What if you didn’t have to worry about fat? If you wanted that steak for dinner, no guilt. Those veggies covered in grass-fed butter – no problem. That full fat yogurt with berries on top for dessert, go for it.
You probably read that title and thought you were going to read a post about the dangers of saturated fat and how we should stay away from them at all costs. We all know about “artery clogging saturated fats” right? Quite the opposite. Contrary to what we have been told by almost all of the health organizations, saturated fat is not the enemy. Fat is not making you fat, carbs are. Now, there’s a new idea! Let me explain. (Note: I am not a health professional, but have done research on my own and have the personal experience to back it up.)
A little History Lesson
In the 1960’s a scientist named Ancel Keys published his famous Seven Countries Study. His hypothesis was that saturated fat led to heart disease. So, he studied seven countries and they all showed this conclusion, right? Well sort of. He actually studied 22 countries, but fifteen did not fit his original hypothesis so he threw them out! The graph below was his original data (taken from Mark’s Daily Apple). The red dots include three tribes well known for eating high amounts of saturated fat, but having low incidences of heart disease (the Masai, Inuit, and Tokelau).
If you took any kind of science class in college, you’ve heard about the “lipid hypothesis”. Keys is the father of the lipid hypothesis, which states that saturated fat increases cholestorol, which leads to clogged arteries and heart disease. I’m sure this makes sense to you only because you have heard it for as long as you can remember. However, a closer look at Ancel Keys’ study, notes a correlation (not definitive or conclusive) with increased saturated fat and heart disease. But, he threw out countries that eat a lot of saturated fat and have little heart disease or countries that eat little saturated fat and have high rates of heart disease. All in all, this was not a conclusive or even a good study. But, he got rewarded by getting on the cover of Time magazine and becoming extremely wealthy!
Meanwhile, a scientist named John Yudkin was doing similar studies on sugar and heart disease, but his study gained no traction so you haven’t heard of him.
What is Saturated Fat?
Saturated fat is shelf stable, resistant to heat damage, and essential to bodily functions. It makes up roughly half of our cell membrane structure and is a great source of energy. Saturated fat increases your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). However, there is no correlation of increase in heart disease with increase in cholesterol! Carbohydrate consumption increases triglyceride levels, not fat. Most of the studies done on this aren’t controlled studies, but observational ones meaning they ask people to fill out questionaires of what they ate in the past year, 5 years, 10 years. Who could remember that?
In the 1960s and 70s two different doctors working on two different studies decided to prescribe an all meat diet to their patients. This was before saturated fat and meat had all the negative publicity. I’m sure this study would be considered “unethical” by today’s standards. Dr. Blake Donaldson who practiced in Manhattan was trying to help his patients with severe allergies. Dr. Walter Voegtlin in Seattle was trying to figure out a better method of helping his patients with Crohn’s disease. Both of these doctors, independently of the other, found that when the saturated fat content of their patient’s diet increased, belly fat decreased! Not what they were originally looking for, but ground breaking nonetheless. They also found that increased saturated fat improved blood sugar and blood pressure, even in patients who had heart disease already!
7 reasons why you need saturated fat in your diet:
Below are reasons why adding things like fatty cuts of meat, chicken with the skin, bacon, eggs, butter, coconut oil, organic lard, and heavy cream should not be feared…
1. Improved cardiovascular risk factors
Saturated fat reduced lipoprotein(a) is what is associated with heart disease. There is no known medication that can reduce this actual artery clogging lipoprotein. Increased saturated fat has been shown to increase HDL (good cholesterol, you want this number to be high). And interestingly, in women who diet, those who eat more total fat lose the most weight! Now there’s a contradiction to the conventional wisdom that we are taught.
2. Stronger bones
Saturated fat is required for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bone.
3. Improved liver health
Saturated fat protects the liver from toxins (ie: alcohol, medications).
4. Healthy lungs
Lung surfactant, a substance which coats the lungs, is made up of 100% saturated fat. Many doctors believe that the increase in asthma in children may be due to saturated fat being cut from the diet.
5. Healthy brain
The brain is made of fat and cholesterol (mostly saturated fat).
6. Proper nerve signaling
Saturated fat is required for the nerves to function properly as messengers to the organs in the body.
7. Strong Immune system
Loss of sufficient saturated fat in the white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders. –fourhourworkweek
So there you have it. The truth for which conventional wisdom has been oblivious. You can have your steak and eat it too!