knew, thinking I was healthy because I was thin and didn’t eat much fast food or junk food.
    I’m now 30 years old and had three babies within 5 years, which really depleted my body. With the birth of #3, I was very fatigued & my kids had physical symptoms that concerned me. I found “Nourishing Traditions”, and threw out all the man-made oils and packaged foods and started eating more liberal amounts of grassfed meats, coconut oil, butter, fermented foods, raw whole dairy, and a greater variety of fresh and cooked veggies, and nuts and seeds, and cod liver oil. I am gradually transitioning my family into a Paleo/Nourishing Traditions diet (we cook gluten-free dishes and are slowly eliminating gluten all-together and most grains).
    I discovered that pretty much ALL of the “dis-eases” and inflammation I suffered are a result of vitamin deficiencies caused by a *lack of good fats* and bioavailable nutrients (and likely, leaky gut and candida from eating grains).
    My body is LOVING the saturated fat! When I started eating coconut oil, my energy and mood improved, my appetite is stabilizing (I was always hungry and ate a lot), I lost the last 10 pounds of pregnancy weight in a couple weeks, my skin is clear, soft and glowing, I fall ill much less frequently, the viral infection doesn’t bother me, the dark circles under my eyes are gone, my nails are getting better, and I have considerably fewer headaches. I haven’t recovered completely from some things, but I know I’m doing what is best for my body.
    My husband has seen many benefits from our dietary changes as well. Also, my children’s psoriasis and eczema went away. Baby #3 has had very few illnesses and is healthier than her siblings were, because she gets very few grains, but lots of good fat from butter, eggs, coconut oil, raw milk, grassfed beef, and avocado. She never developed eczema, either. All of the kids had growth spurts after we made those changes, and they usually love the food, even salads. They will eat butter by the spoonful if I let them.
    It’s so frustrating to know that my family of origin would not have suffered so much if we had not been under the deception that saturated fats and animal fat is bad. Those fats are essential to healthy brain development, they contain important vitamins, and they enable our body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins from the vegetables we eat.
    That’s my story. I’m grateful for the work of Weston Price, Sally Fallon, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Michael Pollan, and the blogger mommies like Katie who bring the truth about God-made foods into the light. It has made a world of difference for me!

  13. Katie, I urge you to visit this website created by David Evans:

  14. Kassia via Facebook

    Thank you for reposting this. I’m definitely new to the idea of sat fats being ok, even good. My husband, in the medical field, is a little harder to convince. But it makes so much sense to me. Anything processed or manufactured is not going to be as good for us as real food, grown properly, and animals being fed and raised in accordance with how they were created (ie grass fed, etc). I’m in. Bring on the butter. 🙂

  15. Beth via Facebook

    I teach PE to kids with disabilities and we are doing a lot of nutrition in the high school class this year. Once of the adults in the room asked “so you mean margin is bad?” I am so into real foods that I thought the world had figured that out by now! Seriously People.

  16. Thanks so much for this Katie. Isn’t God great? What you say in this article is what I feel is right for me and my family as well.

  17. Wonderful summary for those new to real foods, and reminder for those of us who need it! Thanks!

  18. Pingback: The Many Benefits of Coconut Oil — Wellness Mama

  19. Hi Katie,

    Regarding the saturated fat controversy, here’s a January 26 letter I wrote for the opinion page of our local paper The Daily Inter Lake.

    Dear Editor,

    The January 25, 2011 headline reads “Cost of cardiovascular disease to triple by 2030.” The article goes on to say, “In the next 20 years, more than 40% of the US population is expected to have some form of cardiovascular disease, and this will triple the total direct medical costs of caring for hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and other forms of cardiovascular disease from the current $273 billion to more than $800 billion…the prevalence of cardiovascular disease will increase by approximately 10% over the next 20 years given no changes to prevention and treatment trends. If some risk factors, such as diabetes and obesity, continue to increase rapidly, cardiovascular disease prevalence and associated costs might increase even more…”

    Let us focus for a moment on the phrase “given no changes in prevention and treatment trends.” There’s a good chance that the dietary advice furnished by the United States Department of Agriculture is about to change radically.

