Is saturated fat good? Uncover the controversial truth here

Is saturated fat good?

Read on to discover the controversial truth

Is saturated fat good quote

Too many people still believe that animal fat and saturated fat are inflammatory and bad for your health. Saturated fat with a specific focus on animal fat has been blamed for everything from increasing your risk for heart disease and heart attack to insulin resistance and cancer. In fact, I’m pretty sure most people believe animal fats increase your heart disease risk.

What if, rather than asking you whether saturated fat is good, I asked you about whether or not it’s safe to burn animal fats and saturated fats?

You see, the thing is, we humans all store excess energy as fat. And that fat is similar to lard and tallow in composition. That’s pork fat and beef fat.

What is human fat composed of?

Human fat is primarily monounsaturated and saturated fat with a bit of polyunsaturated fat.

Here’s a table listing the saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid proportions of several different fats. Can you guess which of these food sources is: 

  • butter, 
  • the fat from sirloin steak, 
  • canola oil, 
  • olive oil, 
  • turkey breast, 
  • pork fat, or 
  • human visceral fat?

Which Composition Analysis Belongs With Each fatty food/fat?

 ABCDEFG
Saturated Fat %6.717.530.735.536.450.658.9
Monounsaturated fat %63.764.851.545.743.444.230.8
Polyunsaturated fat %28.717.717.716.220.24.73.2
Here's the breakdown of 6 common foods according to their content of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat. See if you can guess which is: butter, the fat from sirloin steak, canola oil, olive oil, turkey breast, pork fat, or human visceral fat.

You’ll find the disambiguation at the bottom of the post. Let me know if you were able to guess right.

Raw short ribs showing healthy saturated fat

What's the deal with polyunsaturated fats?

The amount of polyunsaturated fat stored in our adipose tissues depends on our diets. We can’t make any polyunsaturated fats ourselves from excess energy. Polyunsaturated fats are omega-6 and omega-3 fats. They perform many crucial bodily functions and are essential for good health and keeping us alive. So plants and animals supply the polyunsaturated fats we need via our diets. The more “vegetable oils,” nuts, seeds, fish oils, and fatty fish like salmon we consume, the higher our polyunsaturated fat content.

More isn’t necessarily better, though. There are no benefits from consuming more polyunsaturated fats once we’ve met our essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats requirements. In fact, the effects of consuming excessive amounts of polyunsaturated fats from “vegetable” seed oils appear to be detrimental. And we are still, for the most part, made of saturated and monounsaturated fat.

Westernised modern humans have astronomical amounts of polyunsaturated fats stored because of our bizarre obsession with “vegetable oils,” none of which come from vegetables.

These “vegetable oils” are rancid. This means they are dangerous and increase inflammation because they set off a cascade of damage to our cells caused by free radicals.

Is saturated fat good?

Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are stable fats. They don’t become rancid easily when exposed to light or even heat. So they’re great choices for cooking with. This makes monounsaturated and saturated fats good. And it’s easy for us to make these sorts of fats from scratch inside our cells from excess energy (generally coming from carbohydrates. But alcohol will also do it).

If you change your diet to lose weight, your aim is to mobilise fats from storage and transport them in your blood to your tissues. Then in your tissues, you burn those fats to produce energy inside your mitochondria.

When you lose weight by burning up your fat stores, you burn primarily saturated and monounsaturated fat: fat which still has similar approximate ratios to other mammals (i.e. pigs, turkeys, cattle, and sheep).

The fat you store around your abdominal organs (visceral fat) has the same sort of composition as the fat you store under your skin. I’ll reiterate again: that is an animal fat that’s mainly saturated and monounsaturated with lesser amounts of polyunsaturated fats

Does burning your own fat cause inflammation or increase your risk of heart attack or stroke? Does it lead to diabetes?

No. It certainly does not. In fact, the opposite is true

In particular, reducing visceral fat and the fat stored in the liver in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with some of the best improvements in metabolism, decreased type 2 diabetes risklower inflammationlower blood pressure, etc. that you’ll see. 

