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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 23 2009

The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat

By Mark Sisson
312 Comments

It’s probably the one thing that prevents people from fully buying into the Primal Blueprint. Almost anyone can agree with the basic tenets – eating more vegetables, choosing only clean, organic meats, and getting plenty of sleep and exercise is fairly acceptable to the mainstream notion of good nutrition. The concept of Grok and a lifestyle based on evolutionary biology can be a harder sell, but anyone who’s familiar with (and accepts) the basics of human evolution tends to agree (whether they follow through and adopt the lifestyle is another question), at least intellectually. But saturated fat? People have this weird conditioned response to the very phrase.

“But what about all that saturated fat? Aren’t you worried about clogging up your arteries?”

In fact, “saturated fat” isn’t just that; it’s often “artery-clogging saturated fat.” Hell, a Google search for that exact phrase in quotations produces 4,490 entries (soon to be 4,491, I suppose). Most doctors toe the company line and roundly condemn it, while the media generally follows suit. The public, unsurprisingly, laps it up from birth. The result is a deeply ingrained systemic assumption that saturated fat is evil, bad, dangerous, and sinful, a preconceived notion that precludes any meaningful dialogue from taking place. Everyone “knows” that saturated fat clogs your arteries – that’s treated as a given – and attempting to even question that assumption gets you lumped in the crazy category. After all, if you start from such a “fundamentally incorrect position,” how can the rest of your argument be trusted? Thus, talk of the superior cardiovascular health of the Tokelau (with their 50% dietary saturated fat intake) or the Masai (with their diet of meat, blood, and milk) or the Inuit (with their ancestral diet of high-blubber animals) is all disregarded or ignored. If they even deign to listen to the facts, they’ll acknowledge the existence of healthy populations eating tons of saturated fat while muttering something about “genetic adaptation” or “statistical outliers.” It’s all hogwash, and it’s infuriating, especially when there’s so much literature refuting the saturated fat hypothesis. If you’re interested in more information on these three oft-cited high-saturated fat groups, check out Stephan’s entries on the Tokelau, the Masai, and the Inuit.

It all started, of course, with the infamous Ancel Keys and his Seven Countries Study, which tracked the fat consumption and heart disease levels of various nations. It was named for the seven countries that saw an increase in heart disease cases correspond with increased fat consumption, but it should have been named the Twenty Two Countries Study for all the data he omitted. Data, I should mention, that demolished his hypothesis of fat intake causing heart disease. The original paper noting Keys’ omissions was largely ignored and is tough to track down, but Peter over at Hyperlipid had access to it and shows the original graph with all the nation data included (with the Masai, Inuit, and Tokelau thrown in for fun represented by the red dots).

Try drawing a straight line through those data points… I dare you! As you can see, there is a faint, weak correlation between fat intake and heart disease, but it’s just that: a correlation. It shouldn’t confirm anything except the need to run controlled experiments to directly measure the effects of dietary fat. Unfortunately, that correlation was enough to get Keys the front cover of Time and widespread acclaim as the father of dietary science. His hypothesis gained traction in the scientific community and mainstream CW, a position it has never really relinquished. Subsequent controlled experiments to measure the effects of saturated fat have been either inconclusive, poorly designed, or completely unsupportive of the saturated fat-is-evil hypothesis, but because the starting point assumes it to be true, those inconclusive or unsupportive results become aberrations while the poorly designed studies become canon. Meanwhile, Keys’ peer, British scientist John Yudkin, was finding even more compelling connections between dietary sugar and heart disease, but his ideas gained no traction and garnered no significant follow up experimental studies. Keys got the cover of Time and heaps of public adulation; Yudkin was relegated to publishing now-out-of-print books, writing letters to scientific journals (PDF) that were only ignored, and languishing in relative obscurity. Americans, as you can guess, got the real shaft. I suspect I’m getting a little off track here, so I’ll just point people toward Good Calories, Bad Calories for a full discussion of the Yudkin-Keys issue.

For a quick summary of the Ancel Keys debacle to send to friends and family worried about your saturated fat intake (who might not be interested in reading a blog post), check out this quick clip from Fat Head.

What is Saturated Fat, Exactly?

Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are referred to as saturated because all available carbon bonds are tied up with a hydrogen atom. That is, there are no openings for rancidity or spoilage, whereas a polyunsaturated fatty acid containing two or more pairs of double bonds without hydrogen atoms occupying the open space is wide open for oxidation. SFAs are shelf-stable, resistant to heat damage, and essential to many bodily functions. Roughly half of our cell membrane structure is composed of saturated fat, and saturated animal fats, like butter or fatty organ meats, contain huge amounts of essential fat-soluble vitamins (K2, A, D, among others). (Sure, you could just take them in capsule or liquid form, but the very fact that these (universally praised) vitamins naturally occur in evil saturated fat indicates that maybe, just maybe it’s not so evil after all. Researchers were particularly dumbfounded at one study (PDF) indicating high-saturated-fat fermented cheeses containing large amounts of Vitamin K2 actually reduced cardiovascular mortality, but they soon came to their senses and recommended opting for supplements rather than real food. Ridiculous.)

Saturated fat is also a fantastic source of energy, at least if you trust your body to make the right decision – otherwise, why else would we store excess carbohydrates as saturated body fat? In fact, when we burn body fat for energy, either through exercise or through dieting, we are quite literally consuming huge amounts of saturated (and monounsaturated) fat. Body fat is energy to be used for later; dietary fat is energy to be used immediately. Whether you’re burning through your stores of adipose tissue or downing flagons of warm ghee, all that fat goes through the same processes in your body to be converted to energy. Burn your ass flab, take a bite of fatty rib-eye – it doesn’t matter. Your body treats that fat the same way. As Richard and Tom have said before, losing weight is like eating pure lard, which has nearly the same fatty acid composition as human adipose tissue. To vilify saturated fat is to assume that, over the span of our evolution, our bodies have somehow developed a predilection for a deleterious energy source that contributes to cardiovascular disease. That’s absolutely preposterous, unless Darwin and company somehow got it all wrong with the whole natural selection thing. Somehow, I’m leaning toward trusting the millions of years old case study known as evolution.

Where Do They Get Off, Anyway?

Since Keys has been thoroughly discredited (not if you ask most people with any real say in the matter) and there are plenty of examples of groups eating a high saturated fat diet and retaining optimum cardiovascular health (“Those are just outliers!”), how does the outcry against saturated fat continue unabated? Well, it all starts with cholesterol, yet another vilified substance that our bodies naturally produce because, well, it’s completely essential to proper bodily function (though if you listen to the experts, our bodies are suicidal entities who can’t be trusted to do the right thing). Elevated cholesterol has long been fingered as a player in cardiovascular disease, and saturated fat has been shown to increase cholesterol levels, so saturated fat is therefore to be avoided. Sounds relatively sound. So high total cholesterol levels are bad, right? Not so fast.

As I detailed in my last big post on cholesterol, total cholesterol doesn’t tell the entire story, and it doesn’t even necessarily indicate risk for cardiovascular disease. Just take a look at the graph plotting global total cholesterol versus cardiovascular disease. There’s absolutely no positive correlation, and there may even be a negative correlation. Far more likely is that there’s no connection at all.

Nowadays, most “experts” will agree that total cholesterol isn’t everything; they instead move the goalposts and focus on LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” which is increased by eating saturated fat. Eating more saturated fat does seem to increase serum LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in certain cases, but it also increases HDL (“good” cholesterol). Okay, so saturated fat increases LDL, which is “bad.” So global levels of saturated fat intake should predict cardiovascular disease, right? It doesn’t seem to pan out that way. Do you see a correlation? I don’t.

Oh, but saturated fat increases triglycerides, they say, which – even I agree – are a good marker for poor heart health. Except that it doesn’t. Carbohydrate intake increases triglycerides, not saturated fat intake. This is either a blatant lie, or it’s willful ignorance. Maybe even both. Either way, the end result is a continuation of the saturated fat vilification. The average person will go to cnn.com, read the headline, and skip ahead to the meat: “…eating lots of saturated fat can all add up to higher triglyceride levels.”

As far as heart disease goes, I still have yet to hear a workable process by which saturated fat contributes to it. It increases LDL, but the LDL it increases is large, fluffy, and almost impossible to oxidize. The layman’s notion of saturated fat literally clogging up the arteries like grease in a drain isn’t taken seriously by researchers anymore (who know it’s really all about inflammation and oxidized LDL), but it’s still the most prevalent explanation for why saturated fat is so bad. We now know that the HDL/triglyceride ratio is far more predictive of cardiovascular events than LDL, but still LDL gets all the attention. The “alternative hypothesis” (which is really the one that makes the most sense) focuses more on oxidized polyunsaturated fats and imbalanced Omega-6/Omega-3 ratios rather than saturated fat intake, which (as is pretty obvious by now) doesn’t matter one way or the other. The observational data doesn’t add up, the actual physiological process can’t be explained, and the body seems to prefer saturated fat. I have to ask… if we know that arteries don’t “clog up” from concentrated fatty acids in the blood like bad plumbing and that SFAs aren’t prone to oxidation, just what is the issue with saturated fat and heart health?

They’ve also tried connecting saturated fat intake with various forms of cancer. Breast, colon, pancreatic – you name the cancer, researchers have probably warned against saturated fat intake as a risk factor for it. But every study that suggests a link between saturated fat and cancer is purely observational. These aren’t controlled studies, folks – these are often studies in which dietary information is gleaned from questionnaires asking people about their dietary habits for the last five years. The subjects are often elderly or middle-aged, people busy with life and all its stresses… and they’re expected to remember their exact dietary habits for the past five years? Give me a break. And even if every one of the subjects were to recall their eating with perfect accuracy, what does a correlation with pick-your-cancer really tell us? It tells us that the Standard American Diet, with its massive amounts of grains, sugar, starches, margarines, vegetable oils, and yes, some red meat and artery-clogging saturated fat, is bad for us. The researchers may try to seize on a single aspect of the diet (usually saturated fat), but that only tells us that saturated fat has a bad reputation. Is it deserved? We certainly can’t draw any conclusions from an observational study confounded by dozens of other variables. And yet still the crazy headlines jump out from all angles: “Saturated Fat Linked To Pancreatic Cancer!”; “Colon Cancer And Red Meat: Is Your Burger Killing You?” I think I did a decent job disassembling the latest red meat (read: saturated fat) scare study, as did Dr. Eades.

What About Cordain’s Stance on Saturated Fat?

Although he’s softened his stance a bit recently, Loren Cordain still maintains that saturated fat never formed a significant portion of the Paleolithic diet. He even suggests that because it increases LDL, saturated fat does play some role in cardiovascular disease. While we’re all in debt for Dr. Cordain’s impressive work cataloguing the possible diet of Grok and highlighting the dangers of grains, legumes, and sugars, I believe it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s got it wrong with his (albeit tempered as of late) condemnation of saturated fat.

To begin with, man has a taste for fat. It’s delicious, and that’s no mistake. Given the choice between a lean chicken breast and a fatty, crispy thigh, most people instinctively go for the thigh. Social anti-fat conditioning might direct a few of us toward the dry breast, but fatty cuts just taste better. I think even Cordain would agree that Grok would opt for the fatty cuts first; where we differ is in our opinion of Grok’s access to such fatty cuts. Cordain believes the fatty acid composition of ancient game was mostly monounsaturated, while I doubt it was so clear cut. According to the WAPF’s Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, the fatty acid composition of wild game available to native Americans varied, with the most prized sources of fat (kidneys) being primarily saturated. In fact, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, hallowed purveyor of pemmican and admirer of the high-fat Inuit diet, spent considerable time with the northern native Americans and noted that they seemed to “hunt animals selectively.” They would specifically pass on the tender calves and go for the older caribou, the ones with huge slabs of back fat that could be rendered and stored. This caribou fat was about 50% saturated. These are more modern animals, but they’re still wild, and I don’t see how the large animals being consumed by Grok would have inexplicably been low in saturated fat.

Cordain himself allows that most (73%) pre-agrarian hunter-gatherers got more than 50% of their calories from animal foods (with some going as high as 70%), and he figures that wild African ruminant fatty acid composition (a basic model for Grok’s game) was similar to that of pasture-raised cattle. I eat a lot of 100% grass-fed steak, and I will tell you: there is a fair amount of fat on certain cuts, including organs. It’s leaner than grain-fed, but not by much. Plus, when you consider that hunter-gatherers (Grok and modern alike) use the entire animal, especially the fatty organs, it becomes clear that saturated fat was consumed in relatively large amounts by many groups of paleo-era humans. Maybe not all of them, but it certainly wasn’t unheard of.

The justification for the anti-saturated fat campaign that has raged on for half a century is largely baseless. Even if saturated fat does increase (large, fluffy) LDL, it increases protective HDL right along with it, and cardiovascular mortality has never been explicitly demonstrated to increase with saturated fat intake. Several studies have been attempted and – though their results were inconclusive – supporters repeatedly cite them as evidence for the connection. The Finnish Mental Hospital study, which the saturated fat critics tend to hang their hats on, has been discredited for its poor control. Most analysis of the Lyon Diet Heart study focuses on the low levels of saturated fat, while the real benefits came from an improved Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio. If you’re interested in more breakdowns of the saturated fat studies, just visit Whole Health Source (or Hyperlipid, or Free the Animal, or any of the many Primal friendly blogs on the interwebs). One of the most important things we can do is band together to undermine the dangerous, counterproductive CW. We may have truth and science on our side, but – as the past hundred years of nutrition research have shown – it isn’t always enough.

I’d love to hear you thoughts, so hit me up with a comment. As a side note, due to the length of this post I almost made it a two-parter. What do you think? Are you okay with the length or would you have preferred receiving this article divided up into more manageable sizes?

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

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312 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat”

  1. Ok, Where I’m a little lost is where to monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats come from. Say I take a chunk of fat form a 100% grass fed steak or a slab of bacon is that all saturated fat or a mixture? How bout I eat an avacado, or some olive oil what kind of fat is that?
    Maybe someone can explain this or link me to somewhere that does. Thanks.

    1. A good guide (if somewhat simplified) is “is the fat a solid or liquid at room temperature?” Liquid fats (vegetable oils) tend to be polyunsaturated, while fats with higher melting points (animal fats) tend to be saturated or monounsaturated. Hydrogenation of vegetable fats (removing some or all of the unsaturated spots) is what makes margarine solid at room temperature.

      Most nut oils tend to be monounsaturated, I believe.

    2. Short answer: it’s usually a mixture.

      However, mammals tend to store spare calories and pack on insulation as saturated fat, so a lot of lard, tallow, etc. will be saturated.

      Seriously, google is your friend when it comes down to specific fat balances for a particular food. And you’ll need to be precise. Pasture-raised beef has less fat and much less Omega-6’s than CAFO (unethical) beef, but about the same amount of Omega-3’s.

        1. Coconut oil clogs my blood vessels…can’t have it. Olive oil is not too good also for me. I can’t have Flax…80% of people may not convert it into what is in fish oil. Heated oils make free radicals in me. Rancid fat hurts me. Raw walnuts help my brain (open shells to avoid hidden gluten and freeze so fresh). Fish oil hurt me when my thyroid was too low…body was going too slow to use it? Evening primrose oil/krill oil/lecithin/phosphatidylserine/DMAE/CLA/Fish oil help my MS daily along with no gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO…taking vitamins/good oils/minerals/probiotic/LDN..detoxing.

    3. Mark mentioned Mary Enig, Phd, and Sally Fallon. They have a great article that really helped me understand the answer to this question. It’s called “The Skinny on Fats”. Here’s the link:
      htpp://westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/526-skinny-on-fats

    4. I recently started a new chiroproactor and when he told me that our saturated fats was what we need to be eating instead of what we hear we should eat I thought he had lost his mind. After he explained it to me it really made sense. Your blog has confirmed everything he was telling me. Thank you! Now I know why eating a so called low fat diet helped get me up to 400 pounds. I had weight lose surgery and I am at 245 now. Knowing what I know now is going to help me get down to a healthy weight and body. Thanks again for all your research. More people need to read up on this stuff!

  2. I have eaten a large amount of high quality fats even since I was a young kid. I have a resting heart rate in the 50’s and low blood pressure. When I eat bread or pasta it feels like I just had a cup of coffee, its a buzz and not natural at all. I love your blog and plan on buying your book, primal outdoor living and real eating is in my opinion the clearest path to a happy life. GREAT POST! Also high intake of saturated fat (quality fats) seems to correlate with lower lpa levels, and organic veg with enzymes do the rest, its so easy!

    1. Primal wonder, good to hear that you listen to your body’s signals.

      I love the taste of a good fresh baked breads. However, even as a child I did not like how a bread turned to a gagging soft mush with chewing and how it made me feel shortly after swallowing. Oranges and strawberries, fresh or juiced, I did not like as they ‘hurt my tummy’ though I loved lemonade and raspberries, which seemed far more acidic yet did not cause problems.

      Strangely, most of the avoid foods on Dr D’adamo’s book, Eat Right For Your Type (I’m an O) were foods I never liked, usually avoided or ate because I had been told they were good for me. Brussels sprouts comes to mind. Oddly, I am drawn to avocado fruits and on the occasion I actually buy them, most are left to go brown even though I do not recognise any sense of ill in trying them.

      Learning to listen to our body-signals is very important in the pursuit of better health.

  3. That certainly was definitive!

    Thanks for taking another swing at CW. This is the same kind of “science” that is driving our leaders to try and implement a cap and trade system for greenhouse gases which will have disasterous consequences for our economy. When will we ever learn.

  4. Rafiki I know avocado and olive oil, along with nuts, have good amounts of monounsaturated fats, but I don’t know the mix of fats or why.

    The article is quite long, but I think this is an important issue. Especially since MDA-ers are even discussing this amongst themselves in the forums. It’s nice to have one good article when it comes to these “meatier” subjects (pun intended 🙂

  5. This is a very interesting post.

    I think the true media bias, (and it is bias) against saturated fats is really aimed at hydrogenated oils, which generally have a different C-chain length then the naturally occuring saturated fats.

    As far as saturated fats in animals goes, I can tell you from my experience harvesting (and slaughtering) wild game like venison and elk are very lean meats, with saturated fat layered between muscle and organs. By comparison, cattle have fat marbled throughout the muscle tissue. This is the reason beef is more tender than most wild game.

  6. i just don’t understand why saturated fats are so condemned. If they aren’t bad for you, what’s the big deal? Perhaps it’s the sfa from packaged foods and processed things that are causing cardiovascular disease. sfa’s that are naturally occurring such as from animals can’t be bad right?….we’ve survived, and have been healthy overall with them, for thousands of years.

    1. They are condemned because the original studies that implicated saturated fats implicated solid fats (which included both saturated fats and synthetic trans fats). Nobody ever bothered to separate the data because they were considered equivalent.

      Now that we now how horrific a franken-food partially hydrogenized fats are, we should redo many of the studies. Unfortunately, that costs money and most of those with research money see no issue with saturated fats being demonized. It’s just not on their radar.

    2. SFA’s are condemned because they come mostly from animals and so are much lower profit than vegetable oils which come from grains. Higher profits make wealthy people who get to buy influence in Washington.

      Tropical oils like coconut and palm oil are also high in SFA’s, but since they are imported, the reason is the same.

    3. It’s actually more likely to be the polyunsaturated oils, the trans fats, the grains, and the sugars that are causing heart disease. Saturated fats are *needed* in the body. Among other things, they contribute much of the material to your cell membranes.

    4. Don’t under-estimate the power of the sugar lobby. Not trying to be a ‘conspiracy theorist’… there are always vested interests in these things.

