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Thread: Whatís so healthy about saturated fats?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Whatís so healthy about saturated fats?

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    I’ve always a bit cautious about diet advice that’s given and always look to see if the research and common sense backs up that advice. I've been eating primal now for over a year and had great results, I've learnt a lot about nutrition but a few things never really made sense.

    One of the main ones is why people here love saturated fats.

    Here is my take on what I’ve read so far:

    As far as I can make out saturated fats are at best neutral to your health - they can raise your total cholesterol level - But if you active, fit and not over weight and eat a good primal diet then the rise in cholesterol is only a small factor. A certain amount is needed in the diet for making hormones but again the current research doesn’t show that we need to eat anymore than the RDA. There isn’t any research that says that it makes you healthier like say omega 3 or olive oil.

    However if you eat a conventional diet, high in processed foods and with little veggies/fruit or have other risk factors e.g over weight, then eating lots of saturated fat will just raise the likelihood of you getting heart disease.

    So it looks to me like at best saturated fat intake depends on individual circumstances, eat it enjoy it in moderation, don’t be scared of it, but it don’t expect it to improve your health.

    So wouldn't it make better sense for most people just to eat more veggies and fruits? Which are a source of lots of nutrients and antioxidants? Yes they have more carbs and sugar in them, but it strikes me as a more balanced diet and more in keeping with Loren Cordians papers* which put the typical hunter gather eating :

    High Protein (19-35%),
    Moderate carb (22-40%)
    Moderate fat (28%-47%)
    Saturated fat Moderate
    Monounsaturated fat High
    Polyunsaturated fat Moderate
    Omega 3 High
    Fiber high
    Fruits and vegetables High
    Nuts and seeds Moderate
    Salt, sugar, glycemic load Low

    The other question I have is about Cholesterol. A lot of people, myself included eating paleo/primaly end up with rock bottom trigs, high HDL, High LDL (mostly Large fluffy kind). But again Papers suggest that the normal low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol range is 50 to 70 mg/dl for native hunter-gatherers **. So again how do we reconcile the differences? As best as I can understand eating coconut oil and animal based saturated fats will increase you cholesterol but the low trigs and predominance of the Large fluffy LDL offset the risks of developing a heart disease.

    * Cardiovascular Disease Resulting From a Diet and Lifestyle at Odds With Our Paleolithic Genome: How to Become a 21st-Century Hunter-Gatherer

    ** Optimal low-density lipoprotein is 50 to 70 mg/dl: Lower is better and physiologically normal
    Robert Vogel , James H. O'Keefe, Jr, Loren Cordain, William H. Harris, Richard M. Moe, and

    The normal low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol range is 50 to 70 mg/dl for native
    hunter-gatherers, healthy human neonates, free-living primates, and other wild mammals (all
    of whom do not develop atherosclerosis). Randomized trial data suggest atherosclerosis
    progression and coronary heart disease events are minimized when LDL is lowered to 70
    mg/dl. No major safety concerns have surfaced in studies that lowered LDL to this range of
    50 to 70 mg/dl. The current guidelines setting the target LDL at 100 to 115 mg/dl may lead
    to substantial undertreatment in high-risk individuals. (J Am Coll Cardiol 2004;43:
    2142–6) © 2004 by the American College of Cardiology Foundation
    Last edited by Kattanga; 06-22-2010 at 03:59 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2010
    With regards to fats, I'm one of the few here that falls more in line with Cordain than Sisson. I don't believe that additional 'free' fats are ideal or biologically appropriate...though that doesn't meat I don't use them. I do - as needed for taste, texture and to balance Ω3:6 ratios. But I wish I didn't.

    One benefit of saturated fat though over other forms: stability. It's more stable and less prone to oxidation than polyunsaturated fatty acids and even than monounsaturated fatty acids.

    Being vain, i'm most concerned about my skin so saturated fats and a high antioxidant intake appear to be the best things I can do to protect said skin - along with maintaining a low bmi (epic fail....fixing that now), healthfully low blood sugars, and meticulously keeping sun off my face, neck and hands (though I have started getting D on my body rather than just relying on D supplementation to maintain optimal 25(OH)D levels)

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Bangalore, India
    Saturated Fats are very stable.
    Our body can desaturate them. So it can make Mono-unsaturated fats from them, as required. Higher unsaturations are a case of diminishing returns.
    Our body makes them from carbohydrates.

    There is a cause and effect reversal, in the cholesterol hypothesis. Its like blaming the firemen for fire.
    Cholesterol is required to fix the damages that happen to the arteries on SAD.

    There is exactly one type of people that have reduced heart diseases by reducing cholesterol. They are men under 60years of age with Familial hypercholesterolemia. If you don't have the given condition then reducing cholesterol does nothing to your chance of getting heart disease.

    Reduced cholesterol on the other hand is associated with Cancer, depression, increased susceptibility to diseases.

    You should read Good Calories Bad Calories. It is a Gold Mine, or rather a report of the Coal mine that is the Medical Research establishment ;-).

    Cordain is now more accepting of Saturated Fats.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Anand, I'm with you on the cholesterol hypothesis and Demonization of saturated fats I think it's very overly simplistic and flawed. I'm with you on the stability of saturated fats - great for cooking things at high temperatures. I use coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for salads etc. I don't actively seek out food with saturated fats but on the same hand I don't exclude them - I enjoy them in moderation. I think at a basic level I'm asking why should someone actively look to eat more saturated fat as 1- most people already eat enough not to have a problem with having low cholesterol and even when we vary our intake of saturated fats the body tends to produce more or less depending on our needs and 2- we could displace the fat with veggies and fruits which have a range of proven health benefits.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Bangalore, India
    There is only a very small amount of protein that you can eat, based on your muscle mass. The rest must come from starches/sugars or fats.
    You can chose what you want to take. Incidently starches also convert into saturated fat. So doesn't matter what you eat, you are going to get saturated fats.