    I submitted this letter to The Daily Inter Lake shortly before the January 31 release date for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans so I have no way of knowing for certain whether the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) adopted the changes recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) or caved in to pressure from, clinicians, students, teachers, scientists, and laymen to alter advice regarding saturated and total fat intake. Here’s some of the July 8, 2010 testimony at a hearing following release of the DGAC Report on June 15:

    Dr. John Salerno said, “In my 20 year practice of medicine in New York City, I have treated many patients whose health had been severely compromised by excluding these necessary nutrients in their daily diet. It is my experience, backed up by scientific studies, that low fat diets have caused many of today’s lifestyle ailments including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Basic biochemistry shows that the human body has a high requirement for saturated fats in the cell membranes, brain and other organs. If we do not eat saturated fats, the body makes fat from refined carbohydrates, leading to rapid weight gain and chronic illness.”

    Adele Hite, a student of nutrition at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill said, “The Committee’s emphasis on low-fat, whole-grain food products not only encourages consumers to purchase food products instead of real food, it supports the food industry in passing off these highly-processed food-like substances as “healthy” food choices. While the Committee pays lip-service to health care reform’s emphasis on evidence-based recommendations, it continues to disregard or misrepresent science that does not support a diet based on highly processed grain, cereal, and dairy products.”

    Dr. Pramod Khosla, Ph.D, Associate professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, accused the DGAC of “sidestepping the science” in continuing to ask the public to avoid saturated fat. He cited a highly publicized meta-analysis showing that there is no significant evidence that dietary saturated fat increases risk of cardiovascular or heart disease. He went on to say that what replaces the saturated fat is of greater concern.

    Dr. Richard Feinman of the Nutrition and Metabolism Society testified, “The previous guidelines have failed to halt the epidemic of obesity and diabetes. In addition, recent data and re-evaluation of old data point in the opposite direction to the guidelines. For example, the supposed dangers of saturated fat, if they exist at all, have only been measured in the presence of high carbohydrate. A high fat diet in the presence of high carbohydrate is very different than a high fat diet in its absence. Recommendations to further lower saturated fat recommendations are not justified by the data.”

    Finally, Sally Fallon Morell, founder of the Weston A. Price Society and co-author of the cookbook “Nourishing Traditions” noted, “Animal fats supply many essential nutrients that are difficult to obtain from other sources…if we do not eat saturated fats, the body will simply make them from carbohydrates, but excess carbohydrate increases blood levels of triglyceride and small, dense LDL and compromises blood vessel function. High-carbohydrate diets, moreover, fail to satisfy the appetite as well as diets rich in traditional fats, leading to higher caloric intakes and often to binging and splurging on empty foods, resulting in rapid weight gain. The proposed guidelines will perpetuate existing nutrient deficiencies present in all American population groups, including deficiencies in vitamins A, and D, found in animal fats, vitamins B12 and B6 found in meat and seafood, as well as minerals like iron and zinc. Low intakes of vitamin K2, moreover, are associated with increases in the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer, and the main sources of vitamin K2 available to Americans are egg yolks and full-fat cheeses.”

