Is Saturated Fat Healthy? One thing that holds people back from the Primal Blueprint is its inflexible nature. Most people can agree on the tenets – eating more vegetables, eliminating contaminated meat and dairy, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, and sticking to natural foods which are basic to good health.
The concept of Grok and a lifestyle based on evolutionary biology is a difficult sell, but anyone who’s familiar with (and accepts) the principles of human origins generally agrees (whether or not they follow through and adopt the new culture is another question), at least intellectually. But is saturated fat healthy? People have this odd conditioned response to the word itself.
“But what about all that saturated fat? Aren’t you worried about clogging up your arteries?”
“Saturated fat” is not just that; it is often “artery-clogging saturated fat.” Google returns millions of results for this query. Most professionals follow company dogma and give it criticism, while the mass media largely agrees with them. The public laps it up from birth.
The result is that it has become deeply ingrained to regard saturated fat as evil, bad, dangerous, and sinful. This preconception prevents any meaningful dialogue from taking place. Everyone knows that saturated fat causes clogged arteries, and that is accepted wisdom. Challenging that perspective makes you a kook, not especially extraordinary or extraordinary.
Is Saturated Fat Healthy and What Exactly is it?
A fatty acid molecule is a formation of carbon and hydrogen atoms.
This makes saturated fats very stable and resistant to oxidation and rancidity, even when heated. That’s why bodies tend to make cellular membranes with a significant amount of saturated fats. They provide stability and a solid foundation.
Stored fat is energy that can be used for later, while dietary fat is energy that must be used immediately or saved for later.
To lose weight is like consuming pure lard, which has nearly identical fatty acid composition to human adipose tissue. It is misguided to blame saturated fat for causing health problems, as our metabolism has favored a harmful energy source over the course of our development.
Is Saturated Fat Healthy and Does it Cause Heart Disease?
It is easy to demonstrate, right? Populations that depend on the most saturated fat should experience the most heart attacks. But this isn’t the case. Here are a few to consider.
The Tokelau Islanders
The Tokelauans traditionally consumed a diet with high levels of saturated fat from coconut meat and fish, fruit, and tubers. When I say “high in saturated fat,” I mean it: About 40 to 50 percent of their total calories came from saturated fat from coconut meat. Conventional cardiologists might feel healthy if their patients ate so much saturated fat. However, a study in the 1980s of Tokelauan cardiac patients shows that their ECG results indicate no prior heart attacks despite a high-fat diet.
In New Zealand at the time, about 1% of males aged 40 to 70 had readings indicating a previous heart attack. In Tecumseh, Michigan, 3.5% of males in this age range had prior heart attack readings. In Tokelauans, it was 0%.
Is Saturated Fat Healthy? The Kitavan Islanders
The Kitavans consume a significantly healthier dietary regimen than the Tokelauans do, such as a higher carbohydrate content and a more healthful saturated fat content. While Kitavans usually ate a 17% of calories from saturated fat, they did not suffer from any modern metabolic diseases.
No matter where you look across the Pacific, high saturated fat intakes from coconut do not appear unhealthy or dangerous.2 No matter where you look across the Pacific, you see traditional diets that exceed the maximum 6% of calories form saturated fat ordained by the American Heart Association—and you see traditional populations eating those traditional diets avoid heart disease.
Is Saturated Fat Healthy? The Masai
The traditional diet for male Masai is a low-carb, high-saturated fat one that consists mainly of meat, milk, and blood, and research shows that they remain lean, healthy, and free of heart disease despite this conventionally-atherogenic diet.3
Is Saturated Fat Healthy? The French
The French are popular for their high-fat dairy dishes. The nation has some of the lowest rates of heart disease, and they even consume large amounts of saturated fat. And they love to figure out why.
Take a look at this description:
“In representative cross sectional surveys of the French population performed in 1986–87 and 1995–97, the saturated fat intake was 15% of the total energy intake in the first survey and 16% in the latter survey. This high consumption of saturated fatty acids is such that French subjects are exposed to a high risk of CHD. Why a high consumption of saturated fatty acids does not lead to a high CHD risk in France (and maybe elsewhere) is a central question behind the French paradox concept.”
The French somehow “survive” a “high risk of CHD” by eating saturated fat. You recognize what they did? The “risk” is very actual. It’s just luck that the French live through it.
It kicked off, of course, with the notorious Ancel Keys and his Seven Countries Study, which tracked the fat consumption and heart disease rates of several nations. It was named for the seven nations that saw an increase in heart disease cases with elevated fat intake, but it should really be called the Twenty Two Countries Study for all the misleading information he omitted.
I managed to disprove the theory that high-fat diets cause heart disease by exposing poor groups that did not participate in the original study. The red points in the lower right represent those populations that did not receive the blood tests.
Try drawing a straight line through those data points. As you can clearly see, there is a weak correlation between fat intake and heart disease, but it is only that: a correlation. Only controlled experiments can accurately measure the effects of dietary fat. Unfortunately, that connection was enough to get Keys the front cover of Time and widespread acclaim as the father of dietary science. His hypothesis became popular in the scientific community and in the mainstream CW, holding steady prominence to this day.
Learn more about Yudkin’s Taubes by reading Good Calories, Bad Calories.
Are Foods that Contain Saturated Fat Bad For You?
Food is what you eat.
If researchers say that saturated fat is bad for health, they should demonstrate that saturated fat-containing foods are dangerous to eat. Have they? Let’s examine research into some foods that are high in saturated fat.
Maybe these foods are acceptable in moderation, but they still have the potential to worsen your cholesterol levels. Yes, just prove it.
It is not possible.
Or maybe they’ve got excellent immune systems “despite” eating high levels of saturated fat.
Does anyone believe this is true? We live in the real world where there are real ingredients in foods. You can’t “manipulate” a variable that literally exists in the items being vilified, so you can’t control them for assessment purposes.
Is Saturated Fat Healthy? Look to Evolution
Humans are endowed with a taste preference for fat. It is delicious, and that’s not a mistake. A lean chicken breast or a crispy, fatty thigh is generally the choice for most people. Some individuals may be persuaded by the social anti-fat movement to prefer the dry breast, but the fatty portions just taste better.
Our craving for fat is tens of thousands of years old. From mammoth marrow you could extract an ice age ice cream scoop from to broken bones of kudu dating back 500,000 years to nomads eating horse milk and boar backfat who lived during the Bronze Age, we’ve always loved animal fat. Much of which is saturated. This caribou fat was at least 50% saturated.
Does this mean you should just eat saturated fat? Absolutely not.
First off, it is very difficult to eat only saturated fat with whole foods. Very few creatures exist in the world, past or present, with only saturated fat. Although I can think of only one exception to this rule, it is the coconut, an odd type of animal that spends much of its time hanging from a tree resembling a hairy drupe.
The average slab of beef fat contains about 50% saturated fat, 45% monounsaturated fat and 5% polyunsaturated fat. The diet of cattle, sheep, bison, and other ruminants is different between cuts and not by much. It is similarly different for ruminants such as lamb and bison. And the most prominent saturated fatty acid in ruminant fat is stearic acid, a fat that turns to monounsaturated oleic acid in the body and affects cholesterol identically to MUFA or PUFA.
By eating whole foods, you can obtain saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, PUFA, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and a host of other as yet unquantified food items. One that is even not yet been shown to be dangerous is foolish to single out.
You could go on, but you get the idea: Humans have been consuming a wide range of saturated fatty acids for millennia. It makes sense to follow suit.