      Most of the ‘longer shelf life’ of our modern (processed) foods, the bulking agents for many carb-based foods as well as the ‘replacement’ for ‘fat’ in low-fat varients of naturally high-fat foods (e.g. cheese, yoghurt etc.) is done with sugar. Now why would they want you to go back to eating high fat food when it represents such a loss of income? No, ‘fat is baaaad for you… try our low-far (sugar-packed) variant instead!’.

      When people dismiss the obvious truth, always ask yourself: who stands to benefit?

      1. When wondering why we are eating thewrong foods, or given the wrong information….. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

    5. I’m think the ldl combined with chroncly high insulin causes ldl to stick to artery walls.

  7. Rafiki:
    Rarely do you find a food that’s all one thing or the other. Most fats in food are a mixture of saturated, mono, and poly. The monounsaturated fat that makes up the bulk of olive and avocado is oleic acid, which is also the monounsaturated fatty acid that makes up most of that component in lard, and in your body fat (as Mark mentioned in the article). Olive and avocado tend to be about 15/70/15% breakdown amongst sat/mono/poly. Saturated fat in your body tends to be palmitic acid.
    Even coconut oil, which is widely reputed to be all saturated fat, is actually 92% saturated fats (of various lengths, including medium chain fatty acids), 6% monounsaturated (again oleic), and 2% linoleic acid (the primary omega-6 fat in our diet).

    Even lard is only around 40% saturated fat, with 50% made up of oleic acid and a bit of palmitoleic acid, and 10% of poly.

    The polyunsaturated fraction is where the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats (including the subset that are essential) show up. So the larger a fraction of a type of fat is polyunsaturated, the more you need to worry about the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in that food. Coconut oil at 2-3% and olive oil at 8% will give you very little omega-6, but grapeseed oil at 72% linoleic acid will give you a ton.

    Wikipedia is a great reference for looking up the exact breakdown of fatty acids in a given food, fyi.

  8. The length of the post is fine, Mark. Some topics require more details. No worries!

  9. The length is fine.

    I skimmed this post because I’m at work, but quick question:

    If carbohydrates are what causes the triglyceride levels to rise, then why did the Atkins diet cause heart disease (unless I’m totally wrong there too)?

    Was it the larger omega 6:3 ratio due to the mass consumption of conventionally (and terribly) grown meat?

    1. Um, where do you get the idea that Atkins causes heart disease? Check this article for an opposing viewpoint: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/11/hsph_low_carb.html

      As for the omega6:3 ratio, it’s because the cow is fed grain instead of grass. Turns out that grain isn’t just bad for us, it’s bad for our food. (Check the omega 3:6 ratio of wild versus farmed salmon for a perfect example of this)

      1. what most people don’t know is that the human heart uses saturated fats exclusively for energy

  10. So what’s the typical fat profile of a human, both in good and bad health? And what implications might this have on what we regard as the optimal diet?

    (DISCLAIMER: I have no interest in a cannibalistic diet. This question is raised solely in the interests of curiosity and discovery.)

    1. According to the post above your question, the average human has an O3:O6 ratio of 1:17… So people are NOT good eats from this regard. 🙂

      1. So that means that cannibalistic communities must be ridden with heart disease and cancer, right?

        Maybe someone could follow up on that. :]

        1. Cannibalism should be fine as long as you stay away from eating vegetarians or vegans

        2. SerialSinner – you’re hilarious!

          Things to do today . . . avoid cannibalizing vegetarians and vegans. Check.

    2. I have an interest in a self-cannibalistic diet: I want to use my adipose fat for fuel 🙂

  11. A good read, thanks for that.

    Obviously a contentious subject due in part to issues with the early research and the inflexible position of health organisations that followed.

    As per 90% of the relevant litrature fails to address but it is the source of the fat (the food) and the context of that fat source (rest of diet) and the context of diet (lifestyle, activity type/duration) that would appear to be the issue.

    Problem is, with so many confounds how long is it going to be before we get a decent body of supporting research which involves interventions as evidence.

    A long time I fear.

  12. excellent article, Mark.

    for further reading, Anthony Colpo’s ‘Great Cholesterol Con’ is, imo, the most exhaustive and compelling dismantling of the lipid hypothesis.

    Nice touch commenting on Cordain’s anti-SFA stance. I always found it odd that he would suggest that it was not plentifully available. I have not done rigorous scientific study on the topic as he supposedly has done. But I look at it this way.
    a)HG sought out fattest game
    b)HG sought out fattest parts of whatever game they killed
    c)Even on a relatively lean animal like a caribou, deer, or moose, (the types of animals Cordain cites in his papers) which hover around 6-8% BF, the actual fat on this animal is huge.

    For example, a moose sits at about 6% BF, but weighs 1500lbs.

    Thats about 90lbs of fat!

    game fat is typically 35-55% sat fat.

    That means for a kill like this moose there is about 30-40lbs of pure saturated fat. How many tribal group memebers could gorge themselves on SFA with that ONE animal? And that’s a ‘lean’ animal!
    Now tell me HG didn’t have access to SFA.

  13. Really enjoyed your article about saturated fat. I appreciate how you always back up your statements with references to other scientific studies, articles, etc. Even if people don’t agree with your statements initially, it should force them to really question the information (or “CW”) that’s out there and possibly create a change of habits on their side.

    Regarding meat consumption and the benefits to a Primal life style, what are your thoughts on how “green” raising livestock for human consumption is (ie, to help support this planet’s inhabitants…). In these modern times with much discussion on “environmentally sound” or “sustainability”, I’m uncertain how this planet’s remaining resources will support a planet of Groks. Sorry if you’ve posted about this previously. Thanks, Bob G.

    1. (All my opinion and no scientific backup. Just my thinking.)

      I don’t believe the Earth is spacially fit to feed a world of over 6.6 billion Groks. For instance, to pasture a cow takes up a lot more space than to raise a cow on a feedlot, yet let’s replace amount of the feedlot meat in the average American diet with 100% grass-fed/truly naturally grown meat. We wouldn’t have enough space in the US.

      Then again, let’s say we somehow revived all the ecosystems we’ve changed/destroyed for farming and timber in the world and it’s previously natural inhabitants, well, reinhabited this forest. And let’s say that humans reverted to their former hunter-gatherer lives… Modern medicine would cease to exist and a lot of the population will die off from disease (and perishing in the survival of the fittest).. THEN we’d have enough resources.. ^^

      Sorry. I just started ranting out my thoughts in a jumbled mannerin that last paragraph there. Teehee.

      1. When you considered the feedlot cow did you consider the space it took to grow all the grain the cow eats? Did you account for all the oil (or other energy source) it takes to run the equipment that grows the grain? Pasture raised cows need much less energy input.

        1. Cattle that are in the feedlot were raised on pasture grass or open range until the end when they are put into the feedlot to “finish” or fatten. Therefor the space they need is the same.

  14. I find it hilarious that the AHA link that Mark provided in his post clearly mentions that carbs increase triglyceride levels.

    They then go on to say that one therapy for lowering triglyceride levels is “eating a heart-healthy diet”. If you click on the “heart-healthy diet” link, you will be told to “Eat at least 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber each day — preferably from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.”

    Doesn’t whole grains and legumes have a lot of carbs?

    No wonder this stuff is confusing!!

    triglyceride

  15. Awesome guide Mark, really hit the spot. This is the kind of thing I can pass on to people who question my high intake of fats, saturated in particular, maybe they may even listen.

    1. Thank you very much for the post. I am currently researching about how cholesterol works as I have a “new”friend that is an absolute low-fat nazi, but she knows nothing on how or why about it. It infuriates me when she tells me how I’m killing myself, but yet she uses 1% milk, margarine, “cool whip” ect. Her and her husband have joint issues and dry skin. Haven’t known her long enough to see if she has any other health issues…

      My family also has a history of heart disease and I also find margarine and cool whip topping on there tables when I visit…of course they hound about my diet as well.

      It’s been my intuition to not worry about cholesterol and pay attention to how my body reacts to certain foods. When I was eating boxed/processed items, I had so many health problems, including candida, gluten problems, kidney, depression, thyroid, irregular heartbeat and attention issues ect. Those went away when I started eating high saturated fats and cholesterol foods and not eating processed foods. My irregular heartbeat has been a non issue in the last year or so and that’s when I upped the sat fat foods and killed most sugar/flour products.

      I can’t wait to do a cholesterol/blood test to show everyone because I KNOW that I am healthy.

  16. Wow wow wow, Mark.

    You’ve really been keeping track of everything, haven’tcha? My humble thanks for including me amongst such giants and heros.

    This is a bit tongue in cheek, but with regard to that graph plotting sat fat against CHD deaths, I had a physicist blogger, Robert McLeod of Entropy Productions, run those numbers to check for a trend.

    http://freetheanimal.com/2009/03/saturated-fat-epidemiology-for-math-geeks.html

    His notable quote:

    “Although the statistics appear fairly poor, we can make one statement of interest. A positive slope is equivalent to a positive correlation between CHD and saturated fat (i.e. saturated fat bad!) and a negative slope is a negative correlation (i.e. saturated fat good!). Evaluating that statement using confidence intervals we have a 0.9 % chance of a positive slope and a 99.1 % chance that the slope is negative.”

  17. plus doesn’t SFA increase Testosterone…which is good by me!

    1. but… that wouldn’t be great for ladies, right? I wonder if sat fat regulates it better instead of just automatically increasing the hormones.

  18. I disagree with your comments about large LDL:

    “On a per-particle basis, and after adjusting for small/large LDL particle correlation and risk factors, each 100 nmol/L increment in small and large LDL-P was associated with 7.4% and 7.1% higher CHD risk”
    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/116/16_MeetingAbstracts/II_219-a

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=18739694

    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/116/16_MeetingAbstracts/II_787-c

    Thus, even an increase in large LDL-C is artherogenic and at just about the same rate as increases in small LDL-C.

    1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atherosclerosis

      When you write “artherogenic” it may be thought you are referring to arthritis.

  19. Excellent post!! I’m a big sat fat fan and get pretty tired of hearing how bad it is!!

    My own experience with low carb diets resulted in little change in HDL, LDL and a major drop in triglycerides. Once I increased my sat fat intake, however, triglycerides dropped more and HDL almost doubled!

    Also….from an anti-inflammatory angle, sat fats are protective, while veg oils (particularly omega6) are pro-inflammatory!

    1. My last test had my HDLs at 134. Trigs remain under 50.

      Curiously, where I had calculated LDL of just over 100, a direct measure put it in around 70.

      No surprise, I eat lots of sat fat too, especially via coconut milk, oil and butter.

      1. I’m really wanting to test as well, mainly because a few people (pro low-fat) are hounding me on how I’m going to get heart disease and “high cholesterol(lawlz)”. I feel great and have cured my many ailments I used to have due to carbs ect back in college. I loooove butter and and eat more fat off of meat more than I eat the actual meat.

        How much did your test cost?

  20. Awesome article, it was really time for a definitive guide. It’s better that it is in one article, so that people can find and read it more easily.

  21. The prospective studies (e.g. Western Electric & Framingham) didn’t ask what you’d eaten for the last 5 years and they weren’t just “elderly and middle-aged”. Read the literature rather than summaries for the general population. The studies collected both dietary diaries (prospective) and short term recall and also measured serum cholesterol (and bunches of other stuff).

    There is a clear relationship between total serum cholesterol and mortality over the following 20-25 years in individuals. The dietary results were not as strong; and yes they adjusted for smoking, blood pressure and other causes. Some of the analyses also looked at other diets. The researchers weren’t dummies.

    There is a small ethical problem with running long term randomized diet trials with human beings (e.g. mortality trials), so its silly to criticize the researchers for not doing so.

    The physicist who analyzed the cross-sectional country-level data might want to look up the definition of “ecological fallacy”, something epidemiologists are quite familiar with. Keys knew about that, too.

    1. “The physicist who analyzed the cross-sectional country-level data might want to look up the definition of “ecological fallacy”, something epidemiologists are quite familiar with. Keys knew about that, too.”

      I did tag that as tongue in cheek.

      If researchers were mindful of the ecological fallacy, then they wouldn’t even put this sort of data together in the first place.

      Instead, if they get the results they’re looking for in the first place, it’s fine & dandy. If not, it’s ecological fallacy, outliers, or simply ignored.

      Ecological fallacy or not, the trend is not positive, not remotely so — 99.1% not remotely so — and it clearly will never even be close.

      What you are in essence claiming is that if a certain cross-section of the population of those countries were randomized and then studied similarly, the trend would miraculously go positive.

      Bullshit. You’re not fooling anyone.

    2. “There is a clear relationship between total serum cholesterol and mortality over the following 20-25 years in individuals.”

      The clear relationship is net zero. There is a slight negative correlation between death from heart disease and total cholesterol and a slight positive correlation between death from cancer and total cholesterol. When you add up the two curves, there’s a local minimum at 240 for men and 220 for women.

      Ah the tragedies of using an intermediate result instead of a terminal result.

      1. And then, when you begin looking at all-cause mortality and then begin looking at different age groups and gender, all bets are off.

        1. Richard

          “What you are in essence claiming …” I am not claiming anything. I pointed out the fallacy in the plot, and yes, the literature is loaded with counter-examples where the between group goes in one direction and the within group (individual) goes the other. When you publish stuff like that, the text usually lists all the caveats, which is why you need to actually read the articles. Sometimes you have to go with the data you have, and follow-up with the stronger studies later.

          Ross: I believe the relationship in the Western Electric study held between total mortality and total cholesterol, as well as cardiac mortality and total cholesterol. I’ll have to look it up. Its been 30 years since I wrote that.

  22. Thanks , great article. As always so well documented, for further readings.

  23. Hi Mark,

    I like your articles, and I agree with you about fats.

    However, I wonder about dietary information beyond “eat what’s natural (i.e., non-processed food, or efls’s, and being as “natural” as possible (untampered with, organic, etc.)), in season, from your local area.”

    These studies all seem to point to one thing – people live for about 75-100 years.

    The folks from the areas with higher mortality rates live in places where medical care and hygiene are comparatively low; and in some cases, where warfare or death due to violence is comparatively high.

    The human body, like any organism, has a high degree of adaptability (which is why we’re still around), and it seems to me that the body will find a way to subsist on anything “natural” as long as it isn’t poisonous (either as a quality or as a quantity (excess)).

    Fats, carbohydrates, proteins…whatever, in any crazy combination, as long as you aren’t getting too many or too few of one over the other two, which doesn’t really happen if you’re eating the way mentioned in the first paragraph.

    I don’t know, though, I’d really like to hear/read your thoughts on this.

    Thanks

    1. That’s the problem, Josh. The body can “subsist” on just about anything. (Seaweed and show leather in the case of many Irish during the potato famine.) But subsist is not what we are after here at MDA. We are after “thrive.”

  24. The studies that you posted are interesting, and they certainly give pause regarding conventional wisdom regarding a proper diet. I just have a little problem with the evolutionary arguments. No, I’m not a creationist. But the process of natural selection doesn’t really “care” whether we die of heart attacks at the age of 40, as long we have the opportunity to reproduce first.

    1. That’s certainly true, but I don’t see why the very same dietary patterns that allowed us to flourish and survive until reproduction would then turn on us.

      It doesn’t happen with dogs, who are fertile almost immediately. When you feed them the correct ancestral diets (raw meat, organs, bones), they far outpace kibble-fed dogs long past reproduction.

      We aren’t dogs, but we are animals.

    2. Larry:

      MS also doesn’t care if you live to be 125. It just worked out that healthy people live into their 70s, 80s & sometImes beyond.

      There was no imperative, just worked out that way. Perhaps humanity went through long periods of thousands or tens of thousands of years that survival was so arduous that only the super strong even made it to reproduction. That pressure for super vitality could be what eventually gave us the ability to live far beyong our ability to progenate our genes.

    3. Actually natural selection does care how long you live after you are no longer able to reproduce. Grandparents can gather food for the mother too pregnant to get out and gather for herself. Grandparents latter can either watch the children while parents gather food, or gather food for the grand kids. Of course there is a point where too many old folks around are taking food from those who are able to reproduce.

    4. I am of New Zealand Maori descent, here is what the early European visitors thought of the pre contact Maori…….That was in 1642. Captain Cook in 1769 observed: “They are also exceedingly vigorous and active. Their teeth are extremely regular and as white as ivory …

      they seem to enjoy high health and we saw many who appeared to be of a great age.”

      Captain Cook’s botanist, Joseph Banks, concurred. “The men are of the size of the larger Europeans, stout, clean limbed and active, fleshy but never fat. Among them I have seen many very healthy old men and in general the whole of them are as vigorous a race as can be imagined.”

      The early Europeans found Maori to be taller than them, healthier than them, fitter than them and maintaining their health and fitness to a good age.

      Maori had the best teeth ever recorded. The first director of Otago’s Dental School was Henry Percival Pickerill. He reported examining 250 pre-European Maori skulls to find only two had tooth cavities.

      They had no toothpaste, no toothbrushes and no dentists. Old-time Maori clearly knew how to look after themselves and their teeth. I am 67 years old, My older relatives, told me there diet was fish<fowl (birds) eggs seals what ever they could get from the sea, a very small part of there diet was kumara (a very small sweet potato about the size of a mans thumb, and various roots and in season berries. they ate as much fiberous greens as they could find, best guess 60%animal and the occasional human, and 40% vegetable matter. Their health now is among the worst in the world, eating from fast foods and high vegetable fat franken foods from the super market.

    1. Wild game is, almost by definition “low fat.” Ever eat elk? Very little fat compared to a similar cut of beef.

      1. Whether wild animals are much leaner or not is kind of irrelevant since people don’t tend to eat ‘too much’ saturated fat unless it accompanies refined carbs.

  25. This couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

    It is a little long, but definitive guides are supposed – definitive! If its too long for some, bookmark it and come back!

  26. Two cents: I prefer reading the whole dang thing – the subject is engrossing, and one I’ve had to deal with continually in my fitness career. I tried veganism for up to 2.5 years and “failed to thrive.” That wan, drawn, lobo look. I’ve been vegetarian for 42 years but now occasionally eat fish when my body seems to demand it.

    The problem I find with sat-fat is that, while the foods that contain them make me feel happy and healthy, they ARE fattening. The moment I add even small amounts of dairy, I start gaining weight – even when I’m running 40 mpw and lifting heavy 1-2 days, walking 2 days. I conclude that sat-fats are needed metabolically, but only in fairly small amounts; otherwise, they get stored in butts and guts.

    As an athlete I find that a buttermilk smoothie is a marvelous recovery drink, and eggs are a wonderful pre-hard-exercise prep. But I can’t avoid drawing the obvious conclusion from my experience – eating sat-fat at other times adds pounds. And, so does eating more than small amounts of mono-fats (olive oil, avocado). Perhaps other factors are in play: my sedentary hours as a writer, a placid metabolism – who knows?

    The (strange to me) exception is almonds and almond butter, which I’ve read is calorie-neutral; in fact, I can eat several tbsp daily without gaining an ounce.

    I’d love to hear Mark’s thoughts about this. “Most good things, pursued to excess, become liabilities.” Or?

    1. Let me offer a counter anecdote.

      I have lost 70-80 pounds of fat over the last two years while gaining 10-20 pounds lean for a net loss of about 50. I am now in weight territory not navigated in about 15 years.

