Howevera€¦ many recent studies suggest that the true picture is more complicated than that. This article takes a detailed look at saturated fat and whether it is good or bad for your health. Each fat molecule is made of one glycerol molecule and three fatty acidsa€¦ which can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. What this "saturation" stuff has to do with, is the number of double bonds in the molecule. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds, monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bond and polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more double bonds. Foods that are high in saturated fat include fatty meats, lard, full-fat dairy products like butter and cream, coconuts, coconut oil, palm oil and dark chocolate. Even foods like beef also contain a significant amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fats (1). Fats that are mostly saturated (like butter) tend to be solid at room temperature, while fats that are mostly unsaturated (like olive oil) are liquid at room temperature. Bottom Line: Saturated "fats" are fats that contain a high proportion of saturated fatty acids, which contain no double bonds. Back in the 20th century, there was a major epidemic of heart disease running rampant in America. It used to be a rare disease, but very quickly it skyrocketed and became the number one cause of deatha€¦ which it still is (2). Researchers learned that eating saturated fat seemed to increase levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
This was an important finding at the time, because they also knew that having high cholesterol was linked to an increased risk of heart disease. If saturated fat raises cholesterol (A causes B) and cholesterol causes heart disease (B causes C), then this must mean that saturated fat causes heart disease (A causes C). This hypothesis (called the "diet-heart hypothesis") was based on assumptions, observational data and animal studies (3). The diet-heart hypothesis then turned into public policy in 1977, before it was ever proven to be true (4). Even though we now have plenty of experimental data in humans showing these initial assumptions to be wrong, people are still being told to avoid saturated fat in order to reduce heart disease risk.
Bottom Line: Saturated fats have been assumed to cause heart disease by raising cholesterol in the blood. HDL and LDL, the "good" and "bad" cholesterols, aren't actually cholesterola€¦ they are proteins that carry cholesterol around, known as lipoproteins. At first, scientists only measured "Total" cholesterol, which includes cholesterol within both LDL and HDL.
Because saturated fat raised LDL levels, it seemed logical to assume that this would increase the risk of heart disease. Small, dense LDL: These are small lipoproteins that can penetrate the arterial wall easily, which drives heart disease.
Large LDL: These lipoproteins are large and fluffy and don't easily penetrate the arteries. The small, dense particles are also much more susceptible to becoming oxidized, which is a crucial step in the heart disease process (17, 18, 19). People with mostly small LDL particles have three times greater risk of heart disease, compared to those with mostly large LDL particles (20).
Soa€¦ if we want to reduce our risk of heart disease, we want to have mostly large LDL particles and as little of the small ones as possible. Here's an interesting bit of information that is often ignored by "mainstream" nutritionistsa€¦ eating saturated fat changes the LDL particles from small, dense to Large (21, 22, 23). What this implies is that even though saturated fat can mildly raise LDL, they are changing the LDL to a benign subtype that is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
Now scientists have realized that it's not just about the LDL concentration or the size of the particles, but the number of LDL particles (called LDL-p) floating in their bloodstreams.
Low-carb diets, which tend to be high in saturated fat, can lower LDL-p, while low-fat diets can have an adverse effect and raise LDL-p (28, 29, 30, 31). Bottom Line: Saturated fats raise HDL (the "good") cholesterol and change LDL from small, dense (bad) to Large LDL, which is mostly benign. The supposedly harmful effects of saturated fat are the cornerstone of modern dietary guidelines. Howevera€¦ despite decades of research and billions of dollars spent, scientists still haven't been able to demonstrate a clear link. Several recent review studies that combined data from multiple other studies, found that there really is no link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. This includes a review of 21 studies with a total of 347,747 participants, published in 2010. Another review published in 2014 looked at data from 76 studies (both observational studies and controlled trials) with a total of 643,226 participants. We also have a systematic review from the Cochrane collaboration, which combines data from numerous randomized controlled trials. According to their review, published in 2011, reducing saturated fat has no effect on death or death from heart disease (34). However, they found that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats reduced the risk of cardiac events (but not death) by 14%. This does not imply that saturated fats are "bad," just that certain types of unsaturated fats (mostly Omega-3s) are protective, while saturated fats are neutral. Soa€¦ the biggest and best studies on saturated fat and heart disease show that there is no direct link. Unfortunately, the governments and "mainstream" health organizations seem reluctant to change their minds and continue to promote the old low-fat dogma. Bottom Line: The link between saturated fat and heart disease has been studied intensely for decades, but the biggest and best studies show that there is no statistically significant association. This is the diet recommended by the USDA and mainstream health organizations all over the world. This diet also recommends increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grainsa€¦ along with reduced consumption of sugar. Other massive studies have confirmed thisa€¦ the low-fat diet provides no benefit for heart disease or the risk of death (39, 40). Several studies that replaced saturated fat with polyunsaturated vegetable oils showed that more people in the vegetable oil groups ended up dying (41, 42). Of course, this graph alone doesn't prove anything (correlation does not equal causation), but it does make sense that replacing traditional foods like butter and meat with processed low-fat foods high in sugar had something to do with it.