    Dr. Fineman and other scientists wrote an article entitled “In the face of contradictory evidence: Report of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee” that was published in the Nutrition: The International Journal of Applied and Basic Nutritional Sciences, Volume 26, Issue 10, Pages 915-924 (October 2010). The Abstract reads, “Concerns that were raised with the first dietary recommendations 30 y ago have yet to be adequately addressed. The initial Dietary Goals for Americans (1977) proposed increases in carbohydrate intake and decreases in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt consumption that are carried further in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report. Important aspects of these recommendations remain unproven, yet a dietary shift in this direction has already taken place even as overweight/obesity and diabetes have increased. Although appealing to an evidence-based methodology, the DGAC Report demonstrates several critical weaknesses, including use of an incomplete body of relevant science; inaccurately representing, interpreting, or summarizing the literature; and drawing conclusions and/or making recommendations that do not reflect the limitations or controversies in the science. An objective assessment of evidence in the DGAC Report does not suggest a conclusive proscription against low-carbohydrate diets. The DGAC Report does not provide sufficient evidence to conclude that increases in whole grain and fiber and decreases in dietary saturated fat, salt, and animal protein will lead to positive health outcomes. Lack of supporting evidence limits the value of the proposed recommendations as guidance for consumers or as the basis for public health policy. It is time to reexamine how US dietary guidelines are created and ask whether the current process is still appropriate for our needs.”

    In my estimation, the DGAC have a huge impact on the public health because they “serve as the foundation for nutritional information for Americans. The Guidelines also strongly influence nutrition education, research funding, governmental meal programs including school lunches, as well as providing direction for the food industry, regulatory agencies, consumer advocates, and the media. They have been largely immune from criticism, perhaps a result of their wide application.”

    Correcting the mistakes in the Guidelines could potentially save this country from financial ruin because of their impact on both the quality of the food supply and consumer behavior.

    David Brown

    1. David,
      Yes, the food pyramid is largely a mess. One reader has said that any food guide will only work perfectly for about 20% of people, and there should be multiple food pyramids so we can find the one that fits our physiology. I love that idea! And you’re right, what an impact our government has on public health in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your letter.
      🙂 Katie

  20. Pingback: Monday Mission: Refocus on Healthy Fats | Kitchen Stewardship

  21. Hi Katie,
    I never get tired hearing about saturated fat. Here is where I stand on the topic. Jesus new what he was doing when he created the world and gave us dominion over the animals. Saturated fat is “natural” God given. Mankind usually likes to step in with our arrogance and think we can do better than God. So he steps aside and lets us do our thing until we have the realization “once again” that he was right. He knew what he was doing when he gave us all of these great things: eggs, meat, saturated fat etc. It is common sense.

    1. While I agree that God gave man dominion over the earth and everything in it, and He knew what he was doing when he did it, keep in mind, that the earth was in a state of perfection and that was before the fall of mankind. Therefore, the human body was not flawed and full of disease so this it’s reaction to fats, etc was a mute point. Also, I don’t believe (and this is just my personal opinion) that man ate flesh in the garden of Eden because I don’t think there was any killing happening at that time. They had all they needed from the plants in the garden. Again, just an opinion. The point is, what good does it do to argue incessantly over a point that it is obvious you have no intent on changing your opinion? If it is for the sake of arguing, then maybe you should examine your heart and find if your motives are pure and upright in the eyes of God. I just don’t see the sense in it. Debate is good. Argument isn’t. There’s a fine line. There is research on both sides of this debate and sometimes it’s just better to walk away. I’m not trying to judge anyone of you. I’m just a sinner myself speaking in love from a world of experience. And you can agree to disagree with me as well. I do agree with you on one point. Eating as close to the farm as possible is always best. But I don’t think a high fat diet is good, in any regard. Too high of protein isn’t either, as the Atkins diet claims. It is a strain on the kidneys. Keeping to vegetables and fruits as the largest portion of the diet, with the remainder being balanced out by grains (if tolerated), protein, fats, and dairy (again, if tolerated. Balance is key, as it is in anything. And blood cholesterol is affected by what you eat. It is affected partly by heredity and partly by diet. I have personally made a difference in my own numbers by what I eat. I have my opinions and I’m always interested to read others viewpoints. I’m having a hard time swallowing this one about saturated fats and I’ve been hearing about it more from people lately, but the jury is still out, so I use in very low amounts at this point.
      God Bless,

      1. Diane,
        You are sure right that balance is key! At least butter doesn’t take any killing of animals to make it…

        I probably eat less fat than some other “real foodies” but more than your average American. My main goal is to make sure the fats I do eat, since I’m going to consume them for sure, are traditional fats and not lab-produced such-and-such.

