The Saturated Fat Scam – Part 1

Today we’re going to talk about this dude. This dude who everyone hates. They call him names, they’ve kicked him out of most places and they’ve even forcefully removed him from most things. But I have to confess – I hated him too. I thought he meant nothing but harm and I tried staying as far away from him as I possibly could!

Then I remembered I have this rule about hating or loving anyone.

You hate/love someone only if you know the person too well or too little.

So I stuck this dude into this rule and realized that I didn’t know jack about him! All I knew about him was what people told me about him and obviously I judged him based on what I heard. So I decided to get to know him completely and then make a decision on whether to hate him, love him and just remain indifferent towards him.

Say hello to Saturated Fat

So who is this guy?

Saturated fat is fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the individual carbonatoms of the fatty acid chain. That is, the chain of carbon atoms is fully “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. There are many kinds of naturally occurring saturated fatty acids, which mainly differ in number of carbon atoms, from 3 carbons (propionic acid) to 36 (hexatriacontanoic acid).

At first glance, he sounds pretty benign to me. So I read more and every single article I read on mainstream media said…

  • Saturated fat consumption causes atherosclerosis.
  • Artery clogging saturated fats.
  • Saturated fat is a precursor for cholesterol and hence increases lipid cholesterol.
  • Saturated fat needs to be replaced with healthy whole grains.
  • Saturated fat needs to be replaced with heart healthy vegetable oils.
Ummm… fair enough. Assuming all the studies done were legit, this is a no brainer. This guy is evil indeed! So dump the saturated fat and live long and healthy! Boom! Thankfully we have the government and health departments to look up to and the benevolent selfless people that they are, they have figured all this out and have come up with dietary recommendations that will save us from the dreaded heart disease! They recommend that we…
  • get most of our calories from whole grains,
  • use heart healthy vegetable oils instead of the deadly and gross saturated fat filled butter and coconut oil,
  • eat 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day,
  • avoid full fat dairy and enjoy low fat or, even better, non fat dairy
While I breathed out in relief, I realized that all foods recommended are foods that can only be produced in a factory setting. Vegetable oils can be produced only by extensive processing and dairy, in it’s natural form, contains saturated fat which needs to be artificially removed to produce skim milk. So, if suddenly all these factories were shut down, we will be left with the most unhealthy foods ever! So the government is telling me that I need to eat what these companies provide me with, else I’m going to have a heart attack. Wow! Thank God for Monsanto!

But… there is always a but…

But when I removed my I’m-an-idiot glasses and started applying some common sense, something didn’t quite fit right. Let me explain.

  • Saturated fat is found abundantly in real foods like meat, dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, butter, ghee), coconuts and macadamia nuts.
  • Our paleolithic ancestors and all traditional cultures (who exhibited excellent health by the way) thrived on meat, dairy and coconuts (based on location).
  • My own vegetarian south Indian ancestors consumed copious amounts of whole milk and ghee and lived long healthy lives, even though their activity levels weren’t abnormally high and healthcare was non-existant.
So putting two and two together…

  • Saturated fats are found pretty much only in real foods and the so-called heart healthy vegetable oils, that the government recommends, is not to be found in any natural sources and can only be produced by artificial processes.
  • Humans who lived before industrialization lived super healthy lives eating naturally occurring (saturated) fats.
  • Our great grand parents who chowed down saturated fat in pretty much every single meal lived longer than our grand parents did and were much healthier than our parents are now.
  • In the last 100 years, the consumption of saturated fat has reduced drastically and the consumption of vegetable oils increased by 400%, but the incidence of heart diseases has increased multifold.

Unless I’m retarded, it seems pretty obvious that people who ate real food that is rich in saturated fat lived healthy lives and people who adhered to the government’s recommendations and substituted carbs and/or vegetable oils for saturated fats are living disease ridden sad lives filled with diabetes, obesity, arthritis, celiac, hypertension etc etc etc!

Hmmmm…!

What do you think? Saturated fat… good? bad? ugly? OK in small amounts? OK in large amounts? Share your comments and in the next post I’ll talk about saturated fats in detail – what they really are, what functions they have in the human body, can they be safely consumed, how much is too much… and more!Peace out!

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27 responses to “The Saturated Fat Scam – Part 1

  1. Smita May 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    ‘Thank God for Monsanto!’ — couldnt have said it better. Ha! All this low fat junk that I have been eating for these past several years has made me gain more and more weight. I think if weight loss is the goal then SaFa in small amounts should be good.