It's also interesting when looking at the literature, that in almost every single study comparing the "expert approved" low-fat diet to other diets (including paleo, vegan, low-carb and Mediterranean), it loses (44, 45, 46, 47). Bottom Line: Studies on the low-fat diet do not show a reduced risk of heart disease or death and some studies show that replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils increases the risk. The studies clearly show that, on average, saturated fat does not raise the risk of heart disease.
Perhaps most individuals see no effecta€¦ while others experience decreased risk and yet others experience an increased risk.
That being said, there are definitely some people who may want to minimize saturated fat in the diet. This includes individuals with a genetic disorder called Familial Hypercholesterolemia, as well as people who have a gene variant called ApoE4 (48).


With time, the science of genetics will most surely discover more ways in which diet affects our individual risk for disease. Bottom Line: Some people may want to minimize saturated fat intake, including people with Familial Hypercholesterolemia or a gene called ApoE4. For this reason, coconut oil, lard and butter are all excellent choices for cooking, especially for high-heat cooking methods like frying.
Foods that are naturally high in saturated fat also tend to be healthy and nutritious, as long as you're eating quality unprocessed foods. Bottom Line: Saturated fats are excellent cooking fats and foods that are high in saturated fat tend to be both healthy and nutritious.
The evidence points to saturated and monounsaturated fats being perfectly safe and maybe even downright healthy. We need to get these two types of fatty acids in a certain balance, but most people are eating way too many Omega-6 fatty acids these days (51). It is a good idea to eat plenty of Omega-3s (such as from fatty fish), but most people would do best by reducing their Omega-6 consumption (52). The best way to do that is to avoid seed- and vegetable oils like soybean and corn oils, as well as the processed foods that contain them. Trans fats are made by exposing polyunsaturated vegetable oils to a chemical process that involves high heat, hydrogen gas and a metal catalyst. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, belly fat accumulation and drastically raise the risk of heart disease (53, 54, 55, 56). So eat your saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and Omega-3sa€¦ but avoid trans fats and processed vegetable oils like the plague. Bottom Line: The truly harmful fats are artificial trans fats and processed vegetable oils high in Omega-6 fatty acids.
The health authorities have spent an immense amount of resources studying the link between saturated fat and heart disease. Despite thousands of scientists, decades of work and billions of dollars spent, this hypothesis still hasn't been supported by any good evidence. The saturated fat myth wasn't proven in the past, isn't proven today and never will be provena€¦ because it's just flat out wrong.
Humans and pre-humans have been eating saturated fat for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of years, but the heart disease epidemic started a hundred years ago. The sources vary on the exact figures, but it is very clear that we are consuming way more sugar than our bodies are equipped to handle (4). Added sugar is believed to be one of the main drivers of diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer (7, 8, 9, 10).
There are many complicated reasons for this, including increased processed food and sugar consumption, increased food availability, more aggressive marketing towards children, etc (16). These oils are very high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to inflammation and various problems when consumed in excess (17, 18). Therefore, the misguided advice to avoid saturated fat and choose vegetable oils instead may have actually fueled the heart disease epidemic. Grass-fed butter actually contains nutrients that are protective against heart disease (like Vitamin K2), therefore the advice to replace heart-healthy butter with trans-fat laden margarine may have done a lot of damage (24).
