Nutrition Continued: Dietary Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Are Not Bad For You

Dietary saturated fat and cholesterol are not bad for you.

Growing up, you remember the claims that the human body is 70% water? Ever wonder what keeps that water from spilling out all over the ground? Two substances: protein and saturated fat. The fact that saturated fat is an essential building block of human beings is obvious when you remember that we are animals. Animals have animal fat! Duh!

So, does eating one of the essential building blocks of human life cause death?

No. It does not.


All the studies that show real connections between fat and heart health are looking at the amount of fat in your blood, which is called “serum lipoprotein” or a specific kind of fat “serum triglycerides."  But it simply isn’t the case that your diet just goes into your blood. Organs like the pancreas and liver react to food by releasing hormones. It is those hormones that control what substances are in your blood. And, as the disease diabetes tells us, it is sugar, not fat, that cause these hormones to go haywire. What happens when you actually study how dietary changes effect the levels of dangerous triglycerides in the blood? 

According to: Kratz M., Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2005;(170):195-213., Dietary cholesterol, atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.

Replacing fats with carbohydrates increased fasting triacylglycerol concentrations.

What about cholesterol? Well, look at eggs, say the scientists that same study. “SFA” is saturated fatty acid (animal fat)and “CHD" is coronary heart disease:

As the consumption of eggs leads to a high intake of cholesterol without necessarily resulting in high uptake levels of SFA and total fat, several groups have tried to elucidate the effect of cholesterol by investigating the relationship between the consumption of eggs and the development of CHD. Based on these studies, the association between dietary cholesterol and CHD risk is, if anything, minor in nature. This is consistent with the finding that an increase in dietary cholesterol intake results in only a minimal increase in the total/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio. Taken together these studies suggest that the association between dietary cholesterol and CHD is small, as most subjects can effectively adapt to higher levels of cholesterol intake. Nevertheless, lowering dietary cholesterol content might reduce the risk of CHD considerably in a subgroup of individuals who are highly responsive to changes in cholesterol intake.

Are you in that subgroup? If your doctor knows the science is actually very easy to find out. Otherwise, eat eggs!

So says scientist Fred Kummerow, (A Life Long Fight Against Trans Fat)the man who has led the lonely battle against trans fats, a substance that science show is really, really bad for us.

He calls eggs one of nature’s most perfect foods, something he has been preaching since the 1970s, when the consumption of cholesterol-laden eggs was thought to be a one-way ticket to heart disease. “Eggs have all of the nine amino acids you need to build cells, plus important vitamins and minerals,” he said. “It’s crazy to just eat egg whites. Not a good practice at all.”

One of the central problems in this debacle has been the fact that animal fats, thought to be bad for you, are solid at room temperature and thus essential for proper food texture. You can’t just replace them with vegetable oil, i.e., unsaturated fat, and expect it to taste good. The solution: trans fats. By adding hydrogen molecules to vegetable oils you get unsaturated fat that is a solid at room temperature. You also get a substance that is deadly poison.

In 1957, a fledgling nutrition scientist at the University of Illinois persuaded a hospital to give him samples of arteries from patients who had died of heart attacks. When he analyzed them, he made a startling discovery. Not surprisingly, the diseased arteries were filled with fat — but it was a specific kind of fat. The artificial fatty acids called trans fats, which come from the hydrogen-treated oils used in processed foods like margarine, had crowded out other types of fatty acids.

1957!

Kummerow has gone on to solve the mystery of why, if LDL or so-called “bad cholesterol” causes heart disease, then why do half of all heart disease patients have normal or low levels of LDL?

he has singled out as responsible for atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries: an excess of polyunsaturated vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower — exactly the types of fats Americans have been urged to consume for the past several decades. The problem, he says, is not LDL, the “bad cholesterol” widely considered to be the major cause of heart disease. What matters is whether the cholesterol and fat residing in those LDL particles have been oxidized. (Technically, LDL is not cholesterol, but particles containing cholesterol, along with fatty acids and protein.) “Cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease, except if it’s oxidized,” Dr. Kummerow said. Oxidation is a chemical process that happens widely in the body, contributing to aging and the development of degenerative and chronic diseases. Dr. Kummerow contends that the high temperatures used in commercial frying cause inherently unstable polyunsaturated oils to oxidize, and that these oxidized fatty acids become a destructive part of LDL particles. Even when not oxidized by frying, soybean and corn oils can oxidize inside the body.

So what should you eat?

This leads him to a controversial conclusion: that the saturated fat in butter, cheese and meats does not contribute to the clogging of arteries — and in fact is beneficial in moderate amounts in the context of a healthy diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other fresh, unprocessed foods).