      How? Three things:

      1 Lots and Iean lots of sat fat. Coconut milk, oil, butter. And lots of meat and I’m pretty good at fatty sauces.

      2 I only eat twice per day

      3 I practice IF

      4 I work out only an hour per week at most, 2 intense sessions, one very heavy lifts, the other a crossfit mélange.

      I also walk about 20 miles per week. However, I began that in 2000 and in the ensuing years to 2006, doing only that for a fitness strategy, put on 25-30 pounds.

    2. Runbei, the problem may be that you defer to too many carbs to fuel your 40 mpw running habit. A vegetarian that eats low fat must, of necessity, make it up in carbs (’cause there sure ain’t a surplus of protein there). A higher carb diet means more insulin. More insulin means that more fat (of all types) AND excess carbs gets stored rather than burned.

    3. I eat loads of saturated fat, and I’ve lost 38 pounds in the last 6 months (eating primal!). That’s the weight I put on from 13 years of vegetarianism. There’s no way saturated fat makes me fat.

      Dairy doesn’t agree with some people. It has nothing to do with the fat…it’s the protein that’s hard to digest. It could be you’re sensitive to dairy. Try eating meat and ditching the dairy.

    4. As Mark put it the problem is the carbs.

      I am also eating a lot more saturated fat these days, and have lost about 15 pounds. I guess at most 15 more to go. I am already as lean as I was in College.

      I am still mostly vegetarian, and still eat lots (not as many as before) carbs. But I make sure that I go low carb some times. This I do by IF or by eating a grilled chicken as dinner.

      I also eat much less carbs than before.

      You might want to take care of not eating too much almonds/butter because of the omega6 problem. You are taking fish to balance though.

      I am also mostly sedentary, being on the computer most of my day. The only exercise is heavy lifting 2-3 times a week.

      1. I wanted to know how do you cook the chicken you eat for dinner? Also, have you cut all sweets & breads out of your diet? Im thinking I can just eat endless grill chicken & fish with some veggies on the side and cut out all breads! Would that help me loz 20 lbs?

        thanks for you help, im in desperate need lol..summer is here and i lok like shammooo lol but I do want to loz weight the healthy way!
        take care
        boop!

    5. Almonds fill you up quickly. Maybe you aren’t realizing it, but after you eat almonds, you don’t eat foods you otherwise would’ve eaten if you hadn’t had those almonds that, in the time that the almonds kept you full, would have added up to more calories than the almonds.

      Am I making any sense? xD

    6. Don’t eat fat and carbs together (where together is over a 1-2 week period). As you already know, eating low-low-fat means failure to thrive. Eating low-low-carb, you’ll thrive and you’ll keep the weight off.

      The worst of both worlds is “balanced” carbs and fat. The presence of the carbs guarantees a big insulin response and all of the fat gets packed away.

    7. runbei, I am an endurance athlete who will train 10-15 hours a week. Even with a lead up to a half ironman in early May, I was consuming 4000 calories a day, with 2200 of those coming from fat (mostly MUFA, some PUFA and SFA). CHO was about 30-35%, protein made up the rest. I also lost weight in the last month leading up to it (timing of eating was just as important as # of, and context of calories).

      Have you considered total number of calories? Let’s say you consume 3000 calories/day w/ a low fat/sat fat diet. But when you add add’l fat/sat fat, you don’t cut carb, which means your calories go up (lets say to 3500). If you maintain your current volume of running, then you will gain weight since you are consuming more calories than burning.

    8. I was a vegetarian for quite a while too. What I found was that as I got into my thirties, it didn’t matter how much exercise I did, I would slowly gain fat around the gut. I switched to a high meat/fat, low carb primal diet a few months ago, and now I’m back to the same weight and body composition I had when I was 20, only thicker and even leaner, and I feel much better than when I was a vego. Much more even moods is a standout.

      I’ll be interested to see what happens when I start doing a few weights…

  27. Mark, the article definitely isn’t too long because this is important info. And. . .I believe you will need to keep putting this topic up periodically with the latest research you find. The whole saturated fat phobia is probably the toughest one to overcome for many of us, and, I’m afraid, many believe what they have been taught over what they have experienced. Say it again, say it again, say it again.

    1. We have heard fat, especially artery clogging saturated fat, is a killer, for so long, it is hard to clear it out of our heads. When I was growing up in New Zealand we ate everything, white bread, butter, meat, all the time eggs, all our meat was cooked in dripping or mutton fat. Then when I was in my 30’s I moved to Australia , and heard meat would kill me, I am 67 in May 2015, and although I eat a high fat low carb medium protein diet, I can’t help thinking, what if this is a death sentence diet, surely health professionals wouldn’t tell us lies……would they… Just thinking

  28. Mark,

    Thanks for the great article. Definitely hte mainstream media has gotten it all wrong and they want us to believe their way!. I am a low carber for the past 1 year consuming 80% fat every day in a 2300 calorie diet. All my vital parameters are normal. I check comprehensively once in 3 months.

    One quick question: If sat fat is rigid and can withstand heat, why coconut oil has a low smoking point than PUFA oils and Olive oil? I personally take a Tbsp pf coconut oil and swallow. I do not fry anything using coconut oil though I see that coconut oil is much better one compared to PUFA and MUFA oils.

    Please reply.

    Thanks

    Venkat

  29. Thanks, Mark, Richard, and others for sharing your interesting weight-loss results with high-sat-fat diets. I’m intrigued. Mark, I’ll search the site for your insights on getting just enough carbs for a given level of exercise, and timing them right. Potatoes give me excellent energy, but of course any excess just turns to fat.

  30. Proof’s in the pudding, as they say…so if the people telling me my diet of 70 percent (high quality) fat is so bad have off the chart low tryglycerides, off the chart high HDL cholesterol (literally, my lab results have a little asterisk on them, not within normal range! And my lipids used to be so bad that my doc was threatening statins!) and healthy LDL, low body fat and a flat tummy and can climb cliffs and mountain bike up killer hills for hours on end at age 47…then I’ll say their diet must be good, too.

    1. The studies quoted…while very relevant and valid regarding fact natural / un- processed saturated fat is not the enemy…whether from plant or animal, the studies fail to include info on levels of activity, fitness, exercise. Our paleo ancestors (and even our recent ancestors from 100 years ago) were not sitting on couches…or behind computers as many of us are. (myself included). They were out hunting their food. Not shopping for it at Costco. I was never grossly overweight, but recently I went from 188 to 164.5 in 1 month by doing the following:
      1. eat whole raw foods at lunch (vegetables/lean meat/very few carbs)
      2. I did eat healthy fats…in moderation…relative to my overall activity level. (Healthy calories in less than calories out from exercise).

      at 5, 11 my weight at 188 wasnt so much wasn’t weight reduction, but becoming leaner.

      In some regards to lose weight is simple…calories burned needs to be greater than calories eaten. To be really healthy they need to be the right kids of calories…most importantly…they need to be nutritional calories (not just fat)…providing the right nutrients/minerals/vitamins..what ever you want to call it…for the goals you have. Weight loss nutrient requirements are different from those who want to get ‘big’ muscles. They need more calories…of the right kind.

  31. I was just talking to my friend Chris about PB and how saturated fat has gotten a bad rep and how carbs are the reall killer. I turned him on to the Apple so hopefully he reads this article.
    Great timing Mark.

  32. On my part, when I am telling about Saturated fats to others I don’t start from saturated fats at all. I just tell them that Carbohydrates convert to Triglycerides which are saturated fats. Now when you put things that way, you have put forward the idea that carbs are at least as bad as saturated fat.

    After this I explain that the reason why carbs are converted to saturated fats is because it is the preferred fuel source for the body. Otherwise why would the body do this.

    I also tell that the ghee (butter oil) is very good, and traditionally everybody in our country used to have it. Then I tell them why that was a good thing to do.

    I also talk about the problem of high omega 6 and why refined oil are bad for them. People (in India) are more amenable to thinking of traditions as good. So I tell everybody that traditional foods are good, because they use a lot of healthy ghee.

    The thing is nobody can contradict what I have said. But unfortunately, they just cannot go back to eating ghee. I know people who have stopped fearing ghee, but they have not gotten rid of refined oil. People don’t change unless the see a present danger.

    Obesity is at best a far away problem.

    1. OK…first off, consumer affairs staff are likely not medical people. Even if they are, they likely look at mainstream medical for criteria to decide if something is “good” or “bad” for us.

      Low carb diets lower triglycerides, increase HDL, both of which are felt by just about anyone to be a good thing. Low carb diets also “may” increase total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

      “Experts” have long claimed that these 2 things are indicators of heart disease or impending heart disease. The research, however, does not prove this!

      The latest research now seems to implicate small particle LDL as the biggest problem. Other studies that shown that low triglyceride levels lead to a higher % of large fluffy LDL and a smaller % or small dense LDL. So, even if your LDL does go up on low carb, it’s likely that, since your triglycerides are probably low, your LDL are mainly the large fluffy ones!

      Additionally, when you have low triglycerides (under 100) the formula used to estimate LDL doesn’t work! With low triglycerides only direct measurement of LDL is accurate and when done usually shows a much lwer level than the calculation does!
      http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/weight-loss/low-carbohydrate-diets-increase-ldl-debunking-the-myth/

  33. This fear of saturated fat is getting out of hand. My daughter took her 2 year old in for her routine check-up, and because she (the 2 year old) increased in weight (and height) from the below 75th percentile to midway to the 95th percentile, she was advised to avoid saturated fats. For a 2 year old. I told my daughter I thought that was ridiculous, and fortunately she agreed. They don’t eat junk food, and the kid loves peas and apples. I still can’t get over it. A 2 year old avoiding saturated fat.

    1. I give my 11-month old the fat trimmings off of roasts. She loves it (as long as it isn’t too strongly spiced) and goes crazy for more.

      Saturated fat is ALL GOOD in our household. (mind the specific fatty acids too, but saturated animal fats and coconut/palm oil are net positive).

  34. The only bone I have to pick with this article is the argument that saturated fat is healthy AS INDICATED BY the human preference for eating it.
    Um…no.
    Not “No, humans don’t love saturated fat,” but, “No, thinking something tastes good doesn’t make it healthy.” Sugar is a prime example of this. The human taste buds LOVE sugar. And that means it’s obviously good for us? Not so much.

    Otherwise, great article.

    1. We evolved taste buds to help us discern between good and bad foods available in our surroundings.

      We love sugar because sugar is a very high quality, but SCARCE, nutrient. It makes sense that we are hard-wired to take as much advantage as if we happened to encounter it.

    2. I had the exact same thought. I think you should remove it. All your other arguments are good; this silly statement detracts from your credibility.

      1. The point is that because humans prize fatty meat over lean meat, our ancestors would have done the same – which means we’ve been picking the fatty cuts over the lean ones for many thousands of years. Our long and storied history with certain foods is what makes them suitable and healthy to eat.

  35. I think it’s a great article, and the length is fine by me. Lots of interesting comments too. I do get a kick out of the AHA being willing to admit that high triglycerides can be caused by “and/or a diet very high in carbohydrates”…

    Yet they can’t even bring themselves to *say* “cut your carbs” when they talk about how to get your triglycerides lowered. As an another poster commented, they point you to the carb-heavy “heart healthy diet”, and they *do* say: “limit beverages and foods with added sugars” – which is a step in the right direction, but they just can’t say the C-word. 🙂

    I *love* my sat fats! I had some pork chops from pastured pigs last week. They tasted like pork chops I remember from childhood, nice and juicy with a nice rind of fat, unlike the hockey puck chops you find in most supermarkets. I also love my organic butter from grass-fed cows, my raw almonds and my organic almond butter, and right now I’m eating veggies straight from my own garden, and soon my raspberries will be ripe too. I don’t miss bread, pasta, rice, grains, sugary items at all. I avoid all trans and hydrogenated fats, and PUFAs – and I feel so much better.

    Of course neither am I losing an ounce, despite having over 100+ pounds to lose, but I guess that is another sad story for another day. 🙂

  36. Can anyone further explain how carbohydrates once converted to triglycerides in the liver are stored in fat cells as saturated fat? I tried reading the article referenced to this statement, but honestly I found it a bit over my head. Are triglycerides saturated fatty acids by definition and chemical make up, or is there some process that converts triglycerides to another form when they become stored? Thanks:0

    1. Most of the time, lipids (oils) are carried in our blood by lipoprotein (cholesterol) particles (which resemble balloons with gates to let the oils in/out). The triglycerides inside those cholesterol particles are carried from place to place in the body, most of them delivering the lipids where needed.

      When we eat fructose, however, there is a problem. Fructose is HIGHLY reactive/damaging, much more so than glucose, and glucose is pretty risky stuff (google “Advanced Glycation Endpoints” for more). Luckily, blood from the gut passes through the liver before it reaches the rest of the body, and the liver gets a chance to “clean up” the fructose.

      When your liver detects fructose coming from the gut, it stops everything else and starts converting fructose to fatty acids, which get bound to a glycerol molecule (can be from the blood or synthesized as needed) and you’ve got a triglyceride. So the liver tries to pack these triglycerides into lipoproteins so that they’ll be carried normally in the blood, but it fairly quickly runs out. For whatever reason, the liver really is in an emergency mode and DOING NOTHING ELSE, not even creating new LDL particles, and fairly quickly, the amount of triglycerides exceeds the available carrying capacity of the LDL already in the liver.

      At this point, any additional triglycerides spill into the blood as little blobs of fat floating around in the mostly water of the blood. These little blobs of fat are what is being measured by “free triglyceride” in the cholesterol test, and they are a much higher predictor of heart risk than LDL or total cholesterol or anything so crude.

  37. Some further thoughts. I’ve been a health nut and athlete for 41 years. Along the way, I’ve tried extreme high-carb and low-carb diets. Both failed. On high-carb/no-fat (Pritikin), I lost 2 lbs/week but suffered greatly reduced athletic performance and baffling midsummer immune ailments (bronchitis). The moment I added 1 tsp of flax oil to my daily diet, sprong! went my energy.

    Later, I tried extreme low-carb. I lost a ton of weight, but my 3.5-hour long runs became death marches. The body’s most carb-hungry organs are the brain and heart, and the body rigorously protects their energy supply by shutting down other systems if we don’t eat enough carbs. When I ate just ONE CUP of rice pilaf, sprong! went my energy.

    I tried a vegan Eat to Live diet but failed to thrive. Finally, I concluded that balance is necessary, and that what really counts is the proportions: JUST ENOUGH carb, just enough fats including sat-fats, and let the bull out of the barn when it comes to fresh, organic fruit and veggies.

    BTW, on Eat to Live I ate TONS of fruit even as the weight melted away; it takes enormous amounts of oranges, watermelon, etc. to put on weight. Starchy carbs are a very different matter: a very small amount goes straight to the fore and aft nether portions. Anyway, I thought it might help to share these thoughts. I’m presently just trying to figure how much is “JUST ENOUGH” of both fats and carbs. With all respect, I do wonder if 70 percent is WAY more than enough for metabolic needs.

    1. I also find that for aerobic activity, just enough carbs turns a slog into a fun time.

      But I do pack in as much fat as possible, and really try to find that minimum amount of carbs that keeps me going.

      As for fruit, watch out for the fructose. In moderation, there’s no problem, but if you scarf it down or drink lots of full strength juices, you can quickly overwhelm your liver’s capacity to safely convert it to LDL and you end up with very high triglycerides (one of the most significant risk factors for heart problems).

  38. Great article Mark! I was following the Paleo diet for about 9 months, but disagreed on the saturated fat stance based on other readings I found. That is why I switched to Primal (as well as every other aspect of the Primal Blueprint). As far as the length of the article – I like meat.

  39. Notice arrived of a comment by Ryan that hasn’t appeared here yet – I assume it will. Anyway, Ryan, thanks – your idea seems entirely right: total calories count. Lots of food for thought here.

  40. runbei,

    If you want some evidence that you can achieve elite athletic performance on a high-fat,low-carb diet, you should check out the CrossFit games website and look at what these guys put themselves through over the course of 2 days.

    http://games2009.crossfit.com/

    Just to give you a sense, they started with a 4.5 mile trail run with brutal hills. Followed that up with deadlifts that started at 305 pounds, and increased by 10 pounds all the way up to 505 pounds. Then a quarter mile run uphill carrying 70 pounds worth of sandbags. They finished day one w/ 2 more equally brutal workouts that required strength and endurance. Day 2 was even more insane in terms of the overall strength, endurance and athleticism required just to finish the workouts.

    The overwhelming majority of these athletes are following a low-carb, high fat Paleo/Primal diet protocol. Most of them say their performance did not take off until they lowered their carbs and increased their fat intake. Their is an almost cult-like devotion to bacon and all of it’s fatty goodness by the CrossFit crowd. The guy from my gym that qualified for the games eats a whole avocado every day and less than 150g of carbs.

    To me this group of athletes is like a giant control group that is just begging to be studied by modern scientists. Fit, strong, athletic, healthy individuals eating high fat, low carb and doing short intense workouts and virtually no long cardio sessions.

    Anyhow, just more anecdotal evidence (from a fairly large population of people) that you can be fit and perform well on low carbs.

  41. I think the bad reputation of saturated fats comes in part from the hydrogenation of vegetable fats like coconut or palm that makes them into trans fats. Before we knew they were trans, we just thought they were saturated. Plus, the meat industry did their own product in by feeding it grain, loading it up with anti-biotics and hormones. Which are stored in the fat of most animals. Eat those animals and get all that unnatural stuff in your body, naturally, you get heart disease.

    No one bothered to look closely at the omega-6/omega-3 ratios of most commercial beef or the hormones or the conditions they were raised in, or the hydrogenation issue. They just labeled it as “FAT. FULL OF FAT. BAD” and went on their merry way.

  42. I guess I’m kind of straddling the fence, because I’m trying to do low carb, but without much animal fats or protein. For me, that means lots of mono-unsaturated fats from avocados, pecans, walnuts, flaxseed, peanut butter, and extra virgin olive oil. Any comments on that, anybody?

    1. High protein, low fat – which I think is what this Cordain guy was recommending people – is dangerous. You get depleted of Vitamin A, which already too low by miles in modern diets. Real hunter-gatherers, as opposed to fantasy ones invented by intellectuals, never did that. The Indians had a term for when you couldn’t get enough fat – “rabbit starvation”. Fortunately, they usually had plenty put by.

      Low protein, low fat. That’s another kettle of fish. As you also say low carbohydrate as well, you get me thinking “what’s left?” I guess a lot of nuts, as you say.

      it’s probably inadvisable. A doctor called Edward Howell did try eating loads of nuts at one time. He got extreme nausea after after a couple of months. He thought this was down to the enzyme inhibitors present in them. What health problems there might be in the longer term, I don’t know.

      They’re a good food source in moderation. And in larger quantities would be OK if you dealt with the enzyme inhibitors by soaking them overnight in salt water and then dehydrated them, so they’d keep. They do contain a lot of minerals and also B group vitamins, like meat (and wheat bread) does.

      But meat is a very good food source, too. Most people in traditional societies ate plenty of it, and their health tended to be very much better than that of others. You don’t get B12 except from meat (or eggs or dairy produce). You probably do want some saturated fat, too – although you can make your own (as covered in the essay above). Then there are those all-important fat-soluble vitamins. There is a precursor to A in carrots, for example. But I understand that not everyone can convert it, and really it’s best to eat those animal fats for their high content of A and D (and others) if for no other reason. The amounts of A & D in the traditional diets of some of the last surviving hunter-gather groups around in the 1930s were found to be some ten times greater than that in the American diet of the day. The gap would be wider now. It’s probably a good idea to start the day with two teaspoons of cod liver oil and two of butter, if you do nothing else.