        Thanks for the perspective!
        🙂 katie

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  24. Katie,

    I started studying nutritional controversies about 32 years ago. In all that time I have never found evidence that there is evidence that saturated fat poses a health hazard.

    1. David,
      Thank you for that! Your article seems very thorough, and is a good addition to this post.
      🙂 Katie

  25. Just thought I’d post some latest research from:
    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26285
    Vol. 91, No. 3, 502-509, March 2010
    © 2010 American Society for Clinical Nut

    “A focus of dietary recommendations for cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention and treatment has been a reduction in saturated fat intake, primarily as a means of lowering LDL-cholesterol concentrations. However, the evidence that supports a reduction in saturated fat intake must be evaluated in the context of replacement by other macronutrients. Clinical trials that replaced saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat have generally shown a reduction in CVD events, although several studies showed no effects. An independent association of saturated fat intake with CVD risk has not been consistently shown in prospective epidemiologic studies, although some have provided evidence of an increased risk in young individuals and in women. Replacement of saturated fat by polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat lowers both LDL and HDL cholesterol. However, replacement with a higher carbohydrate intake, particularly refined carbohydrate, can exacerbate the atherogenic dyslipidemia associated with insulin resistance and obesity that includes increased triglycerides, small LDL particles, and reduced HDL cholesterol. In summary, although substitution of dietary polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat has been shown to lower CVD risk, there are few epidemiologic or clinical trial data to support a benefit of replacing saturated fat with carbohydrate. Furthermore, particularly given the differential effects of dietary saturated fats and carbohydrates on concentrations of larger and smaller LDL particles, respectively, dietary efforts to improve the increasing burden of CVD risk associated with atherogenic dyslipidemia should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrate intakes and a reduction in excess adiposity.”

    Take a fish oil supplement, and have as much saturated fat as you like?

    “Importantly, the effects of saturated fat on lipids and lipoproteins may be modulated by the content and/or availability of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such that saturated fat only affects LDL cholesterol if the polyunsaturated fat intake is below a threshold level (5% of energy) (58, 59). LDL cholesterol as well as total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B were not different between women who consumed diets high or low in saturated fat but with similar ratios of polyunsaturated to saturated fat (P:S)”


    1. Ellen,
      Oh, my goodness, thank you! I’m a big fan of up-to-date research, and this is fascinating! Now, will we see if on the news? Probably not. I’m alarmed that the polys and monos lower HDL along with LDL. HDL is really important. It’s like saying, “This alarm system will fortify your house against thieves, but it will make it easier to steal your ID through the computer.” Duh!

      My hub’s HDL went WAY up since we started this real food journey and cut out a lot of polys and added lots of saturated fats. Maybe this is why! I love your assessment of fish oil supp – sounds like that’s kind of what they’re saying. I also like that the stuff about carbs echoes what we’re talking about right now at KS, that we have to be careful with our grains and such.

      Thank you soooo much for taking the time to add to this post!
      🙂 Katie

  26. Pingback: Real food for the right reasons. . . What I’ve been reading up on lately. « The Hansen’s

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  28. One of my favorite quotes is, “What everyone knows is not necessarily true.” 🙂

    I would highly, highly recommend _The Cholesterol Myths_ for anyone who wants to see how data from scientific studies can be manipulated to “say” what people want them to. “Studies” and experience have not shown that saturated fat and/or dietary cholesterol cause, or even contribute to, heart disease. That’s why we have the so-called “French paradox”! It’s not a paradox unless you start from this unproven assumption. 😉
    .-= Rachel R.´s last blog ..25 Minute Chicken and Noodles =-.

  29. cooking manager

    Yes, it is a good reason for eating organic. But it is expensive.
    Like Mike Lane, I am skeptical of the historical arguments.
    .-= cooking manager´s last blog ..Friday Roundup #15 and Two Carnivals =-.

