Eating margarine instead of butter is stupid.
Saturated fat has been railed again and again, mainly for being linked to heart disease. This fear of saturated fat–found in animal fats, butter and other dairy products, and coconut oil–has no solid research to back it up. Let’s look at the history of saturated fat use, the garbage research that caused this myth, and the real fat facts.
All this commotion about saturated fat has successfully scared the crap out of consumers. People are consuming less and less saturated fat. We’re trading steak for chicken and, more importantly, butter and lard for margarine amd vegetable oil, just like our doctors and nutritionists recommend. But despite this decrease in saturated fat consumption, cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death in the Western world, and there are few signs that this is getting better.
There are many culprits of cardiovascular disease, which I’ll discuss later, but whatever the case, the saturated fat hypothesis doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The problem is that much of the research about saturated fat is bologna. Many years ago, a man named Ancel Keyes definitively proved the connection between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease. The problem? The old studies didn’t differentiate between saturated fat and trans fat. This is RIDICULOUS. As you probably know, trans fats are the plastic-like bastard children of unsaturated fats, which sacrifice your health for shelf life.
So the myth was born; saturated fat raises your cholesterol, which is linked with cardiovascular disease. People, this is a crock. The studies against saturated fat continue to fail to differentiate between saturated fats and trans fats.
What role do saturated fats really play in cardiovascular disease? Out of all the plaque that builds up in our coronary arteries (see image here), only 26% is saturated fat. 74% is unsaturated, mostly from polyunsaturated fats–the fats that come from the very vegetable oils that you’re supposed to use to replace butter and lard.
Recently, lots of research is coming out against this saturated fat myth. Many non-Western diets high in saturated fat make people extremely healthy. The Fulani of Nigeria, for example, have great health despite their high saturated fat diet. A different study found that high carbohydrate diets caused significantly more cardiovascular problems than saturated fat consumption.
The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation also makes a number of claims regarding the health benefits of saturated fat. They say it raises HDL (the good cholesterol), conserves omega 3 fatty acids, supports the immune system by being used to fight viruses and bacteria, is necessary for “proper modeling of calcium in the bones,” and often contains fat-soluble vitamins. More on the benefits here.
The real causes of cardiovascular disease are numerous. Clearly, lack of exercise and too much stress are tantamount. But we need to control our intake of some vegetable oils, trans fats, and, you guessed it, sugar and carbohydrates. You can look forward to full discussions on cholesterol and vegetable oils in the future. If you want to listen to a great interview about progressive approaches to heart disease treatment and prevention, check out this link.
A couple points to wrap up. First, how do you avoid trans fats? Look for partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils on your food labels, and DON’T EAT THEM. Foods to avoid including fried foods like french fries and fried chicken, potato chips, pancake batters, fast food, donuts, margarine, cake mixes, soups, ramen noodles, frozen foods, and baked goods like cookies and cakes.
And if you’re trying to lose weight, cutting out saturated fat is on the list of the top ten things NOT to do. Head back to my insulin discussion to see how weight gain really works.
Remember, fats are a vital part of a balanced diet. In moderation, saturated fats are a great thing. The bottom line: fear the processing, not the fat.
Thanks for reading, I’m out.