  43. Mark – could you please post links to larger scale versions of the second two graphs:
    – showing mean total cholesterol vs. cardiovascular mortality rate
    – showing saturated fat energy (%) vs. coronary heart disease (deaths/100k/year)

    Thanks!

    1. “Yes, the well studied link between saturated animal fat and cancer/ heart disease will keep primal type diets too controversial for mass adoption, just as the Atkins diet had its 15 minutes and is now widely discredited.
      Pubmed study for support:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19307518?dopt=Citation

      Ah yes, the ludicrous and widely discredited MR-FIT study. LOL.

  44. the following is from the TomMed post above…

    “CONCLUSION: Red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality.”

  45. For the record, I generally like the idea of primal, but I’m on the fence about sat-fats and cholesterol. I understand that mainstream beliefs on the matter can be questioned. However, I notice that people on this board have also “made up their minds” like all the the mainstream doctors etc. that are (slightly) ridiculed on this site. The links below list scientific studies that dismiss the idea that LDL particle size “matters” for heart disease. I would like to see someone address the findings of these studies…

    rts wrote

    “I disagree with your comments about large LDL:

    “On a per-particle basis, and after adjusting for small/large LDL particle correlation and risk factors, each 100 nmol/L increment in small and large LDL-P was associated with 7.4% and 7.1% higher CHD risk”

    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/116/16_MeetingAbstracts/II_219-a

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=18739694

    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/116/16_MeetingAbstracts/II_787-c

    Thus, even an increase in large LDL-C is artherogenic and at just about the same rate as increases in small LDL-C.”

    1. This is all very interesting. I too like the idea of primal, but I’m on the fence about sat-fats and cholesterol. I also have hereditary hyper elevated Cholesterol ‘410’s’ witch has been under control due to statins (Lipitor)”180’s”. I am meeting with the Cleveland Clinics preventative cardiology dept in 2 weeks.I’m bringing up these topics to see where the Clinic Stands with the latest breakthroughs & findings? Again, I’m neutral & in the process of obtaining info for my own decision making.

    2. At least the correspondent is consistent in his/her spelling of “atherogenic”.

  46. Interesting article: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig10/deutsch1.html

    “So, eating saturated fat is not harmful for most people. It may even be good for you. But, if you have fallen for the conclusions drawn from the bad science initiated by Ancel Keys and promulgated by the American Heart Association, government agencies and many other advisors on nutrition, it is a fat nocebo and could kill you.”

  47. The problem with saturated fat is that it can increase inflammation, and decrease insulin sensitivity
    http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/139/1/1

    Saturated fatty acid-mediated inflammation and insulin resistance in adipose tissue: mechanisms of action and implications.
    Kennedy A, Martinez K, Chuang CC, LaPoint K, McIntosh M.

    Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402, USA.

    This review highlights the inflammatory and insulin-antagonizing effects of saturated fatty acids (SFA), which contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome. Mechanisms responsible for these unhealthy effects of SFA include: 1) accumulation of diacylglycerol and ceramide; 2) activation of nuclear factor-kappaB, protein kinase C-, and mitogen-activated protein kinases, and subsequent induction of inflammatory genes in white adipose tissue, immune cells, and myotubes; 3) decreased PPARgamma coactivator-1 alpha/beta activation and adiponectin production, which decreases the oxidation of glucose and fatty acids (FA); and 4) recruitment of immune cells like macrophages, neutrophils, and bone marrow-derived dendritic cells to WAT and muscle. Several studies have demonstrated potential health benefits of substituting SFA with unsaturated FA, particularly oleic acid and (n-3) FA. Thus, reducing consumption of foods rich in SFA and increasing consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and oils containing oleic acid or (n-3) FA is likely to reduce the incidence of metabolic disease.

    I’ve seen other studies that highlight this inflammatory effect, and a TV programme that showed there was vascular constriction after a high sat fat meal.

    It is still better I believe than excess omega 6 which has a greater inflammatory effect especially when the omega6 to omega 3 ratio is high. The worst thing a person could do is replace sat fat with omega 6 which is what has happened all over the world with disastrous results.

    Personally I’m sticking to small amounts of sat fat, using mainly mono and omega 3 fats.

    1. Well, that seemed very bizarre to me, so I asked Stephan at Whole Health Source (whom Mark links to in the post).

      Here was his series of responses:

      ~~~

      “Saturated fat does reduce insulin sensitivity in the short term, relative to MUFA and PUFA. But that’s based exclusively on short-term trials of 2-3 months or less, as far as I know. I haven’t looked into it in detail, but I have a really hard time believing saturated fat promotes inflammation in humans. I bet most of those data come from animal models that aren’t adapted to saturated fat. Try creating inflammation in a dog using saturated fat… In any case, even if it does contribute to inflammation, the effect can’t be on the same order as an n-6:3 imbalance. Saturated fats aren’t eicosanoid precursors. I may look that paper up so I can evaluate the evidence. If it needs debunking I may take it on.”

      Then, a bit later:

      “I just took a look, it’s basically BS. It’s based almost entirely on cell culture and mouse studies. They try to imply a link to human health but have almost no human data to back it up. I don’t even know if this is worth debunking, honestly…

      “By the way, even if saturated fat does reduce insulin sensitivity in the long term (which is not clear), I don’t necessarily see that as a problem. Insulin sensitivity is a marker of metabolic dysfunction in modern America, but it’s more complicated. Insulin does a lot of things besides signal sugar to enter cells. There may be physiological (non-pathological) reasons to induce mild insulin resistance. It probably has nothing to do with the insulin resistance you see in people with metabolic syndrome or diabetes. As far as I can tell, SFA have never been consistently linked to overweight, inflammation-related, or insulin resistance-related disorders.”

      And then:

      “I just perused the literature on PubMed, the data linking SFA to inflammation in humans is basically nonexistent unless I missed something.”

      ~~~

      For me, the paleo / primal / evolutionary principle tells me that it would be odd indeed if SFA as an independent variable had any ill affects of humans whatsoever. After all, our own body fat is roughly the equivalent of lard in terms of SFAs, so for this to be in any way true, it would mean that our own natural biochemistry and fat storage and metabolism is inflammatory, unhealthy, and dangerous.

      Preposterous!

      http://freetheanimal.com/2009/04/losing-weight-is-pretty-much-like-eating-lard.html

      Also, see Stephan’s series on the highest SFA consuming population in the world (50% of energy from SFA). I have the posts listed here:

      http://freetheanimal.com/2009/01/saturated-fat.html

  48. I have to comment on this one, since for my entire adult life I’ve blamed my overweight condition and poor health on meat,fats, the accepted demons.

    As of July I gave up all grains, sugars, starches and really ate a LOT of saturated fat. Well, I’m shrinking, and feeling divine.

    My own experiment is all the truth I need, but it’s so comforting to read articles like this that pull all the ignored and slandered facts together!

    Many people who eat loads of saturated fat get heart disease, but they also put that pototoe and buttered white bread right beside that steak. Later they eat a tub of popcorn at the movies and wash that down with a huge sugar soda. Thats been my problem all along it seems. Thanks for such a detailed and comprehensive account Mark! 🙂

    1. My doctor got on my case last week about my blood sugar, which wasn’t out of control yet but was heading in that direction. I’ve been put on diets since I was nine years old (I’m thirty-eight now) and when I was thirty I said “hell with this!” and stopped trying to lose weight. At that point I was already 370 pounds. I maintained that weight for seven-plus years… and then my father died and I dove into high-carbohydrate eating: chips, pasta, sundaes, you name it, I had it. And I put on 27 pounds in three months.

      Thank ghu that I stumbled across a low-carbing site when I went looking for diets that lower blood sugar! I’m still a little freaked out at the idea that I can really eat all the things I’ve always been told were bad, bad, bad (like meat, and high-fat meat at that!) but I’ve been low-carbing for five days now, and my sugars went from an average of 170 to an average of 120. And they’re still dropping.

      My one problem with the low-carb eating plan is this: where do I find low-carb foods that aren’t loaded with sodium? Is there any way to do this that doesn’t require me to be in the kitchen cooking all the time?

      1. Just an update after a year and more of this way of eating:

        1. I’ll never go back. I’ve dropped about 100 pounds and my blood sugars are normal. My arthritis is gone (and it was being exacerbated by a wheat allergy). My migraines are history. My IBS is gone. My asthma is under control. Never, ever will I go back!

        2. My blood pressure is 129/75. It’s NEVER been that low before.

        3. The cooking? It gets easier every day. Bacon bacon bacon and eggs, om nom nom. Steak and salad, om nom nom. Roasted chicken, om nom nom!

        4. For those who are hesitating – don’t. Jump in with both feet and give it 30 days. You will never go back either. I can almost guarantee it.

        1. Griff that’s great! I was just wondering the other day how things were going for you (I don’t visit the forums much anymore due to time constraints). If you are looking for some good low carb recipes my wife got The Eades’ Low Carb cooking cookbook on Amazon for 1 cent (plus shipping). They’ve got some fantastic recipes!

          Congratulations again on making such great progress!

  49. I’m also a seeing is believing person. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and have completely normal inflammation markers! Both my primary care doc and my rheumy agree it’s a combination of the lack of processed foods and the high fat/sat fat diet. My fat intake is often 65-70% (or more) and sat fat is about 1/3 of my calories. Since increasing my sat fat intake my HDL has also almost doubled.

  50. The correlation in the second chart seems to be to the average temperature of the locations in which the deaths take place.
    Whether thats because people in warmer climates exercise more, who knows.

  51. “As of July I gave up all grains, sugars, starches and really ate a LOT of saturated fat. Well, I’m shrinking, and feeling divine.”

    , I gave up all grains, sugars, starches, PUFA oils and processed foods, and added more saturated fats in *January* and I am NOT shrinking even a bit. Darn, I’m happy for those for whom it’s working, but I sure wish I could be one of them – though I do *feel* better, just no smaller. 😀

  52. Fine with it being in one part, but it did take me a few days to get through. Nine-month old (paleo) babies tend to be a distraction.

  53. I think it’s simpler than Keys getting the cover of Time. It’s because to the uneducated, dare I say unenlightened, fat seems like the thing that would make you fat, not a bagel. Or whole wheat toast. I know better. Most of your readers know better. But wasn’t there a time when you didn’t know better? When you didn’t understand the science and the role of insulin? Well that’s MOST Americans. What would you think if you didn’t know any better? You’d probably think “Well I don’t want to GET fat so I shouldn’t EAT fat.” The basic “You are what you eat” logic. I think it’s THAT simple. It’s just simple ignorance. So keep educating them Mark!

    Now as to why the masses will accept Olive Oil as healthy but not bacon fat…. I don’t know. Maybe the bubbling bacon reminds them of their own fat body and therefore something to be avoided, but a “pretty” jar of olive oil does not. Maybe saturated fat just needs to be sold in prettier bottles. 😉

  54. Your site with scientific links is great, just have a thing about organic, is the use of chook poo as a nitrogen fert. Doesn’t sound bad until you see it with all the chicken heads and feet in there as well. What with all the hormones and stuff fed to chooks where this poo is collected,the really bad diseases they carried (and died of)doesn’t stack up on the health side. (Not allowed to feed protein to stock)
    NZ farmer myself one of the few countries that is mainly grass fed systems. Really annoys us NZ farmers that our farming system is claimed by feedlot producers as not good for the welfare of the animal, but is the most natural and our dairy cows have close to double the life span which tells you something of their health.

  55. There was a previous post about the total number of calories being the important factor in losing fat. Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes is an amazing book for anyone who has not heard of it or read it. It is the quality of the calorie not the number of them that is important in fat loss and wellness. 500 cal from apples is going to affect your body differently that 500 cal from a steak. As most, I am sure have noticed – the amount of fat and protein you can eat is self limiting. If I gave you a steak and then a trout and then a chicken, you could not eat them all. But if I gave you an icecream, a bag of sweets, a packet of chips etc you could most likely polish them off (typical person). Read the above book – it is life changing. Thank you for this site.

  56. Instead of focusing on saturated fat, one should look at the bigger picture. The correlation between the rise of affluence and CHD can be attributed towards a subsequent rise in sedentary behaviour as a result of affluence; and by “affluence,” I mean a society’s technological advances and standard of living. So you make a very strong argument for saturated fat being a contributor and not an overwhelming cause. The research article on ‘Dietary Factors in Arteriosclerosis’ is a reminder of how an overall unhealthy lifestyle including sedentary behaviour is most detrimental to health and constituent factors such as elevated saturated fat intake further increase the “snowball” effect.

  57. I’m sorry, the above post isn’t exactly on point, and I wish I could delete it. I am misunderstood and you do not believe that there is any solid evidence that saturated fat contributes in any way to CHD. I will finish reading this very insightful article. Your graphs are great.

  58. [continued]

    I think what I MEANT to say was:

    This is a very insightful blog that instills the reader with the notion to question popular belief, in this case about dreaded “heart-clogging saturated fat.” Not surprisingly, it seems to be that there is no conclusive and definitive evidence that elevated saturated fat intake is a direct contributor to coronary heart disease, and these wonderful epidemiological graphs show the lack of correlation.

    I admire your outlook on life.

  59. Lately I have been reading about milk, and trying to decide if it is truly better to eat/drink non-fat milk or whole milk products. There are so many benefits to whole milk products, but yet skim milk is recommended generally because of a lower fat content. I try to get all of my dairy doses from yogurt because it has live active cultures(good bacteria for your stomach, digestion, immune system) added back into it after pasteurization. I think if we actually took good care of our cows we wouldn’t have to pasteurize any of our milk products and they would all have this beneficial bacteria naturally occuring, no problems… I also think that since we do pasteurize our dairy products (because our cows are sick), the beneficial bacteria should be added back into all of them, instead of just yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream. Anyway.. getting onto my point, recently I noticed that whole milk yogurt actually has about a 3rd less sugar in it per serving than non-fat yogurt, although whole milk yogurt has a little more saturated fat. So I was thinking if I was a diabetic, or someone who is trying to avoid too much sugar in my diet.. I would probably get whole milk yogurt as opposed to low fat. The difference is 2 grams Saturated fat in a serving of low fat yogurt.. to 5 grams in regular. This made me wonder how much saturated fat should a person get in a day? That is how I stumbled upon this article. If this article is right on.. then I guess I don’t really have to worry much about getting a few more grams saturated fat in a day. Plus it seems to me that generally the closer the food source is to being in it’s originaly state the better it is for you. If you’re trying to lose weight and avoid eating a lot of sweets.. Try satisfying your craving by having some whole milk yogurt with fruit, and cinnamon, and a pinch of ginger… To me it tastes just as good as ice cream, and it’s way better for you, and has way less calories. Fruit is high in antioxidants. If you get your sugar from fuits, you’ll be a lot healthier than if you get them from grains in my opinion. Sugar is a grain, and your body turns other grains into sugar, and humans have been eating grains for a lot shorter period of time than other food groups.

    1. When considering whether dairy should be a healthy part of my diet, I thought of Mark’s character Grok. I think if Grok was lucky enough to come across a huge, slow mammal like a cow he would throw a spear into it and eat it. I HIGHLY DOUBT Grok would tie a rope around the thing and then FEED IT just so he could milk it and drink the milk or make the milk into other foods. So for me dairy is not a regular part of my diet. It’s an occasional indulgence that I fully know is for TASTE not health. I just really can’t see primal man consuming ANY dairy.

      1. Smarter Groks would. Knows human babies and cow babies do well on milk. Doesn’t have to feed cow. Eats grass. Guaranteed food source over a lucky shot unlikely to come across again anytime soon. Can always eat cow later.

  60. Awesome article. So much truth in it… I even laughed a few days after reading this, when a person started asking me a question with: “but saturated fat, which is the one that settles in your arteries(…)”, I had to stop him right there and tell him I cannot even answer that since the very question has a wrong statement. I remembered this article and smiled a bit. People truly think saturated fat clogs your arteries like grease in a pipe, it’s funny.

    I absolutely love this Website and all the articles I’ve read so far. You’re doing an awesome job, keep it up.

  61. You know I’ve tried switching to whole milk yogurt, and I do feel like it’s making it a little harder for me to keep at a good weight. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, but so is spinach, and broccoli. Dairy products can have live active cultures, but only certain kinds of yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese. This could be helpful for someone suffering from a yeast infection, and my aunt said that back in the day when you got a yeast infection you just ate a small bowl of yogurt each day for a few weeks and it went away. Although I know that their are fermented foods that have good bacteria, and there are foods that support the growth of good bacteria(that eat yeast) like kelp, and alfalfa sprouts…so these options very well may be much better than dairy. Although fermented foods are really expensive, so making them yourself might be a better bet, but also obviously a little more work. I think it is a sign that maybe some humans haven’t evolved enough to tolerate certain foods such as dairy, and gluten containing grains when people often times show allergy to such things, and maybe it is better to do without them… but some people believe that the reason human brains are so incredible, and the reason we have the control that we do on this earth is because we eat from a variety of sources. So maybe it is best to do like that other fellow said and not cut these foods out completely, but avoid their consumption more often than not. I don’t know.. Just thought I’d ramble on a bit.

  62. I like how Mark used a picture of bacon to make a point. I’m amazed no one has commented on it. The fact that 50% of the fat in bacon is mono and only 38% is saturated so not a good example of a high sat food. though this is what most non primal folks think when they see bacon.

  63. I have no idea why there would be any evolutionary drive for the body to avoid heart disease from saturated fats, when very few people lived long enough for it to be a concern. Grok’s Aorta may have been chock full of plaque when he got eaten by a saber tooth tiger, he would likely be dead long before any plaque became an issue.

    I suspect the cardio and resistance training he got hunting and dragging kill back to the cave kept most of the worst in check, but I have problems believing his body evolved to avoid something that wasn’t particularly a threat.

    The evolutionary arguments about saturated fats not being bad for us aren’t very persuasive. The data you present from various studies is much more persuasive.

  64. Mark, I have been reading some or your past articles, and in several from 2007 you keep mentioning “lean” protein…and certainly nothing about coconut oil. Is your passion for fat new?

  65. those graphs are hard to read do you know where i can find some more i need to find some for econ?? 🙂

  66. What’s funny here is if you go to the AHA link provided, they do confirm that carbohydrates are the reason for high triglycerides. But if you then click the link they have for ‘eat a heart healthy diet’, they suggest:

    “…eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, with whole grains, high-fiber foods, lean meats and poultry, fish at least twice a week, and fat-free or 1 percent fat dairy products. Also, the diet should be low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.”

    Ah, good ol’ CW!

  67. do you have a link for the studies that contain the 2 graphs of heart disease versus saturated fat/cholesterol consumption in various countries?

  68. High saturated fat in the absence of adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables is the major issue…modern diets fail to give nutrients in the balance they naturally appeared or were naturally consumed. Primates eat all day, but they’re eating vegetables all day which does not amount to many calories or blood sugar fluctuations. I think there’s a natural urge for humans to graze throughout the day, but look at what we’re grazing on!

  69. i totally get it, but the community dieticians i work with dont get it. They highlight the increased risk of cancer… bla bla bla.

    Just out of interest, how does life expectancy fit into this discussion. Pattern of life would suggest that an individual who eats a balanced diet with a reasonable amount of carbs, and is reasonably physically active will live longer nowadays in comparison to ye old cave man who ate mainly sat fat and the odd berry lol. DO i have a point or is this a useless rant? Basically what im getting at, is that humans are always evolving. And eating grain obviosuly isnt un natural for us as our body has the ability to use it as energy.