  30. I recently completely read the Nourishing Traditions book and I found it very interesting that before 1920 there was virtually no heart disease, not anywhere like it is today. And that is about the time that people were starting to buy more and more convenience foods than they had previously. I believe that the closer it is to the way God made it, the better it is for us. We have been totally brainwashed into thinking that low-fat, processed foods are actually good for us. I still have so much to learn and that’s why I appreciate your emails. They really help to keep me on track.

  31. cooking manager

    Very interesting information. I also prefer saturated fats to transfats.

    Are you aware of the issue of dioxins in animal fats? They may not cause cardiovascular disease, but they are a serious concern.

    1. CM,
      This is a fascinating article. There’s always something evil around the corner, isn’t there? We always have to Trust in the Promise of our Meal Blessings!

      I have to quote from the article:
      ” The Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments, which asked for the study, did not request the exact risk of exposure or the current amount of the compound in foods and animal feeds, and the institute did not provide them.

      Instead, the report’s authors asked administrators of the government’s school lunch program to increase the availability of food and milk low in animal fat. And they suggested that young women, especially pregnant and pre-childbearing women, minimize their intake of these foods to reduce exposure by fetuses and nursing infants.

      Linda Greer, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s environment and health program, said she was disappointed by the recommendations.

      “They didn’t recommend federal regulation — anything that limits the amount of dioxins in food,” Greer said.

      “Rather than making food safe, they are opting to educate people that food may not be safe, and I think they owe us more than that. This is the government abdicating responsibility for a safe food supply.”

      Me again: Grrrr…just another way to get “low-fat” stuff into our kids, when there are other hazards to low-fat dairy in particular!

      It sounds like this is mainly a problem in factory-farmed animals and many fish, so it’s just another motivation to find a safe, local, organic farm and buy your meat and milk there…

      Fatfully yours, Katie 😉

  32. Dr. Castelli was asked to directly respond to these claims. This is what he said: “That quote is correct but its’ interpretation by Atkins and Sugar Busters and others is wrong. The data are diet history data. Very weak science!!!… Better science, where I lock you up in a metabolic ward has taught us that lowering the saturated fat, the cholesterol in the diet lowers cholesterol. Even better, over a dozen diet trials in the history of medicine which took people off the high fat diet lowered their cholesterols and 4-5 years out they lowered their heart attack rate. Has Atkins or Sugar-busters shown that they lower the heart attack rate?”[1135]

    The Framingham Heart Study does not in any way indicate that an increase in saturated fats is good for you. This article is complete bunk.

    1. Mike,

      I appreciate your visit and the reply. I’m a little confused though – who are you? Who is Dr. Castelli? When you say “this article is complete bunk” do you mean the post here or something I linked to as a source?

      I have a lot to learn about research and evidence. What about the 2001 Harvard review that is starting to crumble the lipid hypothesis?

      Also, what would you/Dr. Castelli define as a “healthy fat”, if we can all agree that fats should be eaten more or less in moderation. We have to eat something – if not saturated fats, then what is best?

      Thanks, Katie

      1. That was from an article that was also using the Framingham Heart Study to prop up the notion that saturated fats were good for you. That article was written on behalf of the Atkins diet and I included the whole quote for context.

        What I forgot to include was that Dr. Castelli directed the Framingham Heart Study for over 26 years and is currently the Director of the Framingham Cardiovascular Center. So he’s fairly well versed in the results of that study.

        You can find information on what fats you should be eating from Harvard itself:

        Here are the World Health Organization dietary guidelines (pdf––page 56 ):

        * Total fat – 15 to 30%
        o Saturated fatty acids – <10%
        o Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) – 6 to 10%
        + Omega-6 Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) – 5 to 8%
        + Omega-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) – 1 to 2%
        o Trans fatty acids – <1%
        o Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) – By difference
        * Total carbohydrate – 55 to 75%
        o Free sugars – <10%
        * Protein – 10 to 15%
        * Cholesterol – <300 mg per day
        * Sodium chloride (sodium) – <5 g per day
        * Fruits and vegetables – 5400 g per day
        * Total dietary fibre – From foods
        * Non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) – From foods

        They suggest getting most of your calories from plant-based sources.