Journal of trace elements in medicine and biologyWheat is a major part of the Western diet.
Modern dwarf wheat was introduced around the year 1960, which contains 19-28% less of important minerals like Magnesium, Iron, Zinc and Copper.
Whereas wheat may have been relatively healthy back in the day, the same is not true of modern dwarf wheat.
For some reason, the health authorities have recommended that we cut back on eggs, even though there is no evidence that they contribute to heart disease (30).
This has contributed to a deficiency in important nutrients like Choline, which about 90% of Americans aren't getting enough of (31).
Keep in mind that even though it looks like people are still eating most of their foods "at home&" a€” this does not take into account the fact that most people are also eating processed, pre-packaged foods at home. Studies show that this fatty acid actually gets incorporated into our cell membranes and body fat stores. In other words, the increased consumption of processed vegetable oils has lead to actual harmful structural changes in our bodies.
National Center for Health StatisticsThe first dietary guidelines for Americans were published in the year 1977, almost at the exact same time the obesity epidemic started. The anti-fat message essentially put the blame on saturated fat and cholesterol (harmless), while giving sugar and refined carbs (very unhealthy) a free pass. Since the guidelines were published, many massive studies have been conducted on the low-fat diet. For some very strange reason, we are still being advised to follow this type of diet, despite the studies showing it to be completely ineffective.
A while ago I wrote an article about the time I weighed, measured and tracked my food for 3 months.
Now before I get into the nitty gritty of this stuff it is important that I say that we are all different.
The problem is that I see a lot of overweight people, training hard to lose weight on a diet which is too low in carbs (and calories!).
I also see a lot of “normal weight” women who find that they cannot get any leaner even with more training and a low-ish carb diet. Something I have written about before, is that if you tell someone to increase their carbs they start to ask many questions?
However, when we have a structure, the client follows the structure, we adjust the structure depending on the client’s feedback, we get a positive result.
The government guidelines for dietary fat intake is between 30% and 35% and a high fat diet would be something greater than this. What I was doing was, making muscle, recovering from training, leaning out and getting stronger. My diet this day looked something like this: about 150g protein, 50g fat, 260g carbohydrate and 2100 calories. We know there are many factors involved in getting someone lean and strong; sleep, stress management, gut health to name a few. What we did was keep my calories roughly the same but drop calories from fat, in favour of calories from carbohydrate. Carbohydrates also have the potential to increase energy expenditure through thermogenesis (heat production).
I must admit that some days I feel like I am constantly eating bowls of porridge or sweet potato to make sure I get my calories in. The good news is I still enjoy a higher fat diet on my rest days, when I typically eat low carb to reset insulin sensitivity.
But the point is, that many people may think that high fat low carb paleo is the answer to everything. Most of the people I work report improvements in energy, sleep, performance and body composition with structured changes to their diet.
Later they learned that while LDL was linked to increased risk, HDL was linked to reduced risk (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).
Although they increase LDL in the short-term, plenty of long-term observational studies find no link between saturated fat consumption and LDL levels (24, 25, 26). For example, palmitic acid (16 carbons) may raise LDL, while stearic acid (18 carbons) does not (27).


Their conclusion: there is absolutely no association between saturated fat and heart disease (32). It was a randomized controlled trial with 46,835 women, who were instructed to eat a low-fat diet. Everywhere modern processed foods go, chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease soon follow. Controlled human studies show that large amounts of sugar can lead to severe metabolic problems, including insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides a€” to name a few (5, 6). The studies show that the brain doesn't "register" liquid sugar calories the in the same way as calories from solid foods, which dramatically increases total calorie intake (12, 13). They're actually getting most of it from processed foods, which often have soybean oil added to them because it is cheap. There is also evidence that modern wheat is much more harmful to celiac patients and people with gluten sensitivity, compared to older breeds like Einkorn wheat (26,27, 28). Since the year 1950, we have decreased our consumption of this highly nutritious food from 375 to 250 eggs per year, a decrease of 33%. Stephan GuyenetThis graph shows how consumption of fast foods has increased in the past few decades. Stephan GuyenetMost of the Omega-6 fats that people are eating is a fatty acid called linoleic acid. These fats are prone to oxidation, which damages molecules (like DNA) in the body and may be increasing our risk of cancer (32, 33, 34, 35, 36). Of course, this doesn't prove anything (correlation does not equal causation), but it makes sense that this could be more than just a mere coincidence.