  70. Are there any longitudinal studies? following someone who healthy cholesterol levels as a results of a recduced carb high fat diet? I wonder what happens when they get older?? do they live longer than people with a high percentage carb diets. I suppose you could look at people with the longest life expectancies and see what they eat.

    ps can anyone give me some motivation to not eat crap all the time pleasssseee.

    Also, what do you think about the keto diet?? I might give it a whirl after crimbo

  71. First posting. It’s likely I’ll not be a frequent contributor, but as today is 1 January and I’m taking a bit of a break, I thought I’d use this to show you and other readers just what caribou fat looks like. If it’s working, my avatar shows a fine specimen, shot yesterday, that I’ve been skinning. Probably about 8 pounds or so of easily-obtainable fat, mostly near the lower back, on a carcass that will weigh in at about 140-170 pounds.

  72. Grrrr…avatar doesn’t show up for me. Any other way to share photos?

  73. Here’s my question: Why is it that most doctors today will tell you that the link between saturated fat consumption and heart health is all but certain? Your article makes a lot of sense, but it seems to treat the medical establishment as if it were one big, anti-saturated fat conspiracy.

    What is the motive for this? If the evidence is so weak, how did it become so widely accepted, and how has it not been challenged more often?

    Moreover, do you have any evidence that increased levels of saturated fats are GOOD for your heart (besides the Inuit, Masai data which are, by definition, outliers)? The article focuses on discrediting opposing data instead of supplying data to support it’s own thesis.

    1. Because most doctors haven’t followed the literature and research on this subject since they were in medical school. Besides, groups like the AHA and ADA still recommend low fat diets high in “healthy grains” and so they just go along with the recommendations. And it has been challenged constantly. If you are into a lot of scientific detail, read Gary Taube’s bookd “Good Calories Bad Calories” and you’ll learn more than you wanted to. If you would rather have a layman’s presentation, with a side of humor, rent the documentary “Fat Head”.

      As for the Inuit and Masai being outliers, read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and you’ll realize that it is a term that more often than not doesn’t apply. Both the Inuit and Masai were/are hunter gatherer societies similar to what all human tribes were until about 10,000 years ago. Their genetic makeup is 99.98% the same as ours so you really can’t say they are Outliers.

      1. I’m more curious as to why doctors aren’t more divided on this.

        I find it hard to believe that the vast majority of doctors would keep encouraging a certain type of diet (low fat/high carb) if they can see it is not effective.

        BTW, this is coming from a guy who eats a high protein/high fat diet. I just can’t wrap my head around why saturated fats continue to be vilified by the medical community if the evidence to the contrary is so overwhelming.

        1. I don’t know why they do either other than herd think and basing their advice on what the “authorities” promote. My wife’s cholesterol numbers were high on her last checkup and the doctor just told her to go on a low fat diet. She is ignoring that advice and has cut out grains and is low carbing it. When she goes back in March for a retest it will be interesting to see what her numbers are like.

  74. Alright, one more question.

    For the sake of argument, assume Grok’s high saturated fat intake led to clogged arteries and poor heart health. How would we know? By the time it became a problem, Grok would have reproduced many times over, thus passing his genes on. Most likely, he would die out on a hunt or in a fight with another tribe or something. I’m not quite sold on the evolutionary arguments about saturated fats, given that primal man simply didn’t live long enough for heart health to be an issue.

    1. Yeah that theory has been proposed before, unfortunately it doesn’t hold up to the anthropological evidence as presented by people like Cordain (author of The Paleolithic Diet and professor at CSU).

      One must be careful when saying that our ancestors didn’t live as long as we do. Their average lifespan was reduced by child mortality and accidents causing injuries that can be easily treated by modern medicine today. If Grok survived to adulthood and stayed safe he was able to live a long and healthy life.

      1. Yes, and Cordain promotes a diet low in saturated fats.

        “If Grok survived to adulthood and stayed safe he was able to live a long and healthy life.”

        You simply can’t know that. Paleolithic man’s life expectancy was 35.4 years. Sure, this was due in large part to infant mortality, predators, infections, etc., but how many people do you know under 40 who have ever had a heart attack? Very, very few. Grok may have eaten a ton of saturated fat, but when he died at the ripe old age of 35 at the hands of a grizzly bear, it simply wouldn’t have had time to affect his health.

        This isn’t to say that you’re wrong, or that anyone else is right, but simply that we can’t know.

        1. Cordain has changed his tune about saturated fat according to Mark. You are right that we can’t know but we can make educated guesses based on the evidence and I think the studies of bones showed them to be in excellent health. But more importantly NO studies done in the past 50 years have conclusively shown that saturated fat causes heart disease. If you can identify one let me know but Gary Taubes couldn’t and he spent years researching his book Good Calories Bad Calories.

          I don’t think the onus is on proponents of eating saturated fat to show that it doesn’t cause heart disease, the onus is on the people who claim that it does.

  75. eric, i think your statements are spot on. we cant know! surely a nice balanced diet is the best! nice amount of complex cards, plenty of meat and a few budweisers

    1. Actually, I think the evidence is pretty convincing that grain carbohydrates should be a very minimal part of a “balanced” diet. It’s harder for me to swallow that there is no danger to saturated fats long-term.

  76. “surely a nice balanced diet is the best!”

    Every time I hear some health professional advocate some mythcal “balanced diet,” I run for the door because I know they’re getting ready to promote a diet of 50-60 percent carbs which will cause me intestinal discomfort, insulin spikes, blood glucose spikes and dips, intense chest pain and sometimes emergency room visits for EKGs.

    “Balanced diets?” No way!

  77. Hi could anyone list good sources of saturated and monounsaturated fats?

    And is it ok to buy supermarket meats and consume all of it?

    Thanks

    1. See Mark’s post for Wednesday January 20th for a guide to oils.

      As for your second question I’m not sure what you mean by consume all of it. I try to avoid supermarket meats and get grass fed and natural meats from a natural grocer. It costs more but is better for you.

  78. I came to this site after reading Gary Taubes ‘Diet Delusion’ and running the conclusions I came to by a friend who put me onto MDA.

    Reading DD turned everything I thought I knew on it’s head. The answer to a lot of your queries above regarding proof and evidence can be found in that book. It has a bibliography at the back at least an inch thick!

    It is a difficult read, both because it’s very scientific and thorough and because it is really disturbing to discover that the conventional wisdom is potentially killing many overweight people.

    As I read it so many bells were ringing in my head I actually found it hard to think straight. I’m in the UK and last week we had headline news about surgical obsesity cures and whether they should be more freely available on our healthcare system, I wanted to scream and shout – you’ve got it all wrong, go read The Diet Delusion.

    I’m a 42 year old female vegetarian, I’m also a (sub 11 hour IM) triathlete and train up to 15 hours a week – I’m a bit of a fanatic (!), I followed what was considered the ideal diet 65/15/20 carb/fat/protein, I maintained a race weight (around 56 kg at 5 5) but was weirdly (or so it seemed at the time and mystified my Coach) 25% bodyfat, and was never able to increase strength and muscle mass.

    Since beginning of December I dropped the carbs (all sugar and grain-based – an interesting 36 hours of shakes and sweats ensued – which really made me think), I’ve maintained being veggie for now at least, and funny old thing I’m no longer starving hungry (whilst pregnant 20 years ago I was a gestational diabetic, so I clearly have an insulin sensitvity issue although not diabetic otherwise), currently I’m getting my protein from eggs and cheese mainly so my sat fat intake is through the roof compared with before and I’ve increased my power output on the bike by 16%.

    I’ve yet to check the body fat comp but my masseur says I’m leaner and I look leaner but am the same weight. Next difficult decision; not sure being vegetarian is such a great idea … Lol!

    Keep up the good work, it’s so important.

    ps I put my brother onto this site and as I type he’s lost a kg a week since the beginning of December, Grok rocks!

  79. I would agree with Kelda, Keep up the good work, it is so important!; and would also agree with her that after being vegetarian(various forms, lacto, ovo, vegan) for 37 years I am not sure being vegetarian is such a great idea either. Difficult decision!! LOL!

  80. Robert, I took the plunge two weeks ago and quit the vegetarian lifestyle, I now eat all meat and fish … seemed a bit weird to start with but I’ve found a local butcher and now get my meat from there, sometimes when I order bacon I have to wait a day or two because it hasn’t finished curing! It’s that fresh, and all the beef, lamb and pork are from animals living around here in the fields, the fillet steak from Aberdeen Angus is just unbelieveably good. I’ve now discovered an organic veg box system as well which I’m tempted to join but it does include potatoes and to be honest my own overgrown veggie garden is just screaming out for some planting 🙂

  81. If you read the book Transcend, which is about living to a long age in great health, the authors there even say that saturated fat consumption should be avoided because of the inflammation it promotes and the increases in levels of cholesterol. They also talk a lot about Omega-6 / Omega-3 balance.

    The argument that “ancient man” ate this way also doesn’t hold too much water, because ancient man also had a very low life expectancy compared to modern man. Simply put, ancient man had already passed on his genes by the time he died, so if ancient man’s diet caused heart disease or cancer, it wouldn’t matter because there would be little evolutionary pressures against it; in fact, it may even have been evolutionary advantageous for man to die at a young age, in order to preserve resources for the younger and more productive members of the tribe.

    1. Bollocks. Can we just put the low life expectancy hypothesis to bed? Infant and child mortality and the lack of medical care contributed to the shorter lifespan. If they made it to adulthood and avoided life threatening injury they lived to a ripe old age. What the anti-saturated fat crowd always ignores is the TOTAL lack of heart disease in indigenous cultures who had (have) diets high in saturated fat.

      As for Omega-6/Omega-3 balance, yes if you eat CAFO meats instead of pastured meats you will have a higher level of Omega-3 and inflammation.

      Finally the cholesterol theory has never been proven. In fact it has been shown time and again that lowering cholesterol doesn’t reduce your risk of heart disease. Look at Bill Clinton. He’s been on statins since he had his bypass surgery and what good have the done him? He still had to have some stents installed just a couple of weeks ago.

      1. I admit i’m feeling confused and maybe more than a bit concerned about the Heart disease implications…

        I look at the Okinawan elders(Yeah I know they eat Pork–but 40%? I haven’t read anything to indicate that)and they seem to have a mostly plant based diet along with some mild caloric restriction happening.Still,How do you argue with those results?

        I guess if everyone(on both side of this issue) had the luxury of posting their EBT Heart scan results for all to see, things might be clearer

        .. my biggest fear is that this turns out as ludicrous as the 80’s non fat debacle

      2. Considering that Clinton is a gangster who helped the Bush family smuggle cocaine into america, I am not too saddened to hear about his health woes.

  82. I love this information. We have been deceived for too long. It is now understood that a trans-fat, CLA, is important for optimal health. Even omega-3’s rancidify quickly without antioxidants. A great comparison was once made: place some saturated fat and some poly-unsaturated fat on a plate at room temperature and check them both in 2 years. The saturated fat is still the same consistancy as it was 2 years previous. The poly-unsaturated fat has since turned to a hard varnish like substance. I am not saying this is what it does in our bodies; but perhaps it may with the help of peroxides.

  83. Wow, what a great article. I have long maintained that the so called “French Paradox,” for example, is no paradox at all. And I certainly know what it is like to be “lumped in the crazy category.” Since I was a child, everyone has just “known” that saturated fat is bad for you. Try to tell someone any different, and they start to look at you like you are a dangerous lunatic.

    What disturbs me most, I think, are the nutritionists who promote the low fat, high carb diets. People look to nutritionists to tell them how to eat, and the sad thing is, these nutritionists obviously have little idea as to how the body actually works, and what dietary substances get turned into fat. Rather than thinking for themselves, these nutritionists are merely parroting what they have been told, and what they have been told is based upon severely flawed studies.

    Oh, and regarding splitting the article up into different parts, I like it just fine the way it is. However, I have long been an avid reader, and ironic as at may seem, apparently a lot of people who read such things don’t like to read such “long” articles, so I am sure I am in the minority in this regard.

  84. All these statistical studies are junk when the 800 lb gorilla in the room is ignored: dietary intake of LECITHIN. Adele Davis pointed out years ago that the levels of lecithin in the blood had more to do with artery disease than anything else. Lecithin dissolves arterial plaques and keeps triglycerides safely in solution. Magnesium with calcium must be taken to remove calcium plaques for the lecithin to work properly.

  85. Yes, lecithin is an emulsifier. However, regarding supplementing lecithin, this is something that came out of the “fat is bad” pseudo-scientific studies. The “scientists” said “fat is bad,” and the people who should have been saying “No, it’s not,” said instead “Uh, well, not if you eat enough lecithin.”

    Eat healthy, saturated fats, the ones that you get on animals. Not the ones you get out of cans, not the ones you get out of bottles, not the ones they squeeze out of vegetables. If you eat things that come out of the ground, and things that come off the hoof, just as they came out of the ground, or off the hoof, it is hard to go wrong. This is the way we evolved to eat. This is the way people like the Masai eat, and they have no cancer, no heart disease, no diabetes. Where we run into trouble is when our food passes through a lab, and gets a bunch of chemicals stuck into it. Or, when we press oils out of vegetables by mechanical processes. Food from labs, or from mechanical processes is not good. Any time ANY technology is involved, aside from simple harvesting, the end result is not natural. Eat it as if can be gathered, picked, or butchered, and you will be fine. Eat natural, unprocessed foods, and you won’t need supplements.

  86. Take away from my comment any implied criticism of YOUR studies…I agree with you.
    In my observation, lecithin never became ANY part of the official outlook. Additionally, I get my lecithin from eggs, as soy sources are suspect these days due to the chemicals used in extraction. Don’t reject the validity of lecithin intake for fear of it opposing your paradigm; it doesn’t.

  87. @fobjob: Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to say that lecithin was bad, or that you were wrong. I just meant that people shouldn’t worry about supplementing lecithin to counteract the “bad” fats found in foods that are natural to the human diet in the first place. Plenty of lecithin from eggs, I agree.

    And, I have read things where people said that you needn’t worry about saturated fat IF you eat enough lecithin. My point was that saturated fat is the fat that is good for you, and some people equivocate by saying that it is okay if you eat enough lecithin. (And thereby wimp out.)

    Regarding soy, I think that, second to the whole low fat thing, it is one of the worst lies that have been sold to the public in the last century or so. It does NOT replace meat as a complete protein, and not only are there chemicals used in its extraction, but there are pesticides used in its cultivation, and, in its unfermented form, is is poisonous. And, I might add, most of the soy products sold in the Western world are unfermented.

    Sorry, I wasn’t trying to argue with you. I agree with you, as well. I can tell you were angry; thanks for your restraint. 🙂

  88. Not angry, just mildly annoyed… :^) Not to mention that soy is GM, for
    ’roundup’ resistance….

    I’ve had several friends clear out their carotids, and one friend reverse
    his macular degeneration(early stages; yellow spots on retina) and his
    ‘arcus senilus’ ring around his cornea…(not supposed to be reversible),
    and now I have two 70’s neighbors with early macular on it.
    It drove me nuts to have my doctor try to talk me into statins. (for a
    score of 220) I explained the whole mechanism, and the faulty ststistics to
    him, and he said:”I just can’t accept that paradigm”….and I said:”I know
    you can’t, if you tried to practice it, your colleagues would burn you as a
    witch”…he didn’t argue that….

  89. Well, I seem to have taken it a step farther than you. You say “my doctor,” and I won’t let any of those bastards near me, unless I am broken or bleeding to death. For one thing, doctors in general seem to promote the low fat, high carb diet. This tells me that they don’t even understand the way the body makes fat.

    And, here’s the kicker. They found a tiny spot in my dad’s lung, when he was in his eighties, told him it was cancer, and treated it aggressively. He died in abject misery, and with a total lack of dignity, of cancer treatment, not of cancer.

    I think that in a hundred years, people will look back on many of the medical practices of today with the same bewilderment as we now look on the medical practices of the 18th century, with their theories of bleeding, “foul humours of the night,” and so on.

    I will, however, admit, SOME doctors get it. They are not, however, popular with their peers, who only want to parrot the things they have learned by rote.

    People, even smart people, seem to assume that since a person has gone through medical school, they must be smarter. All passing medical school means is that you remember the things in textbooks and lectures, and so on, and can put the right answers on a test paper. Oh, and that someone had the money to send you to med school in the first place. What it does NOT mean is that you are a genius, or that you even keep up with current events.

  90. It would be so helpful if you had 3 – 6 bullet points on top summarizing the key takeaways. Don’t need the rationale or reasons, just give me the takeaway conclusions.
    As it is, i wasted 5 minutes reading this, too dense and meandering, and now I don’t have the time to read it twice and try to extrapolate what I need to know, actionable intel, tools, going forward.
    Anyone who can write such an article can summarize it succinctly in a few minutes.
    Thanks

  91. BTW, the AHA also posts that no more than 7% of dietary calories should be derived from saturated fat for a “Heart Healthy” diet . . . opps, silly me, The Emperor has no Clothes…

    To ad to the Cordain section of the post..I agree with you on this Mark…for soem reason Dr. Crodain has a bit of a contradiction….it is clear that primitive man almost always went for the organ meat first which are high fat meats so I never really understood the lean meat thing….most fresh ruminant derived meat has plenty of saturated fat in it….keep up the great work!

  92. how did paleo-hominids come by all this fat from large game? Their only hunting tools were rocks and fire hardened pointed sticks. They were competing with
    very well adapted carnavors who would eagerly add hominids to their diet. Only with the domestication of dogs and the invention of the bow and arrow has man been a hunter of large game, and thats a mere 50K years or less
    Just wondering – Oupa pushing 83

  93. With the large number of comments and the late date of this one, I hope you will give it some time and review the concepts.

    I am a cardiologist and have been in the field for about 40 years. Over this time I have been troubled by the concept that deitary fats cause cardiovascular disease (CVD). My study and recent observations have born fruit.

    A recent met-analysis in Diet and Nutrition Journal reviewed 25 large studies incorporating 250,000 people. It found that their is no association between dietary fats and CVD. That applies to causing the problem and as a remedy.

    So, why do people develop CVD? Inflamation. The one factor that is present in all people who have active disease is an increase in inflamatory markers. A recent trial (Jupiter) actually touched on this as it compared the results of the use of a statin in those with and increase in CRP. The statins actually lower inflamation to a degree, more so than they do cholesterol. The lowering of inflamation resulted in a significant reduction in CVD events. This has not been seen with lowering of cholesterol. The funny thing is that traditional anti-inflamatory drugs worsen the problem. So the inflamatory cascade is more complex in this disease than we know. A similar acceleration in CVD is noted with AIDS and heart transplants were the immune system is suppressed.

    This fits the fact that most cardiac procedures do little to improve the prognosis of the patient (angioplasty, stents, bypass). These procedures are only working on lesions that are old and no longer active. The lesions of concern are those that are early (10% or less) that are not treated with procedures.

    Also, statins do not really work to do anything to improve prognosis. The number needed to treat for Lipitor in someone with only an elevated cholesterol is 1000 to one. I someone with a previous heart attack and thus known inflammation, the NNP is 30 to one.

    In short, everything you think you know about heart disease is likely wrong and we have been down the wrong path for the last 50 years.

  94. Very nice post. My only “complaint” is that it does not emphasize the role of the Congress and government regulatory oversight in elevating the flawed work of Ancel Keys to guru status and decades of driving misconceived public policy.

  95. Hi Mark,

    I found your post to be very intriguing and thought provoking.

    I agree with your statement that we as humans have a natural craving for fat. You provided lots of evidence.

    I think that most people realize that stress is a major cause of things like heart attacks, because on of the responses to stress is that your arteries tighten, which would cause a blockage of an artery, which would cause a heart attack.