        The bottom line is that you should avoid trans fats like the plague they are (just as you indicated), you should avoid saturated fats as much as you can, and you should actively seek out omega 3 fats since it is much easier to get omega 6 fats.

        1. And, sorry, I had some kind of error in my copy and paste, the Fruits and vegetables should be ≥ 400g (almost 1 lb) per day (not 5400g — 12 lbs!).

        2. Mike,
          I can’t tell you how important it is to me to be challenged. I really believe that it is dangerous for me to just go with something without thoroughly researching it, and it would be even worse for me to spread false information…so I’m glad you’re here!

          That being said, there are a few specific reasons I respect Dr. Mary Enig, the co-author of Nourishing Traditions and author of Eat Fat, Lose Fat:
          1. She was warning about the dangers of trans fat in the 1970s before almost anyone else was. This shows me a depth of reason and a healthy skepticism of “the new thing”, much like a quality I greatly admire in my own mother.
          2. I still like the idea of going with what has worked for 1000s of years as opposed to a few decades. Omega-6 fats being a mainstay in the human diet is a relatively new phenomenon. Therefore I am skeptical.

          I haven’t really seen anyone comment on the increase in heart disease in the 20th century other than the traditional foods crowd with an answer (research-based) that makes SENSE to me. As a faithful person, I have to trust that God left us with good foods to eat, and while plant sources are great, animal sources were given to us as well. That’s my background and the lens through which I’m going to view what I read.

          A few comments on your sources:
          The WHO guidelines are pretty typical. I don’t think people thrive on 15% fat in their diets, from what I read. That sounds downright dangerous. Similarly, a diet of 75% carbs would be likely to pack on the pounds. I don’t think Dr. Atkins had everything right, but I do think that if people were willing to accept what he said (and obviously MANY were and are), they ought to be willing to at least be open to this information, since it’s using similar information but is more balanced. I think. !!

          The Harvard article you shared is also pretty typical, although it does point out that dietary cholesterol is NOT as important to consider for your health as blood cholesterol, which is not impacted by the cholesterol you eat. On the sidebar, the article lists “5 Quick Tips for Choosing Healthy Fats”. I’d like to reply!
          1. “Use liquid oils for cooking and baking.” I agree that olive oil is great, but canola oil is under fire (more on that in two weeks). I still firmly believe that butter and coconut oil have their place in our (healthy) diets.
          2. “Ditch the trans fat.” Phew! Yes, of course! Thank you, Harvard!
          3. “Switch from butter to soft tub margarine.” Obviously by the Monday Mission this week, I disagree. I don’t think you can make liquid oils into solids without doing something dangerous to them. “Soft tub margarines” are an invention, not a gift of creation. How cool is it that butter comes out of cream just by shaking it? God is soooo creative!
          4. “Eat one good source of omega-3s per day.” Amen to that!
          5. “Go lean on meat and milk.” While I’m not munching on chicken skin – except for one time when I made cracklin’s – I have a pretty big fear of low-fat dairy, for some very good reasons. Historical and scientific evidence abounds about the drawbacks of taking the fat out of milk (and what is added to compensate for the lack of flavor/texture). I’ll be hitting on this later this week, in fact.

          Mike, I hope you’ll stick around to challenge my research and share the alternative side of the coin. I think it’s really important for my readers (and me, too!) to be presented with ALL the facts, and they can make their own decision without just trusting li’l ol’ me, a mom in Michigan who is muddling through nutrition by the skin of my teeth.

