Despite the efforts of promoting low fat diets and “heart healthy” vegetables oils since the 1970s, heart disease and obesity is still at an all time high.
The idea that consuming saturated fat and cholesterol in our diet, raises the cholesterol in our blood, which leads to clogged arteries and heart disease, is only based off of bias studies from over 50 years ago.
What are saturated fats?
All fats are chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Saturated fats are fully “saturated” with hydrogen and only have single bonds which make them more flexible yet strong, making them less susceptible to oxidative stress and free radical damage.
*PUFAs on the other hand, have MULTIPLE double carbon bonds*
The picture below shows an example of a saturated fatty acid, and an unsaturated fatty acid with ONE double carbon bond– this would be considered a MUFA or Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acid.
The truth about Cholesterol
Guess what? It does not cause heart disease. We actually need it. 80% of the cholesterol in our body we actually make, and if we don’t consume enough dietary fat, our cholesterol levels actually increase! That’s how important it is to the body.
- required to build and maintain cell membranes
- converted in the liver to make bile
- precursor to vitamin D
- precursor to all steroid hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone, progesterone, estrogens, and testosterone
- is there to DECREASE inflammation
Why didn't we learn this?
The main study was by Ancel Keys in the 1950s that promoted the idea that saturated fats caused heart disease and raised blood cholesterol levels.
Data was omitted that would otherwise prove this theory wrong. However this opened the door for several marketing campaigns to promote “heart healthy” diets.
Several studies since have disproved this theory, one even showing that 50% of people who had heart attacks had LOW cholesterol.
What really causes heart disease ?
Just because Cholesterol is present in the harden arteries of heart disease patients does not mean it is the cause.
It is actually there to DECREASE inflammation.
Inflammation is what leads to heart disease.
An unhealthy body is going to have more inflammation, thus showing a higher cholesterol marker (even though it’s not the cause)
You don’t blame the firemen for the fire right?
New research shows insulin resistance is a precursor to heart disease.
This leads to inflammation, altering of lipid (fat) metabolism, contributes to plaque formation, and impairs regulation of nutrient metabolism in the heart.
Hypothyroidism is also related to high cholesterol (sign of inflammation).
Chronic stress is a precursor to both of these.
~fat makes you fat~
~saturated fat causes heart disease~
~dietary fat increases blood cholesterol~
1. We NEED fat in our diet, and we need the right kind.. The WRONG fats can lead to weight gain because of the effect on the metabolism. Think about my previous post about industrialized seed oils (PUFAs). These have only been introduced to our diet within the last century, and due to campaign lobbyist have been marketed as even “heart healthy”. Where are PUFAs hidden? Think anything that actually has a food label. Start there, and if you do buy packaged products— learn to read the ingredients lists.
2. A few studies (with the biggest culprit being the one from Ancel Keys) tried to show correlation between saturated fat consumption and high cholesterol— thus causing heart disease. These studies used omitted data, one even concluding years LATER showed that the hypothesis was wrong. High cholesterol also is not the CAUSE but more a symptom that something else is going on(ex. Hypothyroidism).
3. Our bodies make cholesterol, but we do need to consume some too. Eating too little will actually raise blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is there to protect us from inflammation. New research actually suggests LOW cholesterol is linked to increased cancer risk and mortality.
Now taking in all this information isn’t to persuade you to go out and eat as much saturated fat as possible, but more to raise awareness and not FEAR it. Most foods like raw dairy, butter, ghee, coconut oil, cacao, grass-fed beef, pastured eggs etc. are SO nutrient dense, and should be a staple. Because animal proteins contain these fats, already, most likely you don’t need to add MORE fat in.
Ghee, tallow, and coconut oil are great options to cook with.
Skipping out on fat altogether also means skipping out on fat soluble vitamins like Retinol (aka vitamin A needed to regulate copper and iron), Hormone D (aka vitamin D), anti-oxidant E (protects us from PUFA oxidation), and K (which directs calcium where to go in the body)
The moral of the story
- Don’t fear saturated fat- otherwise you will miss out on fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and healthy hormone production!
- A healthy heart is dependent on a healthy body
- Dietary cholesterol and saturated fat does not significantly affect blood cholesterol
- Inflammation drives heart disease
- Prioritize traditional whole REAL foods over processed fake foods
- Balance blood sugar to help manage stress and keep a healthy metabolism (thyroid)