It is no better at preventing heart disease, obesity or cancer than the standard Western diet, which is as unhealthy as a diet can get (37, 38, 39, 40).
It is not something that is for everyone but it appeals to me and my personality type for a few reasons. If you know what you are doing with your diet, you can then start to see how calculated changes can affect you.
You may be thinking “Hang on, I thought this blog was going to be about fats!?” Don’t worry, it is.
They are CrossFitters, triathletes, trail runners or just like to smash it up in the gym 5 or 6 days a week. They are passionate about the way their bodies can move and what they can do with this amazing gift of movement.
Some people are better at endurance sports and some people are better at speed and power sports (weightlifting and sprints). If we just add extra carbs into someone’s diet without adjusting fat or protein calories we potentially create a calorie excess and the person will gain weight.
The fact that carbohydrate can be a useful tool to manage cortisol levels and also can kick start thyroid hormones back into balance and raise serotonin which can drops pre-menstrually for some women. I am at the point where further gains come at the cost of enjoyment (I do love food) and my social life (because it does revolve around food). This enables my energy balance to be at an appropriate level to get lean, but my carbohydrates to be at an appropriate level to recover and perform. I actually dropped 1kg in the first 4 days of this program which was interesting as I was expecting to gain at least some water weight from topped up glycogen stores. The foods I love the most are “fatty foods”, butter, cream and dark chocolate and fatty cuts of meat.
On these days I do eat 42% fat which is about 70g, but I must admit it doesn’t go as far as the days when I used to probably eat about 130g-150g of fats per day. This is something that works for me because I can train hard enough and my insulin sensitivity is good enough to handle it.
Of course, there are many things that can contribute to these health problems, but changes in the diet are the most important factor.
One study found that in children, each daily serving of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity (14)..
Many studies have shown that these fats and oils actually increase the risk of heart disease, even if they aren't hydrogenated (19, 20, 21). The best way to avoid soybean oil (and other nasty ingredients) is to avoid processed foods. It was never made available to the general public because I wasn’t ready to divulge some of the stuff I was doing. They may like shopping at farmers markets, the idea of making their own sauerkraut is exciting and they can’t wait to get down to their local butcher and get some bones for their bone broth. Some people do better with a bit more fat in their diet and some people do better with more carbs. I am sure you will agree at 16 stone it was not because she was at her goal weight and being unrealistic.
This is quite a lot of carbs for someone who has completely excluded starches from their diet. So we need to know how many calories that person is going to eat each day and how many of these are going to be proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
What I do, is hold the hands of these clients and teach them what the right amount of carbohydrate is for them at that point in time and rebuild their confidence so they are no longer sufferers of the dreaded carb phobia. They restrict carbs all week to comply with their high fat low carb diet and then binge intermittently on sugar). Just as my clients pass over responsibility of program development to me and invest in me for accountability, I do the same for myself with someone else. However, when I used to eat a diet when I enjoyed these most days at the sacrifice of carb calories, my performance and body composition wasn’t as good. I have noticed that some clients who I suspect may have SIBO or yeast issues do not positively respond and increased carbohydrate consumption would result in a flare in GI symptoms. 2012.Although sources vary on the exact figures, it is clear that calorie intake has increased dramatically in the past few decades (15). 2012.When health professionals started blaming saturated fat for heart disease, people abandoned traditional fats like butter, lard and coconut oil in favor of processed vegetable oils. You may even want to go and read my previous blog, just make sure you are fully clued up on the background.
They don’t argue with me about how many eggs they should eat each week or look at me funny because I say it’s okay to have cream in their coffee. We know that overweight individuals are more likely to be insulin resistant and may do better on a lower carb diet and leaner individuals may have better insulin sensitivity.
Training and nutrition is all about priorities and therefore I would recommend that underlying health issues are dealt alongside a qualified practitioner. Although it could be debated, many assume that you need to restrict by 500 calories to lose weight, so what happens if you add carb calories back in? I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but that is just where I am at right now (I have put a lot of work in to get here).



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