          I wonder if I got a whole pound of fruits and veggies in me today. That could get expensive, and a lot of chewing, depending on the vegetable (greens, for example)! I’ll eat a lot of apples this season…they’re heavy. 🙂

          Thanks again for the good info – Katie

          1. You argued that the WHO guidelines were typical and picked the 15% fat and 75% carbohydrates numbers. Why? Why not say the WHO guidelines were atypical and use the 30% fat and 55% carbohydrate numbers to illustrate that? The fact is they use a broad range in those numbers for a reason. Your diet should contain a wide variety and a typical day or week is healthy if you fall within those numbers. They’re not suggesting that you eat 15% (or 30%) of your calories from fat on a regular basis.

            Dr. Enig’s assertions are interesting but some are counter to the results of the largest nutritional studies that have ever been conducted. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy her assertion that the studies that clearly show the dangers of saturated fats were influenced by the margarine lobby (as she argues here: If anything is influenced by powerful lobbies it is the idea that saturated fats are good for you. (You can thank the beef and corn lobbies for that!)

            I am not a faithful person. In fact, I’m an atheist (which doesn’t matter to this conversation but there it is). My beliefs are centered around what the studies have shown to be true and how early humans likely ate. We were plant eaters almost exclusively until we learned to cook. Once we were able to cook, we were able to get a wider variety of food and could then start getting some of our food from meat. Our early diet was probably almost entirely foraging for plant food and then occasionally gorging ourselves on the outcome of a good hunt.

            The research has shown this is a likely scenario. Our bodies need the things we find in plants but are built to be able to store the energy we find in meat. But consumption of too much meat (animal protein in excess of 10% of our total calories) has been shown to increase our chances of getting diseases of affluence (heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases) markedly. Frankly, it’s not unreasonable to me to be vegetarian exclusively except for special occasions where you can eat a lot of whatever you want (as long as those special occasions are the rare exception and not the rule).

            Speaking of which, your 80/20 rule is misguided, it should be a 90/10 rule (as in 90% of your calories from a wide variety of plants and 10% from whatever you want).

            I’ll let Harvard speak for itself, my point was that a Harvard study from 2001 is moot if they don’t currently recommend you follow the results of that study.

            About the pound of plants… If you do that, yes it could be expensive (Michael Pollan argues we spend too little on food remember) and it will take a while to eat (Pollan also argues that we eat too quickly), but you will see the biggest boost in your energy and overall health if you do. And, no, eating a bunch of apples just to get yourself up to 1lb is counter-productive. Try this, eat 1/2 lb raw and 1/2 lb cooked plants. Make most of your calories come from dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc). The majority of the rest should be from other greens (broccoli, asparagus, etc). The remainder should be other veggies and fruits, grains, nuts and seeds.

            If you are interested in having all the information, do take a look at a book called The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.

    2. A number of years ago I went on a diet that was low in fat in general, but particularly in saturated fat. I lost weight, I lowered my overall cholesterol, but you know what went down the most, it wasn’t the bad stuff, it was the good cholesterol that took the biggest dive. I had been in the top 3% of people as far as good cholesterol was concerned and the drop put me in like the top 15% or so. Still not bad, but not as good as it had been. I went off the diet, started eating butter, drinking whole milk, etc. My weight is back up, but so is my good cholesterol. It’s so good that they don’t even look at my total numbers because the good is so good that it totally outweighs the bad, even by conventional medical thinking. When the PA looked at my numbers she said that I must eat really well to have those kinds of numbers. I laughed and said she’d be shocked at the amount of butter I eat in a week (our family of 3 adults in the house routinely goes through 2 lbs of butter a week). My bone density is better since I am back on the saturated fat, my hair is stronger as well.

      I don’t know that it works for everybody, but I do know what I’ve seen with me. On the low fat diet my bone density was dropping, my hair was a mess, and my good cholesterol dropped. I can look at the actual numbers and see the difference.

  33. Really interesting. In Canada, they’ve been going back and forth about eggs: sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad. I personally do like you, I try to eat as less processed food as possible and I bake my own cookies and sweets. I really like butter and I don’t think eating butter in reasonable quantities (just like everything else) is bad.
    .-= kanmuri´s last blog ..A Korean Tale, Part 2 =-.

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