    • RG May 2, 2011 at 10:03 am

      “All this low fat junk that I have been eating for these past several years has made me gain more and more weight.” – This!

  2. Hynek May 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    There is no such thing as too much saturated fat…you get hopelessly full and satiated before you reach any harmful dose. 😉

    • RG May 2, 2011 at 10:05 am

      Not too sure about that… personally, I can down 3 cans of coconut milk everyday! 😉

  3. Sam May 2, 2011 at 12:29 am

    This post (and the sequel) should be made into a ‘must read’ lesson in every school in India – we are just destroying our future population with pseudo science.
    Keep up the good work Raj.

  4. Rahul May 2, 2011 at 1:22 am

    You say our ancestors lived longer lives but hasn’t life expectancy gone up over the last few centuries/decades ? Most of the kings of medieval times (1400 – 1800) lived short lives ~40 yrs on average. I take Kings as examples because there is not a lot of information about the common man at that time. Besides you can be sure the Kings would have had a diet rich in meat, dairy etc. You could say that there have been advances in medical science now but we are assuming that with the right diet the requirement for medical interference would be minimal……I think it is unfair to say that saturated fats are being demonized because they can be easily produced at home. Coconut oil is rich in saturated fats and can only be produced in factories/industry settings. Still, it features prominently in the to-avoid list of government-authorized-recommendations. Besides, most people don’t make butter and ghee also at home these days. They just buy it (industry made)…. I figure, I am one of the few sceptics here :)…… I came across this article today:

    The author seems to agree that low carbs & moderate fat is good. But recommends mono/poly unsaturated fats over saturated fats.

    • RG May 2, 2011 at 10:15 am

      Rahul,
      Life expectancy has gone up recently due to improvements in healthcare. Honestly quality of life is down in the dumps. If you’re not buying this – just look around. It’s common to be 45 and diabetic with hypertension. Ridiculous.

      I’d have to correct you here – the right diet saves you from chronic diseases… but doesn’t quite protect you from infectious diseases. The thing is, back in the day, people died of pretty much all infectious diseases – everything from malaria to jaundice to the common cold. Also, child mortality was high. All this contributes to the low life expectancy.

      I’m not saying SaFas are demonized because they can be made at home. There is a HUGE back story to this. Ever heard of Ancel Keys? 7 countries study? Look it up. It was the 7 countries study that gave birth to the lipid hypothesis and diet-heart hypothesis. Now look up Ancel Keys Scam. The whole 7 countries study was BS. I’ll explain this in more detail in part 2.

      About kings – do you have any reference that they lived ~ 40 yrs? And anything legit that talks about their diets? I’d be curious.

      Always better to be a skeptic… than a blind follower. So more power to you! Part 2 will answer all your questions (and make you ask more questions 😉 )

      • Rahul May 2, 2011 at 11:05 am

        The reference to kings was from school history lessons. I remember wondering during history class why these guys died so early (even the ones that weren’t killed in battle). I don’t want to sit and Google up data, so if I was wrong – apologies on that :)………… Will look up on Ancel Keys….. Another question : You say that dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol are not very related but what about the effect of dietary fat on conditions like fatty liver ? Apart from blood cholesterol levels, has there been comprehensive research on all the other conditions that have been associated with high saturated fat intake ?

      • RG May 2, 2011 at 3:34 pm

        A high fat diet actually cures fatty liver! Thats a whole different post. I’ll have you read this – http://www.westonaprice.org/health-issues/2162-nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease.

  5. Maureen May 2, 2011 at 5:25 am

    I am curious to find out the real deal about saturated fat. While the fact that saturated fat comes from natural sources appeals to me, one could make the argument that many naturally occurring things are definitely not beneficial (e.g., poisonous plants, berries). In addition, there is a biologically plausible explanation for why saturated fat is harmful (increases LDL without a parallel increase in HDL, which promotes CVD). It’s often hard to make a real conclusion due to various issues in nutrition research, and drawing conclusions from ecological studies is even more problematic. Unfortunately, we can’t make strong conclusions from looking at amount of saturated fat eaten by our ancestors compared to now because there are very likely other factors that might explain the relationship (unrefined vs. refined carbs, quantity/quality of physical activity, stress levels, rates of sleep deprivation, etc.).