    Historically I believe we used to get as much fat as possible, but there were limits to how much fat we could get. The rest was filled up with the starches from tubers.

    Now in this age of plenty, you can decide what you can eat ;-).

    I agree with Cillakat, that we must have a lot of vegetables, which fill up the nutrient requirements. You also need to add some meat for the protein requirement. But the predominate energy source has to be fat or starch. You can chose which one you want. I think fat is better than starch in most cases. But a healthy balance would be best.

    Whatever fat source you have, it should not have too much of non-saturated fat, because the body will not be able to prepare saturated fat from the non-saturated fats.

    People here try to be low carb, because most cannot handle carbs very well. This forces them into a higher saturated fat intake. But that is not such a bad thing to do, given their condition.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    London, UK
    I don't actively seek out food with saturated fats but on the same hand I don't exclude them - I enjoy them in moderation. I think at a basic level I'm asking why should someone actively look to eat more saturated fat
    For me, Energy.
    My energy needs are around 3,000 calories a day, and I have to get that energy from somewhere. I can't imagine eating that much energy from vegetables, and i couldn't afford to either. So it has to come from an energy dense source - fatty meats, free fats, or high carb foods.
    Saturated fats are an optimum energy source, and mean I don't need to resort to starchy foods or other things that make me feel like crap. If I can't get enough from meat alone, I'll add in some ghee, or some other free fat to meet my energy needs.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    London U.K
    When you eat fat it normally comes with nutrients as well, unless you are eating refined oils. Saturated fats got a bad rep and I wouldn't say that they are at best neutral with regards to their affect on health. You can't have a nutritionally adequate diet without them, so therefore they must have some health benefits. And studies are showing that they improve cardiovascular disease risk, which IS making you healthier!!! How can you say there isn't any research showing their health benefits?!?!?! You just have to look harder to find it.

    There is research showing their benefits like being antifungal/bacterial, immune system supporting, increased liver health, needed for the brain, stronger bones, they may be cancer protective and other things. These are health benefits.

    I think fruit and veggies are all good, and I enjoy them myself but they aren't as nutritious as animal foods. Some studies show that eating your "5 a day" of fruit and veg has no effect on health in terms of disease prevention, whereas one recent-ish study found they are only beneficial when eaten with fat (which happened to be saturated fat from dairy). So don't be shy and put good quality raw grass-fed butter on your veggies if you can tolerate it. Apparently veg isn't even a quality source of available antioxidants and people always talk about how good for you they are (I agree) but I think it is influenced by CW a little. Coffee is supposedly a far superior source.

    Omega 3's (which are great for you) on the other hand seem to be the cure for everything in comparison to saturates. They are "heart healthy" polys, get lots of press so you would expect lots of research on them. I just think there could be more to saturated fats than we know because it is "bad for us" so no need to look for the benefits.

    P.S I think there is something in primitve people's lifetsyle that influences cholesterol levels. It could come down to stress (physical and environmental like pollution). David Getoff was talking about it somewhere but i can't remember where........
    "My mom made two dishes: Take it or Leave it." -- Stephen Wright, comedian

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Quote Originally Posted by Anand Srivastava View Post
    ...Incidently starches also convert into saturated fat. So doesn't matter what you eat, you are going to get saturated fats...

    Huh? I don't understand this statement. Do you mean excess starch consumed is stored as body fat?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2010
    I may be oversimplifying things, but here is my take.

    Animals are made out of proteins and [mostly] saturated fats.
    Humans are animals.
    Humans need to constantly repair tissues and proliferate cellular growth.
    We can't make the fat ourselves and need it from dietary sources.
    Thus, we need to eat saturated fats from quality sources to make more of ourselves.
    Here it is, your moment of zen.

    It's a no brainer: The journal of the cerebelum

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kattanga View Post
    There isnít any research that says that it makes you healthier like say omega 3 or olive oil.
    For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated.
    Watkins, B A, et al, "Importance of Vitamin E in Bone Formation and in Chrondrocyte Function" Purdue University, Lafayette, IN, AOCS Proceedings, 1996; Watkins, B A, and M F Seifert, "Food Lipids and Bone Health," Food Lipids and Health, R E McDonald and D B Min, eds, p 101, Marcel Dekker, Inc, New York, NY, 1996

    Saturated fats lower LP(a) a key indicator of heart disease risk.
    Dahlen, G H, et al, J Intern Med, Nov 1998, 244(5):417-24; Khosla, P, and K C Hayes, J Am Coll Nutr, 1996, 15:325-339; Clevidence, B A, et al, Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol, 1997, 17:1657-1661

    Saturate fats protect the liver from toxins.
    Nanji, A A, et al, Gastroenterology, Aug 1995, 109(2):547-54; Cha, Y S, and D S Sachan, J Am Coll Nutr, Aug 1994, 13(4):338-43; Hargrove, H L, et al, FASEB Journal, Meeting Abstracts, Mar 1999, #204.1, p A222.

    They enhance the immune system.
    Kabara, J J, The Pharmacological Effects of Lipids, The American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL, 1978, 1-14; Cohen, L A, et al, J Natl Cancer Inst, 1986, 77:43

    Omega-3 fatty acids are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fats.
    Garg, M L, et al, FASEB Journal, 1988, 2:4:A852; Oliart Ros, R M, et al, "Meeting Abstracts," AOCS Proceedings, May 1998, 7, Chicago, IL

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