So does it make any sense when people argue that animal and saturated fats are inflammatory and cause diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or any other illness?

Humanity's long history of eating foods rich in saturated fat

Humans have always eaten animal fats whenever and wherever they could find them. Cuts of meat rich in animal fats and whole-fat dairy are preferred foods for humans. The availability of animal fats often hasn’t kept up with demand. But that doesn’t mean people avoided them.

And throughout history, when people could eat a diet rich in animal-based foods, including fat, they were better nourished. Yet coronary heart disease was a novelty until the late 19th century but is now a global pandemic.

Brains, blubber, kidney fat (suet), bone marrow, tails, the fat under the skin, foie gras, dairy fat… Humans never wasted any of it. Ever. Until the twentieth century.

Why do so many people now suddenly believe that saturated fat is bad?

In the 1950s, Ancel Keys came up with a theory that saturated fat in the diet caused heart disease by increasing blood cholesterol. And even though that was demonstrated to be false over and over again in many different studies, the theory has still stuck around. A fortune was and continues to be made by many corporations exploiting this diet-heart hypothesis. It created a market not only for low-fat (high-carb) ultra-processed junk foods, but an industry devoted to lowering LDL cholesterol also sprang from it, filling the coffers of Big Food, Big Agriculture and Big Pharma.

I’m confident that you’ve heard from many official sources that animal fat causes cardiovascular disease, so you need to avoid it. And that as part of a healthy diet, the best way to minimise your saturated fat and animal fat intake is by replacing those with either “vegetable oils” like sunflower oil or olive oil or with starchy carbohydrates.

This is a marketing myth. But it’s now so deeply ingrained you may have to fight against beliefs that are so profoundly indoctrinated they’re almost part of your identity.

But how often have you heard about the results of studies that replaced saturated fat and cholesterol with polyunsaturated “vegetable” oils and carbohydrates?

What clinical studies using diet to reduce blood cholesterol show

Fewer of these studies have been conducted than you would imagine. Zoë Harcombe did a great job dissecting all the randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and prospective observational studies that sought to restrict dietary fat intake to below 30% of calories and saturated fat to less than 10%. She found that “The evidence available to the dietary committees at the time the guidelines were introduced did not support the recommendations made.” That is to say that even though people in these studies reduced their intake of both total and saturated fat and sometimes saw their blood cholesterol levels decline, there were no accompanying improvements in death rates, not even from heart disease.

So if saturated fat is good, what does cause coronary heart disease?

Great question. But I think this topic is so important it warrants it’s own blog post. So I’ll answer this in more detail at a later date.

Here's the heart of the matter when it comes to whether saturated fat is good or bad

The bottom line is that if you’ve been trying to make your diet healthier by avoiding animal fats and saturated fats, there’s a good chance you’ve been misinformed about which foods are healthy. The health effects of dietary guidelines may be increasing your risk of heart disease, chronic inflammation, and even causing symptoms of chronic ill health. If you’d like to learn more about how dietary guidelines directly lead to pandemics of malnutrition that affect your family, I’ve written this article.

I hope this post showing that saturated fat is good has given you a new perspective on whether foods rich in animal fats and saturated fat are unhealthy. You don’t need to avoid high-fat foods or eat only lean meats to be healthy. In fact, your blood sugar will thank you for incorporating more foods of animal origin instead of “heart-healthy whole grains.” And so will your taste buds: after all, cholesterol is a fancy word for flavour.

cholesterol is a fancy word for flavour

Proportion of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in 6 foods and human visceral fat

 Canola oilOlive oilHuman visceral fatPork fatTurkey breastBeef sirloinButter
Saturated Fat %6.717.530.735.536.450.658.9
Monounsaturated fat %63.764.851.545.743.444.230.8
Polyunsaturated fat %28.717.717.716.220.24.73.2

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