    It sucks that we vilify the craving for fat. You can see how a person would feel guilty when they had something like ice cream or a juicy medium rare steak.

    That’s one hell of a negative association/response to tie to a natural craving.

    Thanks,

    Amir

  96. The whole ‘saturated fat is bad’ thing was based on the China Study…which was not accurate.

  97. Where did Grok get his animal protein and saturated fats. Even cheetas fail 9 times out of ten attacks. Early hominids with pointed sticks and rocks could not be successful hunters. Domesticating hunting dogs and the invention of the bow and arrow are very recent as was the horse. Seems likely that Grok scavenged long bones and skulls for the marrow and brains – much sat. fat and a good bit of protein.
    What think ye?
    Regards to all – Oupa Gofar

  98. I remain somewhat doubtful of the idea of saturated fats being a good thing. I recall asking a chemist about fats once and he explained the molecular structures of each fat; double bonds, single bonds, kinks, etc. His explanation lay in the fact that the molecular structure of the fat was what caused the fat to clog arteries.

    For instance both trans fats and saturated fats are essentially straight, allowing them to lay flat within the arteries. Monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and oleic acid, however, are far from straight, this causes difficulty in allowing them to line the arteries.

    I do see the logic in eating saturated fat, pemmican is essentially pulverized meat with animal fat and it was a staple of the aboriginal diet. You can look at a history text and see how the european explorers described the aboriginal peoples of North America, with envy and admiration for their physical prowess.

    Perhaps the chemist was wrong, I would simply rather not take my chances.

    1. Well the “clogging” is done by cholesterol (so the theory goes), not fat itself. While the blood contains triglycerides, it is a more complex process than just being transferred from the food you eat directly to your blood.

      1. I agree that fat you directly eat does not..kinda, but I do not agree that cholesterol clogs up your arteries. Cholesterol are not the bad guys, they are around your heart and your brain the most because they are there to constantly repair cells and they help keep your memory in check.

        The theory I heard: It’s the “small” dense LDL(protein, not cholesterol) that cause problems. Both LDL and HDL “carry” cholesterol. LDL is for repairing cells ect and the HDL recycles LDL when it becomes damaged. Usually LDL are long, but when LDL get damaged, they start breaking away and becoming smaller and denser. They get small enough to enter though the arterial wall but not though the endothelial wall (inner most wall that meets with the blood). This is were the “small” LDL become stuck and therefor fully oxidizes and becomes “foam” cells since there is no flow of blood for them to move. When the LDL oxidizes, it becomes sticky, making things attach to them like blood cells and other proteins ect. Eventually this debri pile becomes inflamed and large enough to bust through the endothelial wall, causing a clot and thus a heart attack. Of course this is simplified and there are many other heart issues as well like valve failure ect.

        They say what causes the higher rate of oxidization is the use of polyunsaturated fats since they oxidize pretty rapidly compared to saturated fats(which your heart favors). If you are eating hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, you are eating HIGHLY oxidized Polyunsaturated fats which I’m sure will damage the LDL almost just as soon as they are created.

        1. I thought that cholesterol causing a problem might be when combined with a diet including sugar and grains. The sugar causes inflammation and damages the blood vessels so then the cholesterol is used to patch up the damage. So without the damage occurring, the LDL could go about its business and fat would just be used for fuel.

  99. Someone may have mentioned this point, but I think it’s worth mentioning again:

    When something blatantly untrue becomes common knowledge, follow the money trail.

    Somebody stood to gain by reducing the consumption of saturated fats in the North American diet. How about oilseed growers? Fish producers? Or the chicken lobby?

    These things don’t happen by accident. When otherwise intelligent persons (such as M.D.s) spout this kind of nonsense, somebody is driving the promotion of said nonsense, and profiting obscenely from it – though frequently not the M.D.s, the media or other proponents of the bad science.

    Just food for thought.

    1. Maybe the money trail leads to the sugar industry (heck it was a main cause of the Civil War, more than slavery) and pharmaceutical companies and the health care industry… Plus, even the AHA might not really want the problem to be solved by preventative medicince and everybody eating a truly healthy diet because then what place would there be for them?

      1. Exactly. The pharmaceutical industry could not sell all their drugs to treat symptoms if the illnesses were to go away.

        And the low fat thing is win-win for the sugar industry. When companies make low-fat snacks, they have to replace the fat with something to make their product taste good. So often that is sugar.

        Regarding the AHA, I am sorry to say I agree with you. Them and the ADA, unfortunately. Cure such problems with diet, and neither have a reason to exist.

    1. Saturated fats, when eaten on a low carb diet have no effect on arterial health or blood sugar and in fact, the lower the carb intake and the higher the saturated fat intake, the less saturated fat, blood sugar, and insulin in the bloodstream.

  100. @amada: Yup. It makes me sad when I see people ordering muffins and sugary lattes with fat-free milk (or worse, soy milk) for lunch, thinking they are eating “healthy” by not eating meat and by eating low-fat. One such person once made a comment to me about how he didn’t particularly like low fat, but he was doing it for his health. Since he had started the conversation, I replied “Fat is good for you,” hoping he would ask for clarification, but he only looked at me for a startled instant as though I were criminally insane, and then quickly lowered his eyes and slowly edged away, apparently hoping he would not provoke me into foaming at the mouth and brandishing a weapon. 🙂

    However, the fact is, get rid of the sugar and other carbs, eat plenty of saturated fat, and not only is it a more “heart-healthy” way of eating, you will actually lose body fat, quickly and easily. In fact, if you have trouble losing body fat initially on a low carb diet, the solution is to eat MORE fat, not less.

    What so many people “know” to be true these days is actually bass-ackwards, and so many health problems that plague people would be be virtually nonexistent if they only knew the truth. But then, I guess the truth does not sell drugs and medical treatments, or get people to pay way too much for medical insurance.

  101. Hi there Mark,

    I just read this article (first time on this site); I appreciate your scientific approach. I have a question for you, and I would be greatly obliged for your opinion:

    Specifically, (for just under 2 months now) I have been enjoying a very low-carb, high protein, high fat, high raw vegetable diet. Feels great. But (and this concerns my direct question) I have intentionally been having one high glycemic/high protein meal within 45 minutes after my intense exerise (typically, a bowl of lightly sweetened whole grain cereal and 40 grams of whey). So what do you think of this (fairly common, I think) notion that eating sugar and protein together shortly after exercise is “good” (and that the insulin spike it ostensibly causes, is likewise “good”)? I have been hearing this for as long as I have been exercising from just about every source, and I think there has even been some research showing that it increases strength gains from resistance exercise. But, I would hate to end up doing more harm than good to my body with this custom through the inflammatory effects of the carbs. As a gratuitous aside, I crave carbs soon after hard exercise, though I have no cravings for them at other times (that is, after having eschewed them for a few weeks). What’s your learned opinion?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  102. Since this article was written, more and more people around the paleosphere are getting on board with “safe” starches, specifically white rice and potatoes. If you want to eat carbs and are trying to change your body composition, eat ’em, but ditch the whole grain shite and stick to gluten-free, lectin-free, fructose free carbs like white rice or potatoes.

  103. I find many parts of your entry, and many of the comments, troubling. I’m not sure what your scientific background is, but I know there is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding interpretation of various study designs that can lead to confusion. Your attack of all observational studies is shortsighted. Well-designed and carefully analyzed observational studies are critical to the biomedical literature. As some have mentioned above, it is unethical or impractical to run a randomized clinical trial in most cases of lifestyle/dietary change. And a well-executed observational study (especially prospective cohort studies) can closely mimic an RCT, yielding useful and important results. Confounders are adjusted for in either design or analysis stage and, in many cases, the effect can be considered causal. Please, do not disregard an entire segment of scientific inquiry.

    I’m also concerned about the conspiracy theories about mainstream media and science. Why would someone benefit from advising against saturated fat consumption? The notion that scientists are deliberately propagating mis-information is both ridiculous and offensive.

    You also seem to be disregarding all of nutritional epidemiology. Are you familiar with the various methods of nutritional assessment? Long-term diet can be measured validly. Are there drawbacks? Of course. But food frequency questionnaires offer us a method of getting real data (individual-level data) about diet and disease. Sure you can make recommendations about diet off the cuff or based on aggregated data from historical populations, but I’d much prefer to make my dietary decisions based on individual-level data, acquired from a well-designed and analyzed study.

    Regarding ecological studies, they can be a useful first step in research, but they must be interpreted cautiously. Since you don’t have individual-level data, you cannot be sure that the people who are driving up prevalence of exposure in a population (say eating the most sat. fat) are the ones in the population who are driving up the prevalence of outcome (say CVD). It’s also not possible to adjust for confounding in these types of studies.

    Obviously there are better/worse doctors and scientists out there, and some may be misinformed. But I think overall, you are much better off putting confidence in them over someone with simply an interest in diet-disease relationships who can say whatever they want with no evidence.

    1. I don’t know about these “studies” but I know that my own health is proof for myself that many things he states is true. I cured myself of so many diseases and a couple that were “Incurable” simply by natural methods of healing and a change of diet. I got sick when I followed the mainstream’s recommendations. I personally don’t need “scientific” evidence when personal evidence is much more important(IMO).

  104. Colleen,

    I appreciate your comments, but:
    1. In terms of curing yourself of various health issues, how do you know you would not have improved based on another diet? Or through other lifestyle changes? The problem with a study with an n of 1 is that you can never know (except in rare circumstances) what would have happened under an alternate exposure.
    2. What are you calling “mainstream” diet advice? The current advice is NOT to avoid all fat, but to choose healthy fats (e.g., nuts, olive oil). And of course to choose natural/organic/unprocessed/whole foods. If you mean mainstream in terms of the USDA recommendations, then I somewhat agree with you. Since their primary mission is promotion of US agriculture rather than promotion of health, I’m somewhat skeptical of advice they give. While they make some good points, much of their guidelines are misleading and potentially harmful. For example, their hesitation to label any food as “bad” (to avoid upsetting food producers) and their reluctance to propose elimination of all processed foods and grains. But advice from nutrition researchers whose goal is to learn about diet-disease relationships and to enhance public health….that I think is worth paying attention to. I am all for natural healing and I agree that current medicine places way too much emphasis on prescriptions and procedures that may be unnecessary. But, please don’t take that and interpret it to mean that ALL doctors and scientists are out to over-treat you and get your money. For the vast majority, your health is their goal.

    With epidemiological evidence, results represent an average effect. So yes, there will be people to whom the results don’t apply. But in terms of public health recommendations, these studies are what allow us to create guidelines for a large group of people that will help the majority of those people. Of course, you can feel free to experiment and find for yourself what diet works best for you. It is worth pointing out, though, that diet-related impacts on chronic disease often do not become apparent until many years of cumulative exposure. So while you may feel great short-term, you may be increasing your risk of various chronic illnesses or experiencing sub-clinical symptoms that may eventually manifest.

  105. @M:

    I have all the evidence I need. Every other way of eating I’ve EVER tried has made me sicker by every known measure. On this one, all my symptoms (of LONG TERM ILLNESSES – CAUSED BY EATING THE ‘CONVENTIONAL’ WAY) disappeared concurrently with my starting to eat this way. That’s not coincidental.

    You should read Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories” if you’re so hot for good research. He takes everything you thought you knew and debunks it with scientific evidence. Once you’ve read that, if you still doubt the veracity of Mark’s (and my, and the dozens and hundreds of others who’ve found success eating this way) claims, more power to you – but I doubt your doubt will survive the evidence.

  106. Hello, M:
    Thank you for your measured comment. i appreciate your position, but unfortunately, I disagree with several points you make, which are at the heart of your argument.

    Firstly, peer-reviewed scientific journals have published information that has subsequently been shown to be wrong.

    Secondly, even extremely well-designed studies can produce data which can be misinterpreted. For example, our cardiologist commenter, above, pointed out that dietary fats have been blamed for CVD, but inflammation is the real cause.

    Thirdly, North American peer-reviewed journals often *do* have an agenda and those in the background who stand to gain by certain outcomes receiving favorable positions in the journals, and other outcomes being omitted.

    Fourthly, regulatory agencies, academic communities, and journals have been strongly influenced by those who stand to profit enormously from beneficial decisions.

    I think you are sincere in your beliefs, but your comments would tend to indicate that you have some degree of naivete regarding the assumed scientific purity of published research studies.

    In my lifetime (50 years) I have seen many contradictory theories promoted and have received much contradictory advice. It may have been the best those U.S. doctors knew – or were willing to know – but results change as knowledge expands.

    I have been reading medical and other journals from around the world for the last decade, and my eyes have been opened to the vast wealth of information that has been published. North American journals do not necessarily represent the epitome of modern scientific research, and in fact, often simply parrot the sales pitches of those companies that stand to benefit from the free publicity and the perceived credibility of these “scientific” studies.

  107. Griff, I think we probably agree with one another more than it may seem. I’m not saying anything either way regarding Mark’s claims. I’m simply pointing out that it is extremely important to consider the source of your information. A friend/colleague, etc. may sound like a great source of information, but they don’t have all the facts. Diet’s impact on health is extremely complicated…timing and composition of meals play a role, as does individual biochemistry, metabolism, and physiology. Not to mention physical activity. I’m guessing many people who make a substantial change to their eating habits also improve their commitment to being physically active (or feel more energetic and naturally become more active). In any case, an understanding of WHY certain foods may be helpful vs. harmful is kind of important.

    If you’ve found success with your current way of eating, great. Really, I think everyone should experiment a little and see what works for him/her. I know I do. But again, in terms of broad recommendations, it is crucial to do large, population-based studies to get a sense of diet-disease relationships. And broad recommendations are extremely important. Yes, you’d be well off with the very simplistic advice of “eat real food,” but population based studies provide us with a wealth of critical information.

    Again, I’m not sure exactly what you are considering “conventional” or “mainstream” dietary advice. Have you looked at something like this? http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/ It’s a little different from the old “eat low fat even if it’s processed crap” mantra that most people may be familiar with.

    That book you mention looks interesting. Although per the synopsis on Amazon, it seems to agree entirely with what I’m saying. That the real scientists know that much of the old dietary advice was based on a complete lack of evidence. It seems there is a severe lack of communication between public health researchers and mainstream media. This problem is compounded by the fact that the media tends to misrepresent and oversimplify everything and that government offices such as the USDA may not be able to offer the best advice due to conflicts of interest.

    I do hope that in general you are not against research and science. I guess I take it for granted that people appreciate how important it is. Given the nature of science, there are studies that eventually are disputed, but collectively they’ve allowed us to dramatically increase our knowledge of health and to extend the average lifespan.

      1. Thanks, I will check that link out when I get a chance. I know I’ve looked at it in the past, but I’d like to look at it again. I’ve also been meaning to read “Know Your Fats” by Mary Enig. Have you seen that?

        But again, just to clarify, I haven’t meant to say anything specifically about diet either way. I’m only commenting on sources of dietary information, how a good dose of healthy skepticism is important, and that harmful dietary consequences can be insidious, not showing up for years.

        That being said, I do think that most experts (people who dedicate their lives to studying this) will agree that while fat in general is very healthy (and often better than carbs), saturated fat is only marginally better than trans fat and something to be avoided, given the evidence we have currently.

  108. I think you go too far by actively aiming for saturated fat intake.

    See: http://www.mprize.org/blogs/archives/2010/01/hi_dr_feinman_a.html for a good discussion.

    Excerpt:

    What I think we’re seeing is exactly the divergence within these populations that you know: that carb is really rather bad for overweight, insulin-sensitive people, such that replacing it even with SFA is relatively harmless — whereas for lean, insulin-sensitive people, SFA (and dietary cholesterol, its fellow-traveller in omnivorous diets) is likely more *relatively* harmful, because carb is less able to derange the metabolism. We have to remember that any time we look at these studies and see only modest or borderline-significant effects: 66% of the US population is overweight, and half of that majority is obeese; Europe is somewhat better-off, at 49.8% and 13.3% in men and 36.0 & 13.5% in women per MONICA. So the deleterious effects of any nutrient with a differential effect on low-BMI, insulin-sensitive people will tend to be blunted by the much larger number of people for whom such effects are blunted by their “larger” problem.

    It also means that the deleterious effects of a rise in SFA intake are at least temporarily outweighed if it is is part of a dietary shift into a lower-carb diet when it is successfully used for weight loss (as opposed to just being a person’s self-selected default diet, which of course is what’s going on in teh studies in Jakobsen and in the Swedish, Greek, and US Nurses low-carb/high-protein studies). But it’s reasonably clear that if you’re insulin-sensitive — which, interestingly, is what one is likely to become after losing weight on a successful low-carb weight-loss diet! — the effects of SFA become more *relatively* harmful as teh deleterious effects of carb recede.

    Moreover, I think we have a fair amount of evidence for a specific (albeit widely exaggerated) benefit of omega-3 fatty acid intake, which unfortunately the Jakobsen meta-analysis couldn’t evaluate. I think it’s reasonable to expect that a discrimination here would have further emphasized the benefits of these fats.

    1. M, if you will get Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” you will see all the peer-reviewed research you will ever need to put the lie to your current beliefs about saturated fat. Taubes spent seven years searching for evidence supporting the lipid and cholesterol hypotheses, and published his book to show that there isn’t any. There are ZERO studies showing any correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. Most doctors are not aware of this fact because they are indoctrinated by the common wisdom just like everyone else in this country.

      Go read the research. That’s where it is. Taubes did you the favor of compiling it all in one easy-to-find place.

      1. “you will see all the peer-reviewed research you will ever need to put the lie to your current beliefs about saturated fat.”

        With all respect, that book was written 4 years ago, and scientific research continues. It seems prudent to follow the research as it stands, but keep an open mind and continue to follow new studies and discoveries.

  109. Saturated fat is indeed not the bad guy it’s been portrayed to be.

    France is a fine example, from 1961-2000 their saturated fatty acid and total fatty acid intake went up, and their CHD risk declined.

    They eat approximately 4.5x more butter than the U.S., while also eating almost 80% less sugar.

  110. Good article. While was reading this, I devoured a ribeye and some kale.

  111. I had a read over the article. Theres some things I need to clarify.

    Saturated fats have no effect on blood cholesterol levels? Yes or no?

    And does blood cholesterol levels have an impact to cholesterol related diseases?

    I just received a blood test result, and I have a cholesterol level of 7.5 (significantly higher than the recommended healthy level of 5). Will this increase my chances of cholesterol related diseases, and if so, how do i reduce my levels?

    For the past two months, I have cut out all wheat and grains from my diet. I eat 1-2 pieces of fruit per day, and lots of veggies and meat. I also eat LOTS of fat from the meat. I also cook all my food with butter.

    1. Exactly what are cholesterol related diseases? The fact is that most of what we think we know is pure bull. This has been fostered for one reason or another for 50 years. I am willing to bet that in after Nov. the whole issue will change 180 degrees. The reason is that lipitor will become generic. At that point much of the money driving to cholesterol theory and the need for statin will dry up and more logical voices will be heard. You can tell that a shift is occurring if you watch the cardiology literature.

      A large meta-analysis of about 20 diet studies found that cholesterol in your diet had zero influence on your development of heart diesease (Diet and Nutrition journal). Then the Jupiter trial demonstrated that lowering of inflamation with statins had a major influence on disease.

      What is likely the relationship between cholesterol and disease is that those who have a gene defect for control of blood fats also have a genetic predisposition for arterial disease. The disease is one of inflamation and we need to begin to think of it seperate from nutrition.

