In defense of saturated fats (In offense of polyunsaturated fats)
**image courtesy of Pixabay**
I’m a little bit late to the party on this one.
While I was enjoying copious amounts of guacamole, the American Heart Association (AHA) released an advisory stating that “Replacement of saturated with unsaturated fats lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, a cause of atherosclerosis…
…randomized controlled trials that lowered intake of dietary saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced CVD by ≈30%, similar to the reduction achieved by statin treatment.
Prospective observational studies in many populations showed that lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of CVD and of other major causes of death and all-cause mortality.
In contrast, replacement of saturated fat with mostly refined carbohydrates and sugars is not associated with lower rates of CVD and did not reduce CVD in clinical trials. ”
Nowhere do they appear to directly attack coconut oil in their advisory. Which I’m drinking in my coffee right now.
At least I haven’t seen it.
And props to the AHA for coming out and stating that the refined carbohydrate diet, which has been pushed the last 40 years, did not reduce CVD risk either.
“Coconut oil is not bad for you. If you’re only consuming coconut oil as your sole source of fat, it’s not good for you either.”
There’s a few other things to consider within this statement:
1) Statins also have absolutely no better outcome on the health of patients with CVD than non-statin care, as I discussed here.
2) Vegetable oils are some of the WORST things that you could use to counteract CVD.
Vegetables oils started to rise to prominence after Crisco was released to the world by Proctor and Gamble in 1911 and touted as “the ideal fat” and “absolutely all vegetable”. Americans then made a switch from traditional oils like butter and lard to soybean, corn, and hydrogenated oils, which could be made to look like butter and lard.
**Courtesy of chriskresser.com **
High intake of these vegetable oils throws off your Omega 3: Omega 6 balance, which can lead to an increased risk for inflammatory diseases, including but not limited to: CVD, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, cancer, psychiatric disorders, and autoimmune dieseases.
Frank Sacks, M.D., lead author of the advisory and professor of cardiovascular disease prevention in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, advises that people avoid cooking with butter and emphasize canola, corn oil, soybean oil, or extra virgin olive oil, most of which cause chronic inflammation due to higher Omega-6 fatty acid content.
Thanks for that recommendation, Doc. I’ll take my oil with a side of inflammatory disease.
4) That polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are inherently better. While they’re pretty damn good, it’s not a great idea to over-consume them either.
These PUFAs are incorporated into your cell membranes. The double bonds between atoms in polyunsaturated fats are highly vulnerable to free radical attack and oxidative damage, making your cells fragile and damaged, leading to things like inflammation and atherosclerosis.
5) AHA assumes that cardiovascular disease risk is still, unfortunately, equated with LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol. We know that it’s not your HDL or LDL or total cholesterol numbers by themselves that affect your CVD risk. AHA also failed to mention that a higher intake of saturated fats also leads to an increase in HDL, which they would consider to be a healthy form of cholesterol.
More on that cholesterol thing (I’m scared)
**image courtesy of Tookapic**
Don’t be scared.
1) LDL and HDL are lipoproteins.
These are proteins that carry cholesterol.
HDL has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Realistically, you could have a high total cholesterol (TC) measurement from having high HDL, rendering that TC measurement useless.
There are different types of LDL:
Small, dense LDL
Big, fluffy LDL
Large fluffy LDL do not contribute to heart disease, while small, dense LDL are easily oxidized and damaged, and are more likely to penetrate your arterial wall, contributing to plaque buildup in your arteries.
People with high levels of small, dense LDL have 3x the heart disease risk versus people with large, fluffy LDL.
2) A summary of 32 studies showed a decrease in cardiovascular disease risk-factors associated with higher fat diets. Specifically, these studies showed
an increase in HDL,
and a decrease in triglycerides (basically fat hanging out in your blood stream).
What that means is that eating a diet that’s well rounded in terms of fat intake will likely reduce the risk factors contributing to cardiovascular disease.
3) Eating saturated fats may also help to change the balance of small, dense LDL to large, fluffy LDL.
Saturated fats are also fantastic for the following reasons: they provide building blocks for cell membranes and hormones, they assist with mineral absorption, they carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, they assist in conversion of carotene into vitamin A, they can lower cholesterol levels, they can act as an antiviral agent (Thanks, Dr. Mercola).
What did the AHA get right?
Here’s what they got right, “Prospective observational studies in many populations showed that lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of CVD and of other major causes of death and all-cause mortality.”
We saw this a few weeks ago when discussing the pros and cons of ketogenic diets. Individuals following a ketogenic diet emphasizing vegetables and unsaturated fats saw more favorable results in multiple health outcomes, than those emphasizing saturated fats and depending on animal protein only.
What should I take Away from this?
- As we discussed a few weeks ago when looking into ketogenic diets, it’s better to consume a wide variety of fats and vegetables, ensuring that you’re not solely relying on animal products as your fat and protein source.
- Coconut oil is not bad for you. If you’re only consuming coconut oil as your sole source of fat, it’s not good for you either. The same goes for everything else.
- Beware the recommendations of vegetable oils. They’re can throw off your Omega3:6 balance and set you up for a host of chronic inflammatory diseases.
- Beware of too many polyunsaturated fats, as they can create unstable and easily damaged cell membranes, leaving you open to a host of chronic inflammatory diseases.
- We don’t really care about your LDL and total cholesterol. Unless those levels are seriously elevated, the size of your cholesterol particles is much more important. The smaller the size, the higher your risk of inflammation.
- High carbohydrate and processed food diets are far and away bigger drivers of chronic inflammation within the body.
Lastly, I’m not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I’m just a nerd who likes to read research, and this is my way of sharing that with the world.
If you have questions, leave them in the comments, send me a DM, or shoot me a text! I’ll answer them directly, or in a future post if that’s what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for help, give me a call. It’s free and the time is on me. If calling isn’t your thing, shoot me a text at 847.807.5361
I read it so you don’t have to.
Sources and Further reading
- Conclusion: Available evidence from adequately controlled randomized controlled trials suggest replacing SFA with mostly n-6 PUFA is unlikely to reduce CHD events, CHD mortality or total mortality.
- Conclusion: Trans fats are bad. Really bad. Saturated fat is neutral or even beneficial.
- Conclusion: Replacing some saturated fat with unsaturated fat may be prudent, but the ideal type of unsaturated fat is not known, according to the authors (hint: it’s most likely monounsaturated fat like olive oil and avocado oil).
- Conclusion: Saturated fats are not associated with all-cause mortality. Trans fat is.
- Conclusion: A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.
- Conclusion: Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.
- The AHA Coconut article — http://news.heart.org/saturated-fats-why-all-the-hubbub-over-coconuts/