    • RG May 2, 2011 at 10:23 am

      Maureen –
      Not everything natural is good for us. Plutonium for example will kill us. So obviously Im not dumb enough to believe or ask readers to eat anything and everything that natural. The thing is, saturated fats are present in all animals and is a major part of our bodies. FYI – when you lose weight, what do you think is happening? Your body feeds on stored fat which is saturated fat. So whether u eat spinach or lard, if you are losing weight, your body is feeding on SaFas. Will explain more in part 2.

      The ‘biological plausible explanation’ that you state is false in 2 ways.
      1. SaFas increase LDL yes, but its not as simple as that. SaFas increase Pattern A LDL (which are large buoyant and non-atherogenic) and decreases Pattern B LDL (which are small tiny and deadly). Consumption of excess carbs increases TriGs and Pattern B LDL.
      2. High LDL does not promote CVD. Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol have no significance to CVD and thats been proved enough number of times. It is the ratios that we are concerned about. TriG/HDL ratio is the best indicator of CVD. So, as long as your LDL is Pattern A, your TriG is below 100 and your HDL is 50 or above, you’re as healthy as you can be.

      Also note that cholesterol is of extreme importance to the body and very low levels of cholesterol arent desirable for well being.

      “It’s often hard to make a real conclusion due to various issues in nutrition research, and drawing conclusions from ecological studies is even more problematic” – Couldnt agree more! Thats why there is a part 2.

  6. GSL May 2, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I am a skeptic here too…Our ancestors may have eaten all this ghee/coconut oil..they did also eat grains and life expectancy has increased in spite of traffic,board meetings and the constant struggles of today’s world that is a lot diff than whatever times.Simple life than gluttony and a totally diff cortisol level ! Does the level of cortisol change the way you process fat ?? Research/Anecdotal differences exist also.

    I do see your point from “real” food to processed food,which has been the best part of most of your articles and think that Frankenstein fat is really “Trans-fat”. Interesting articles…keep writing !!

    • RG May 2, 2011 at 10:29 am

      Another skeptic! Love it!

      Sure our ancestors ate grains… but how were the grains prepared? Dosa, for example, contained rice and lentils (which were pre-soaked) and then ground on a stone mill and then let to ferment for 2-3 days before it was prepared with ghee and eaten with coconut chutney! What forms the major part of the meal here? Fat! And fat from what? Ghee and coconut! So… saturated fat! My point is – though grains were consumed…
      1. they were well prepared to reduce or eliminate anti-nutrient content
      2. the total calories from grains were not as much as today
      3. saturated fat was consumed along with grains
      4. activity levels were high enough to use up all the energy provided by grains

      Transfat is the worst and I think (thankfully) everyone realizes that now. It still makes its way into processed goods under ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ though.

      Part 2 is going to be BIG!

      • GSL May 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm

        Thanks..what about Cortisol/fat metabolism…any thoughts?

      • RG May 2, 2011 at 3:38 pm

        Stress = more cortisol = more fat storage and blunted fat metabolism. So… yes… stress messes things up big big time! You can eat super duper healthy and still get fat just due to stress (this is why you should stay away from frequent crazy beatdowns in the name of exercise a.k.a metcons) . And you can get away with eating some crappy food when you’re perfectly stress free.

  7. JK May 2, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Ummm..interesting. Will wait for the part 2. However , anything and everything is good only in moderation. How about gulping tablespoonfuls full of ghee in the name of “real food and saturated fat”. I hate extreme diets that shun a particular type of food while talks about another variety like its THE BEST.

    • RG May 2, 2011 at 10:32 am

      You know I wouldnt recommend anything extreme… but I guess that depends on each person’s definition of extreme! But yes, wait for part 2… it should answer most, if not all, questions.

  8. JK May 2, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Question : What kind of oil do you use for cooking. If ditched my canola oil (gasp) right now , what else could I use for cooking like saute’ing etc?

    • RG May 2, 2011 at 10:32 am

      butter, ghee, coconut oil for cooking. olive oil for salad topping and other uncooked recipes.

  9. Mamatha May 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I agree with Hynek here. SaFa’s are not toxic at higher doses unlike carbs, protein and micronutrients.

    • RG May 2, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      True dat. Definitely not toxic in any quantity.

      But unfortunately (or fortunately?), there are no determined limits for SaFa intake. The < 10% is plain BS.

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  11. Sangeetha May 3, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Hi am new to your website,this article is a eyeopener to me.Waiting for the second part 🙂

  12. Mike from Indiana May 3, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Short, sweet, and full of great information. Which is good, because people tend to skim over long articles and actually read shorter ones, which equates to better comprehension. Thanks for taking the time to educate us!

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