  112. ” Whether you’re burning through your stores of adipose tissue or downing flagons of warm ghee, all that fat goes through the same processes in your body”

    Really? This is a naive and honest question… But to someone that never studied biology, I believe that having something throw in your blood as happens with the energy from adipose versus starting from scratch in you stomach is very different.

    Also that statement ignores the molecular difference from all the sfa, right? or the very same fat molecule that the human body stores is also what a seal produces in its body?

  113. Coming to this late, but … there’s one thing in that original Ancel Keys graph that makes me pause.

    It’s the UK position where there is a relatively low heart attack rate with a high fat consumption.

    I come from a traditional working class family in the north of England, and I remember how people ate in the 1940s/50s in general. Believe me when I tell you the high fat consumption wasn’t just cooking with a bit of butter, it was lard in everything, eating beef dripping, slathering bread with butter, vegetables served swimming in butter, pork crackling as a snack etc — every household fried with beef drip (fish and chip shops used to fry the fish in beef drip). When I think back to how my grandparents and great grandparents ate, they consumed huge amounts of saturated fat — and everyone around them did as well.

    So I would suggest that our modern notions of a “high fat diet” are worlds away from the real high fat diets of Brits in the 1950s — I think that is worth bearing in mind.

    The other little side point is that my grandfather (born 1913) always told me the way to lose weight was to cut out bread and potatoes.

  114. This is a good review, but I’m not sure why you scoff at the “genetic adaptation” argument for peoples like the Inuit and Masai: these are small, geographically restricting populations with very little gene flow with outside groups – all prime conditions for rapid adaptation to strong selection (and only having blubber or blood and milk to eat is pretty strong selection).

    If you look at how lactose intolerance or celiac are distributed in global populations, it’s pretty clear that they are prevalent in populations that were late-comers to milk and grain consumption. I’d argue there are people who are perfectly adapted to eat both with no problems at all – and those for whom that isn’t true.

    Maybe as someone with ancestors who rode out the Pleistocene in Northern Europe You do quite well on a very high fat diet. I’ve even found people doing this diet who have just about given up eating vegetable entirely. That make work for them, but just the thought makes me feel sick.
    As someone of Mediterranean descent I crave vegetables, and love my eggs and fatty, fatty fish, but I’m not that into huge portions of saturated fat from land animals – too much bacon makes me feel pretty gross and unwell and slow.

    My point is, we aren’t all the same. Subpopulations are almost certainly adapted to more particular sorts of foods – and that’s okay. I think we can all agree that avoiding processed non-food and avoiding massive amounts of nutritionless carbs is good for everyone – beyond that, I think it gets pretty individual.

    I say trust your body – it knows what it needs.

  115. @lrc Regarding lactose intolerance, you might do well to remember that almost no human (or indeed any mammal) begins life lactose intolerant. But by far most of the adult population, regardless of ethnicity develops lactose intolerance to one degree or another at some point in their lives, and most lactose intolerance is environmentally induced. Cultures that do not consume dairy tend to have the highest percentage of lactose intolerance. (go figure) It therefore becomes a question not of what populations are largely lactose intolerant, but of how quickly they develop lactose intolerance after infancy. Anyone who is lactose intolerant at infancy has a genetic disorder called congenital lactase deficiency. Therefore citing lactose intolerance to support your apparent theory that certain sub-groups have a genetic advantage over others when it comes to diets high in saturated fat renders your argument somewhat less than convincing.

    As to our bodies knowing what they need, that would be well and good, if our minds would not get in the way. For instance, a craving for sweetness is often our bodies telling us we need the vitamins in fruit, but then our brains jump in there with their conditioned response, and tell us what we really want is a candy bar. Likewise, with so many people telling us that fat is bad, most of us are conditioned to be disgusted by anything that tastes or feels like it has a lot of fat in it. And, I might add, though many of my friends and relatives are as fat-phobic as most people, none of them dislike my holiday meals, in which I incorporate plenty of fats. As long as they don’t see me preparing the dishes, that is. If they were to see all the butter I use, for example, I am quite certain their “gross!” response would be triggered. Their conditioning would alter their perception of the meal, which I am pretty certain is what is happening with you when you eat bacon.

    A while back I saw a show that did an experiment with MSG. They got a group of people, and served half of them Chinese food with MSG, and half of them Chinese food without. I found the results quite amusing. Several of the people who had not consumed MSG were nonetheless quite certain they had. They complained of symptoms such as headache, stiffening of joints, and so on. The mind is a powerful thing, especially once conditioned to believe something and respond to it.

    Another good example of this is milk, lactose issues aside. I know people to whom 2% milk is just dandy, but they claim to be disgusted by whole milk because of the (perceived) fat content. And yet for milk to be considered whole milk, it is required that it be at least 3.24% fat, a difference of 1.24%, (of the total volume) which is pretty measly. Again, their conditioned perception is getting in the way of reality.

    For most people, “trust your body” is not enough. Far better to do the research, get the facts, and then work on undoing the conditioning most of us have undergone since childhood.

    1. Hi Cornelius – thanks for responding (I wasn’t even sure anyone was looking at this anymore). I can see from your response that casual conversation isn’t enough around here, so this is the nitty-gritty underlying my above comments:

      As you point out, the gene that encodes lactase (the LCT gene) is ‘turned on’ for the first few years of life. But whether it remains ‘turned on’ (thus allowing an individual to continue eating dairy without problems) isn’t exactly ‘environmentally induced’ – it’s controlled by another nearby gene – and individuals who continue to be able to digest dairy throughout their life have a different version of that control-gene than those who develop intolerance after the first few years. Obviously the interactions between genes and environment are complex, but in this case what we can say with confidence is that that the ancestral trait in humans is a gene that ‘shuts off’ lactase production after the first few years (a trait we share with all other mammals). The allele that keeps lactase production ‘turned on’ is found almost exclusively in northern Europeans, eastern Africans and some southwestern Asians – populations that have been drinking milk for a long time. This ability to digest milk into adulthood even has a name in the literature – it’s called ‘the lactase persistent phenotype.’

      Here are 2 good references that cover it in much greater detail:

      Bersaglieri et al. (2004) . “Genetic signatures of strong recent positive selection at the lactase gene.” Am J Hum Genet 74(6):1111-20.
      Swallow (2003) . “Genetics of lactase persistence and lactose intolerance.” Annu Rev Genet 37:197-219.

      So like Celiac, lactose intolerance is a great example of how human populations (just like all other animal populations) can evolve adaptations to their particular environment: if there are limited food options available, those who can thrive on what is available are going to live and reproduce more than those who can’t. In fact I chose lactose intolerance (although in hindsight lactase persistence might have been a better word choice) and celiac specifically because they are well understood, and have been analyzed in an evolutionary framework.

      My speculation that there may be similar sorts of mechanisms at work in terms of optimal saturated fat intake is just that: speculation. There is no research on the topic. My point was really just that we know the mechanisms of evolution, we know that they apply to human diet/nutrition, so it might not be that huge a leap of faith to think that some of us are better adapted to eating a huge amount of saturated fat than others, and more generally that an individual’s optimal diet may vary depending on their personal make-up.

      I agree people are too freaked out by fat, which is why I’m lurking around here – but I also thought it was important to point out that what make you strong, fast, and happy might not be exactly what makes me strong, fast and happy. It’s too easy to get militant about this stuff.

      As for our bodies knowing what they need – you are right, of course, that this isn’t true for most people. But this is a board populated primarily by people who have already returned to eating food (versus manufactured “food,” which warps sense of taste and causes the same kinds of dopamine response you see in cocaine addicts). In my experience, once people return to eating food their eating is way less disordered, period. I believe we have a pretty good innate sense of what’s good for us and what isn’t as long as we aren’t gumming up the works with junk.

      And last – I didn’t say I was fat-phobic, or that I don’t like the taste of bacon – I said that after eating a large portion of animal fat (in the form of lard, bacon, what-have-you) I feel pretty gross and queasy. With all due respect, I think you’re wrong that it’s a result of conditioning. I don’t worry about how much fat I’m eating but in general I notice I don’t eat nearly as much saturated animal fat as a lot of people doing this – usually big white people descended from Northern Europe, by the way – thus my speculations.

  116. Been primal for over a year now and being my own test bunny I have to say this:

    If I eat little meats/fats and make the bulk of my meals vegetation I suffer from constipation and hard stools.
    If I make the bulk of my meals fatty meats, dripping with butter or lard, I have no digestive problems whatsoever. I’ve also noticed that I get healthy gurgles (that sometimes tickle) within my rib cage.
    Doctor told me that would be my gallbladder emptying its bile into the duodenum (spelling?). He also says that this is a good thing because frequent emptying means no gallstones.
    The emptying of the bile in the gallbladder is triggered by guess what? ….saturated fats!

  117. Hi Mark,
    This is all cool in a Weston Price kind of way. He proved it a few generations ago. Yudkin and now Lustig are genius too.

    Curious what you think of Barry Sears’ latest “Toxic Fat.” He took his 40-30-30 calculator apart to focus on that last 30. He took apart that last 30 (the fat) to find the optimal percentage of animal polyunsat to monounsat (veg/animal) to satfat ratios. This is a mediocre splanation. He also looked alot closer at EPO sources and their value. Most surprising aspect for me was his rage against veg polyunsats.

    Please let me know what you think.
    Thank you
    Joe
    ps. also curious about how sat fat is defined or rather recognized – especially in grassfed and/or wild game. The lesson an old guy taught me was that in animal fats, sat fat is solid and white at room temp and unsat fat (like wild salmon) is orange/red/yellow and liquid at room temp. Does that hold with what you know?

  118. Have you ever heard of or read The China Study? I am interested in your thoughts on their research findings…

  119. So I understand that animal fat won’t cause me heart disease. But will it make me fat?
    I do eat a low Carb, High protein, High fat diet.

    I need to know if cutting out more of the fat will get me to my desired body-fat level faster.

    Thanks in advance

  120. Joy Bauer’s Food cures touted a legume and yam salad for diabetics, saying legumes are one of the best sources of protein and fiber and are digested slowly which is good for diabetics. She also said to stear clear of bacon because saturated fats cause inflammation. Since I love beans, I’m sorry you don’t agree with her. Any credibility to the link between inflammation and fats?

  121. I was having a conversation about plantains with a Jamaican woman at the gym … when I mentioned that I sauteed them in lard, she balked and called me crazy. Another woman stepped in to tell me that I was on the fast track to a heart attack and that my diet was going to “catch up with me.” All that saturated fat was clogging my arteries and I was clearly too stupid to realize it. I told her she was being rude; she barked “you’re being rude, child.”

    Of course, I was infuriated. And I came to this post to see how I can better defend myself when this happens again. Thanks.

    1. Late to the part, but this has to be the funniest exchange I’ve read on here. Great delivery.

      Weird, because I thought Jamaican diets were typically high in fat.

  122. Considering all of the posts I have read, I think we can all agree that man has evolved… not completely (:) but to a great extent. we area adaptable. To your point of cows… raising cows is one of of the biggest polluters of our planet… and secondly you make no mention of the pH balance of your body with a high protein diet, or all of the chemicals (antibiotics, etc) that have to be used when cows are contained in small spaces – not to mention the stress chemicals like cortisol that become one with the meat when animals are slaughtered (VERY different than Hunter Gatherer times…

    1. What a bunch of b.s – comments like this really are absurd “raising cows is one of of the biggest polluters of our planet” – there are (as of july/11) 100 million head of cattle in u.s, according to lots of people causing this mass pollution through farts and runoff – well think of this, there was no global warming/pollution in the 1800’s BUT there were over 60 million bison running around farting ??????? So considering that a bison cow is about 1.5 times heavier than a beef cow – thats about 90million. Think about it – its a bunch of horses@#t (or cowS@#t). Same as your statement of cortisol in the meat from slaughter – are you kidding me!!! You don’t think there would be cortisol in bison meat after you chase him down on foot and force him over a precipice to his death! LOL – there’s a reason it’s called the flight or fight hormone. AND since i’m already annoyed – does ANYONE know how much chemical/space/time/energy is used to grow grain???

  123. Absolutely a great post like so many I have read. I am disseminating this information fairly regularly among my friends and family and coworkers. I am sure more will take to it. Thank you very much for your efforts Mark; I GREATLY appreciate them.

  124. Many interesting things to read here, but if Grok is our role model, do we need to break down the proportions and percentages of different types of fat? Do we need to look at death rate at all? Would he and his family have done so?

    Grok, I can only assume, would have been to a great extent limited in his diet by season and region. For example, In the summer there would be a glut of apples, in spring a total absence. Other plants fill the gaps to make an entire cycle of not eating anything all year round. Variety, constant difference. Maybe seasonal variation is what our bodies have evolved to need; variety. In this vein, the reason that grain is so unhealthy is because we would never have eaten it in such quantity, so consistently.

  125. Surely the issue is that most research is based on modern diets? The vast majority of saturated fat in a “normal” diet comes from things like creamy pasta sauce, stuffed-crust pizza, sugar-overload chocolate, croissants and pastries… Since the population at large only eats saturated fat combined with refined carbs, it’s going to be difficult for any researcher to separate the effects of the two.

  126. Mark,
    just a guess here. seems the speculation on fat content in past livestock and wild prey is well speculative at best. sooo along those lines.

    ever wonder why present day butter (mostly saturated fat) gets dyed yellow (anatto?)? the word from old farmer friends is that purely grass fed cows give much yellower/orange milk. as in the color of salmon. wild salmon. as in much higher in animal polyunsat fat.

    ever wonder why farmed salmon needs to be dyed red and the factory farmers need to fight labeling so they can sell it as salmon without having to declare it as farmed (as in fed grains – as in do wild salmon eat corn?)?

    so the speculation here is that indigenous eaters mentioned (and yeh weston price rocks) like masai, fiji islanders, innuit,…. all ate primal (mostly protein and fat) they also ate mostly polyunsat incredibly fresh fat and protein.

    and were not the masai blood as much as dairy eaters?

    thank you by the way. between you and tom kurz we have had some good fortune bending barry sears’ laws a bit. changes still take some getting used to.

  127. Isn’t Sat fat harder to digest due to it’s stronger structure? If so, what then is the ideal balance of healthy sat fat from coconut and or grass fed meat to unsaturated fats?

    1. Actually, one could contend the unsaturated fat is “stronger” in some sense. A double carbon bond would be much harder to break than a single carbon bond. And saturated fats typically come in shorter fatty acid chains, which are absorbed directly in the intestines, without the need for bile salts.

      As for an ideal balance of both, well that could really come down to a diet of your own design. It would be generally recommended that polyunsaturated fats are kept to those sources which provide favorable omega-3:omega-6 ratios. Monounsaturated fats are generally conceived good, and the scientific literature supports that view. It also supports saturated as this article contends. Eat what foods are palatable to you, and avoid those foods which the primal blueprint and paleolithic diets have exposed to be against the genetic “grain”, and you will do fine. (The pun was indeed necessary.)

      The human body is an amazing thing, just stunningly we have managed to find the few foods that can actually destroy us. (Grains, legumes, processed, sugar, vegetable oils.) We are quite clever aren’t we.

  128. I’ve been doing primal diet,workouts, and sun for about a year and a half. I’ve lost about 40 lbs, and I will lose about 30 more.

    One key is not to overeat. The urge occurs for me after 7pm. Drinking enough water during the day seems to help. Also, as my brother, an m.d., has told me–make a fist, that’s the size of your stomach, eat to fill that space.

  129. I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my friend’s reaction when I recently licked bacon fat off a spoon. Indirectly, eating primal makes me laugh a lot.

  130. I firmly believe that saturated fats are good for you. When I tried going low fat — and once, low carb at the same time. oops. — I was an absolute wreck! I couldn’t get anything done, my energy sucked, I kept getting palpitations that scared the hell out of me. I lost my period for about a year, too (sorry, lads, skim over that.) When I started eating more fat, but kept the carbs low, everything normalized.

    Marketing is the culprit. Eating saturated fats from potato chips? Duh. Gonna be bad for you. Eating saturated fats from grass fed beef,not so much. But of course, logic doesn’t make money.

  131. I am late to this trend but certainly intrigued. Plus, I don’t mind the idea of saturated fats being good for you.

    The one comment that has me confounded is the evolutionary suggestion that if saturated fats were causing heart disease, humans over the span of time would not have developed an established preference for these kinds of foods. That seems to be a bit of a logical fallacy. First, humans have proven preference for other foods or consumables (tobacco for instance) that are harmful to them. Secondly, cardiovascular disease is a disease that generally occurs after reproduction has concluded so man would have been reproducing before the survival of the fittest would have elimianted those with the greatest risks for heart disease. Lastly, my lay understanding was that life expectancies were much shorter for humans in the distant past. If that is accurate than most would never suffer the effects of cardiovascular disease as something else would kill them before the disease set in.

    Not arguing that saturated fats are bad, I just don’t think that it is valid to say that because we have loved eating saturated fats for the past million years that they must be good for us.

  132. It’s interesting how everyone assumes conventional meats are high in saturated fats when in reality they actually aren’t. Scientists took conventional pork and found that it was as saturated as sesame seed oil. The lipid hypothesis is so weak it’s not even funny. It seems that as more and more people eat less and less saturated fats. We are seeing more people getting fatter and sicker.

  133. WHAT ARE THE GOOD TYPES OF SATURATED FATS? You go on and on about all the stuff no one cares about, but do not leave us on what to do.

  134. great article! I wish it was easier to explain why fat doesn’t clog your arteries though.

  135. thank you
    anecdotal confirmation:
    between mark’s apple and tom kurz’ blog, converted to primal last april, 2011. everything is improving. less arthritis/gout pain. less kidney stone pain and other symptoms. sleeping much better. much better endurance. much stronger.

    did a similar case study 30 years ago while eating lacto ovo vegetarian. huge dairy fat intake. unfortunately huge carb intake too. doing same now less all the carbs. wish i had this strength, comfort and endurance 30 years ago.

    thank you
    please keep on
    nd

  136. Tokelau, Masai and Inuit do not live long. I won’t be rushing onto their eating plans but thanks anyway. I will stick with what works for me because most people don’t have the same energy as me, they dont look like me, and they don’t have world records like me, and I look and feel better than most people half my age. Stick with plant foods, its easy. We may have evolved eating some meat, some more than others – but this has nothing necessarily to do with human health or longevity. Some Asians eat dog and crickets. Meat is not the solution for the future, it chews up too much energy/pollution and too hard to feed growing population- however Bill Gates seems to have something up his sleeve with his GM food and vaccinations- god help us all if he is eventually behind the wheel.

  137. “To vilify saturated fat is to assume that, over the span of our evolution, our bodies have somehow developed a predilection for a deleterious energy source that contributes to cardiovascular disease. That’s absolutely preposterous, unless Darwin and company somehow got it all wrong with the whole natural selection thing.”

    Don’t humans have a predilection for carbs as well? humans developed a predilection for calorically-dense foods (as well as nutritionally dense foods such as many saturated fats). The being that humans developed a predilection for numerous foods that are beneficial in the short-term (evolution tends to favor short-term robustness through child-bearing and rearing age rather than longevity. This doesn’t mean saturated fat isn’t healthy, but only that the preference humans have for it doesn’t speak to its value for long-term health.

    1. Yes, we do have a predilection for carbs, but remember that for hunter-gatherers, obtaining those carbs was not a matter of a simple trip to the corner store for a candy bar. Carbs were instead seasonal things, and were mostly in the form of fruits and tubers, (not many grains) and served two purposes. One was that they provided vitamins, and the other insulation and a nutritional “reserve tank” for the winter. In the proper circumstances, it is a good thing to put on a little weight, therefore our “sweet-tooth,” etc.

