Updated: Jul 1
Saturated Fat couldn’t have a worse name with visions of unhealthy overweight people, poor diet and clogged arteries like hot fat clogging up a cold drain.
Why is it called “Saturated Fat”? Technically it is because there are no spare links in the molecule available to form other compounds, which is a good thing. Fat molecules also come in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated forms. All foods have different combinations of these 3 forms of fat. For example:
Olive oil: 16% Saturated, 72% Monounsaturated, 10% Polyunsaturated,
Soybean oil: 15% Saturated, 23%, Monounsaturated, 61% Polyunsaturated,
Butter: 62% Saturated, 30% Monounsaturated, 4% Polyunsaturated,
NZ Beef: 46% Saturated, 41% Monounsaturated, 13% Polyunsaturated,
A saturated fat molecule resists going rancid (oxidizing) when combined with other substances either in or out of the body, but polyunsaturated (vegetable) oils easily oxidize. When polyunsaturated fats are exposed to light, heat and/or oxygen, their unstable molecules rapidly go rancid, creating free radicals that damage your body. Rancid oils will replace good fats in your cellular membranes reducing their ability to function properly. Your body then reacts by creating low level whole-body inflammation. This contributes to many diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
Your brain is mostly fat, your body needs fat. Vitamins A, E, D and K2 only come in fat, without fat you die. Why do we now avoid saturated fat?
Some years ago poor quality research suggested that saturated fat increased the risk of heart disease. As a result we were advised to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats. “The Sydney Diet Health Study”, (1966-1973) identified that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats reduced cholesterol levels but the control group eating saturated fat had a much lower overall mortality rate. This study had set out to prove the opposite, but because the results did not support their objective, they were not published for 40 years.
In August 2020 the American College of Cardiology published a paper stating:
“Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, and dark chocolate are Saturated Fat-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of Heart Disease. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods”.
Excess dietary carbohydrates drives up the level of blood based saturated fat. In fact as a person changes their diet and reduces the level of carbohydrates, they will naturally increase their level of dietary saturated fat and as this happens their plasma saturated fat will decline. Protein remains relatively constant so fat is the macro that must alter in this situation. For evidence of the way in which blood based saturated fat declines as dietary saturated fat is increased take a look here: (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0113605)
Why has the recent massive increase in vegetable oil (seed oil) consumption with high levels of polyunsaturated fats been so destructive to humans the world over? Vegetable oils are factory made by crushing seeds, heating, soaking in hexane to extract the oils, deodorizing to remove the bad taste, then adding anti-oxidants to slow oxidation. However, this manufacturing process virtually guarantees they are oxidized (rancid) even before bottling.
My advice is to avoid vegetable (seed) oils, carefully read the ingredients list and only use healthy and saturated fats e.g. lard, ghee, butter, tallow, olive oil, coconut oil.
Seek professional medical advice before making dietary changes, particularly if you have underlying health problems.
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Good health, George Elder, Diet Researcher, Dip. Nutrition.