      Regarding evolution favoring short-term robustness, you are indeed correct. However, it does not necessarily follow that after child-bearing age the diet we grow up on suddenly becomes a detriment to our chances of long-term survival and health. In fact, I think this quite unlikely, for if it were so, we would be the only species for which this is true.

  138. “To vilify saturated fat is to assume that, over the span of our evolution, our bodies have somehow developed a predilection for a deleterious energy source that contributes to cardiovascular disease.”

    That is one of the best descriptions I have heard to debate the benefits of saturated fat.

  139. We can taste fat? Something must be wrong with my taste buds.

    Butter tastes plain to me, and that’s 100% saturated fat. Eggs taste plain to me as well, unless I spice it up. The same thing applies to olive oil, and I do not recommend drinking it.

    However, I can smell fat when it’s burning though.

    1. It would indeed seem that there may be something wrong with your taste buds, and I do not say this to be insulting. Any chef who knows his or her stuff, and who is not fat-phobic will tell you that old chef’s maxim “Fat equals flavor.” (And any chef who is fat-phobic is undeserving of the title.)

      There are quite a number of conditions or disorders that can cause loss of taste, I would recommend you research this and determine yours. Fashion jokes aside. 🙂

      By the way, and for the record, butter is only a little over 60% saturated fat. Saturated fat is defined as “fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids,” so technically animal fats are not really saturated fats at all. Chicken fat, for example is about 70% unsaturated, pork fat about 60% unsaturated, and beef fat about 54% unsaturated. A saturated fat that actually meets the definition would have the consistency of candle wax. Not that it really matters, as it STILL would not be bad for you. 🙂

  140. Fiber is heart healthy, I have no doubt. It is one advantage to keeping veggies in the diet that Paleo encourages (as opposed to more strict low-carb diets). Besides that, I never saw a need to count fiber. Keto diets count ALL carbs and allow ONLY 20g a day, INCLUDING fiber. Why worry about counting fiber if your body can’t even process it and it therefore has no (or almost no) impact on your blood sugar?

    The richest source of fiber that is readily available to humans are beans and other legumes though, which suffer from the problem of being a rich source of digestible carbs as well. The occasional dose of beans probably won’t curtail your diet and can even help if you feel a little constipated, but for the most part, you should get plenty of fiber if you eat lots of veggies.

    Carb do increase triglyceride levels, this is well known, and low-carb diets do much to prevent this upspike. That is one reason why they can be so beneficial to many. However, I would lay aside all the fears about fiber coming primarily from high carb sources like whole grains and beans. If you eat your veggies, you can still enjoy the benefits of fiber without worrying about the carb/triglyceride connection.

  141. Fiber is heart healthy, I have no doubt. It is one advantage to keeping veggies in the diet that Paleo encourages (as opposed to more strict low-carb diets). Besides that, I never saw a need to count fiber. Keto diets count ALL carbs and allow ONLY 20g a day, INCLUDING fiber. Why worry about counting fiber if your body can’t even process it and it therefore has no (or almost no) impact on your blood sugar?

    The richest source of fiber that is readily available to humans are beans and other legumes though, which suffer from the problem of being a rich source of digestible carbs as well. The occasional dose of beans probably won’t curtail your diet and can help if you feel a little constipated too, but for the most part, you should get plenty of fiber if you eat lots of veggies.

    Carb do increase triglyceride levels, this is well known, and low-carb diets do much to prevent this upspike. That is one reason why they can be so beneficial to many. However, I would lay aside all the fears about fiber coming primarily from high carb sources like whole grains and beans. If you eat your veggies, you can still enjoy the benefits of fiber without worrying about the carb/triglyceride connection.

  142. Hi Cornelius,

    Soluble fiber, such as that found in apples, beans, and oatmeal, is heart healthy because it has the ability to circulate in the bloodstream and remove plaques from arteries and veins.

    Insoluble fiber, such as that found in most nnon-leguminous vegetables, does not leave the intestinal tract. Its primary purposes are to help move waste efficiently through the large intestine and to support the gut flora.

    These actions indirectly benefit the heart.

  143. Fantastic and very informative article Mark. I have been on a low carb high protein and saturated fat diet since March 10th and have dropped 20 pounds. Having eggs fried in virgin coconut oil and sausage for breakfast is so much more filing and lasting than the cereal with loads of sugar I used to consume.

    The article length may have been a bit long for some, but I found it perfect. I can not read/learn enough about the “junk science” that has been passed on to us for so many years.

    Thank you for posting and doing so much research and sharing it with us in a very informative and entertaining way.

  144. I recently changed my diet to lower carb, higher saturated fat intake including coconut oil for cooking and lots more nuts(luv em!) I have lost the spare tyre around my mid section, sleep much better and I have heaps of energy. . .it all makes more sense now . . .thankyou

  145. How much saturated fag do we need daily for optimal health?

  146. Loved the article. It’s baffling how certain “research” leads to widely accepted “fact”. Great work!!!

  147. It seems that this discussion is missing important information about the role of stress leading to inflammation as a promotor of plaque formation in the blood vessels. Robert Sapolsky , professor of biology and neurology at Standford University and a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, is clear that it is the amount of cholesterol or saturated fat that we consume does not, in and of itself, create problems.

    On pg 43 of his book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” Sapolsky writes “With the chronic increase in blood pressure that accompanies repeated stress, damage begins to occur at branch points in arteries throughout the body. The smooth inner lining of the vessel beging to tear or form little craters of damage. Once this layer is damaged, you get an inflammatory response” mediated by the immune system. He goes on to explain that the sympathetic nervous system responds to stress by increasing the viscosity of the blood. Epinephrine, which is released during the stress response makes “circulating platelets (a type of blood cell that promotes clotting) more likely to clump together, and these clumped platelets can get gummed up” in the damaged tears or craters in the blood vessel lining. Additionally, Sapolsky highlights that the stress response leads to “mobilizing energy into the bloodstream, including fat, glucose, and the “bad” type of cholesterol” all of which can also add to the build up in the tears/craters.

    To summarize, Sapolsky writes, “…stress can promote plaque formation by increasing the odds of blood vessels being damaged and inflamed, and increasing the likelihood that circulating crud (platelets, fat, cholesterol and so on) sticks to this inflamed injury sites.” “In the last few years, it is becoming clear that the amount of damaged, inflamed blood vessels is a better predictor of cardiovascular trouble than is the amount of circulating crud. This makes sense that, in that you can eat eleventy eggs a day and have no worries in the atherosclerosis realm if there are no damaged vessels for crud to stick to; conversely, plaques can be forming even amid “healthy” levels of cholesterol, if there is enough vascular damage.”

  148. Im still a little confused on saturated fat intake. I mean can we eat as much as we want I’m talking like rib eye, butter , lard ? Can I eat steak with butter everyday or am I limiting the so called bad fats. ? Someone please clarify I am new at this have seen great results. My wife is concerned also she has a host of auto immune diseases one of them being type 1 diabetes and she was always told to watch her cholesterol numbers because she is a high risk.

  149. My skepticism towards anti-fat dogma has been: Based on known biochemistry of metabolism, even if we do not eat a single drop of fat, our body converts excess sugars into fat.

    Meanwhile, in everyday life, low/non-fat milk has been a disaster: They taste like crap, which means something is going to get added to make them more palatable. So much for ‘Got Milk’ campaigns. Likewise, the same disaster also applies to other dairy products like low/non-fat yogurt.

  150. having been advised to go on to a prescription of Lipitor to reduce LDL, and reading the side effects and the look on the prescribing doctor’s face. I am lloking for better information.

    I twice have had LDL readings of 7.2 mmgol whereas the upper limit is 3-3.5mmgol.

    However, as my diet is high in green veggies, fish olive oil with red meat occaionally and little to no carbs and no cows milk. I have to question what is causing the high LDL reading so I am interested to read this article.

    Is there any study that people that are otherwise healthy with no other blood related issues i.e. Liver Kidney function, exercise often and eat what most people would call a healthy or very healthy diet. Cannot live comfortably with higher LDL levels than the profession indicates is too high.

    I would like to avoid being rushed into Lipitor medication if the debate is still open on the causes of higher LDL and Triglycerides in the blood?

  151. I grew up in Eastern Europe and we literally live on lard. We eat it spread on sourdough bread, cook with it, bake with it, you name it. In my immediate family NO ONE has had any cholesterol problems of any sort. And you have to understand, when we slaughtered a pig in Sep/Nov, we ate lard and pork products the WHOLE winter. Daily.
    KS

  152. The issue here is natural undamaged fats vs processed/damaged fats. The majority of fats the average American eats are damaged and corelating studies come from people eating those fats. Its not just what you eat but HOW you eat. Many of the cultures that eat high fats that are living longer are eating fats from animals raised “naturally” the way they were inteded and also prepared raw and at low temperatures as to not damage the complexities of the fat. Enzymes, antioxidans and vitamins alter at certain temperatures, this is basic science. Frying a steak on high that was not grass fed will be a slow poison to you HOWEVER slow coking a grassfed steak will be a cure to you. #Foodscience (why don’t they teach that in school, no profit for big pharma maybe?)

  153. my chemistry teacher all the way back 7 years ago in secondary school(singapore) taught us about how its all nonsense that margarine is healthier than butter, and it all made sense, so since then iv held strong to that belief although i cant quite remember the exact reasoning anymore(something to do with bonds is all i remember) but doing a recent grocery shop made me think more about it and iv been googling for about 45 min reading different articles, i got really lost and confused reading articles ranging from about.com and harvard.edu to NHS(british health) about why saturated fat is bad and ones like this one:http://www.thescreamonline.com/essays/essays5-1/vegoil.html saying why its good. Not knowing the exact science behind it makes it extra confusing because the internet seems so split on this issue, i mean who do you believe when harvard and the NHS tell you unsat is good but youve been taught from 7 years ago that unsat is bad???

    i think im still going to stick to my original belief and avoid unsat fats but reading articles like this, if im not reading it wrongly, seems to bring up the issue of certain unsats being good, varying from specific product to product, which honestly just makes me want to headdesk…how in the world is the average person supposed to check and keep up with this sort of detail?

    and then another confusing thing is bringing up carbs and their relation to triglycerides and thus its relation to bad fat in the body/heart disease etc, i dont understand your article mark where you say carbs are stored as saturated fat which is good in that its used wisely for energy, for later, by the body, but then you say carbs and not sat fat increase triglycerides which you say are a good marker for poor health…so which is it?? and im not talking about stuffing your face, i mean just regular eating, case in point im asian and like most asians i consume loads of rice, noodles, soy based things like tofu, and asians tend to be slimmer than americans. and maybe im mixing it all up here but what about the japanese who eat all that and then loads more fish most other countries, chock full of omega 3(and here im lost about tuna having 63% unsat). i know i could look up the exact breakdowns on the side of packets but i honestly wouldnt know what they meant anyway, so hopefully someone could explain it.

    greatly appreciated to anyone who could enlighten me on the above and im sorry if im mixing everything up and misreading things cos fact is im still walking away from this confused about what i should actually try to eat more off and what i should avoid, nuts,nonuts,meat,notofu??

    1. oh i forgot to add in the second last para that what i meant with asians is that is it then a genetic thing? because iv heard of people who were not raised on a rice/asiannoodle heavy diet had to cut that out of their diet when after a few years of moving to asia theyd gained alot of weight and theyd read something about how because they were not raised on it, their bodies are not accustomed to breaking it down as well. because from the upper comments theres alot of stuff about cutting out carbs and losing weight/feeling healthier for it, (im using rice as an example cos thats the one i have the most knowledge/connection with)but then asia and south america and africa all have alot of rice in their average diet but we all have really different body types so…how pertinent is this carb thing, im certainly never cutting rice or noodles out of my diet, thats like 90percent of my meals

    2. I suppose when you say “loads of rice” etc… it’s relative when Asians consume on average 2600 calories vs. 3800 calories with American diets. That right there is why you’re slimmer. You do not consume enough carbs to the point they cannot be used for energy and thus turn to fat.

  154. If I don’t have access to non-factory farmed meats, should I just not eat them at all?

  155. I have heard saturated fats cause inflammation like sugar does. I would love to hear they are not because I truly love fats. Most of them from nuts, avocados, and dairy. My diet is roughly 45/% carbs, 40% fats and 15% protein. That’s right! 40% fat, I’m a mother and I’m only 106 pounds. However I am active and eat a lot of anti inflammatory foods and spices everyday.

  156. So great to see this information on a blog – usually I only see it via research papers. The public (and especially the advisories) need to catch up with the science. Bravo!!! Looking through some of the other comments I just have to say, don’t forget that not all polyunsaturated fats are the same! As mentioned in this blog, the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 are important. In the US we’re waaaaayyyyyy out of balance! Thanks again for sharing this.

  157. It’s actually more likely to be the polyunsaturated oils, the trans fats, the grains, and the sugars that are causing heart disease. Saturated fats are *needed* in the body. Among other things, they contribute much of the material to your cell membranes.

  158. I actually don’t think that saturate fats are healthy for you.

    1. 2+ years of experience here are proof enough
      that’s 2+ years of paleo primal after 15 years of zone diet
      after 14 years of vegetarian high carb high fat eat all in sight diet
      there were also a few short time periods (months) of vegan and later atkins
      even a few months of fruitarian

      best i’ve ever felt at any age
      best endurance
      least joint pain
      best recovery times

      so think what you will
      might be better to test for one’s self before thinking for sure

  159. I have a friend who seems to sometimes link to your page/articles. Being a scientist I would love to see some more scientific rigour in your great work. Could you please consider citing current relevant literature in future so I can go to direct source to get all the nitty gritties.

    1. I agree, links to scientific papers can only back your argument. in addition, citing a tiny handful of studies in favor of saturated fats is of no consequence. The “countries” study is not a randomized, controlled trial. One cannot determine a country’s diet, and there are are a huge amount of other factors that determine whether or not someone gets heart disease. The study is statistically un-scientific. There is a considerably large amount of scientific evidence which supports the fact that saturated fats are bad for you. Period.

  160. Awesome article. It explains everything you need to know about losing weight and being healthy. Explains perfectly why I love bacon. I believe there is a huge conspiracy in the western world and it is all about making money by making people fat. We all have a duty to spread the word. I am going to pass your article on to others. It really is superb.

    CMS

  161. Holy comments, Batman!
    Thank you for all the details! I really enjoyed reading this post, which is why I really wanted to add one more comment.
    I felt bamboozled with the implication that because saturated fat has good vitamins, it must be good for you. You completely omitted the fact that all of these vitamins are readily available from undeniably great sources (carrots, spinach, getting outside or some mushrooms).
    I felt like you were encouraging cannibalism – if our cells are made up of it, then we need to eat it. There are small amounts of saturated fats in many vegetable sources that easily make the healthy list, so now my question has changed.
    How much saturated fat is healthy? Which types of saturated fats are more closely linked to heart disease/indicators? Does that differ on the ‘package’ it comes in – whether it is in a whole food with higher fiber or protein? I find myself looking for as many studies on the ratios of types of fat, but finding conflicting answers. http://nutritiondata.self.com/ shows a much more favorable omega 6:3 ratio in commodity beef than grass-fed, but I keep reading grass-fed has more omega 3’s. Could it come down to carbon length??
    I like the primal concept for the simplicity, but the ‘which type of fat is best’ debate has gotten way too tedious in my mind. I’m left confused, when it seems it should be instinctual…

  162. What happens to the excess fat you eat when the body can’t use it all? I know it has minimal impact on Insulin so that doesnt remove it from the body so where does it go if its not stored or burned up?

    1. Our bodies are very efficient; I am afraid “can’t use it all” is not an option. However, this is what is good about fat and protein: no matter how slowly we burn them they will never turn into excess glucose in our bloodstreams.

      “Excess” fat and protein just hangs around until it is needed; nothing is ever wasted.

      1. Hi thanks for that, I just posted this, can you advise?

        Unused good consumed fat. Where in the body is it kept? Doesn’t it cause weight gain? And surely the body excretes some of it?
        Would like to get to the bottom of this as I need to lose weight. I’m on the Primal diet but concerned I might be eating too much (of the right stuff) and hampering my weight loss’.

  163. I was told by another member that unused consumed ‘good fat’ stays in the body until used. Where in the body is it kept? Doesn’t it cause weight gain? And surely the body excretes some of it?
    Would like to get to the bottom of this as I need to lose weight. I’m on the Primal diet but concerned I might be eating too much (of the right stuff) and hampering my weight loss.

  164. The modern obese chickens and cows that most people eat are nothing like any animals found in the wild. Saturated fat is healthy, of course, but in normal proportions. Just about anything found in normal foods is healthy in moderation. It’s the imbalances that are a problem. Omega 6 is not unhealthy; it’s that our diets are off-balance. Saturated fat is not unhealthy. But if you eat cheeseburgers all the time (even organic ones), you WILL pay a price. That is not a natural diet. If you compare normal bison meat to normal beef, you will notice that the saturated fat is much lower. That is part of the paleo diet. You will not find square cows like we raise anywhere in a natural ecosystem. And loading up with saturated fat is pointless and risky. Eskimoes are not a good example, because they have genetically adapted to an extreme environment in ways most of us haven’t. They can hold items in their bare hands in freezing temperatures longer than most of us can. They tend to deal well with stressful circumstances. For a long time they were more genetically isolated than most cultures because few people from elsewhere want to live in that environment. Your argument that saturated fats are healthy is true, and even obvious. But if you’re suggesting that people unbalance their diets in favor of saturated fats, you aren’t helping. Why do people look for such simple solutions? Balance is and always has been the key to nutrition.

  165. I don’t know if you can edit this post, but this part, and the reasoning behind it, does not belong on a website that tries to be minimally scientific:

    “To begin with, man has a taste for fat. It’s delicious, and that’s no mistake. Given the choice between a lean chicken breast and a fatty, crispy thigh, most people instinctively go for the thigh.”

    We’ve also got a taste for sweet stuff, and for salt. Reading a sentence so uncientific like that makes me much more doubtful about reading the rest of the website.

  166. In terms of ancestral justification fot fat consumption, how about the body of work that seems to indicate our early ancestors started as scavengers, following lions and sabre-tooth packs.

    see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047248414002656

    It would make sense that early hominids eating meat but not proficient at killing would start off as nimble scavengers. A scavenger diet might be high in fat (bone marrow, brain, connective tisse off the bone) and collagen (hence maybe losing the need for vit C production in liver)

    What do you think

  167. Hey Mark, just letting you know that your hyperlinks for the Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio within this article bring up the website, but it seems that site has taken down that post for whatever reason. Just a heads up, and thanks for all the useful information. It’s life changing!!

  168. Hi Mark (Sisson) I’m 43 and British and have most definitely been brought up with the “SATURATED FAT WILL KILL ME” belief. However, now able to make my own choices and I have chosen to try out the KETO diet this, of course means I’m now eating alot of fat, including saturated fat. After explaining to friends how I have lost weight (weight I could never lose before, despite the training and calorie deficits) most of them gasp and tell me, firstly that eating ALL THAT FAT will kill me and secondly that as a triathlete I MUST EAT CARBS and lots of them.

    At the end of the above article you asking for our opinions: For me a very interesting article, quite long but manageable, not always easy to work out if you are being sarcastic or littoral (but i’m sure, like getting to know a new friend I will get used to that lol)

    I noticed that the article is very old now (2009) and science finds new things, more studies are carried out or, quite simply, peoples opinions change. Before I start attempting to defend myself with the findings from this article, can I ask if you still feel the same , regarding the above re saturated fat that is?