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Are Saturated Fats Really Bad For You?

Tamir Greenberger
April 23, 2013

The 2010 USDA dietary guidelines are clear. For all age groups they recommend a high carb, low protein, and low fat diet. They also discuss the importance of eliminating saturated fat from the diet completely. They justify this argument by stating that the body produces sufficient saturated fats that no additional intake is needed. They also refer to several studies that were done which show that when you replace saturated fats with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, the risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease are reduced.

It is true that many studies have observed a correlation between saturated fat (SFA) intake and coronary heart disease (CHO). These studies clearly revealed that wherever there was a higher saturated fat intake, there was obesity and CHD. However, they never isolated saturated fat alone as the culprit. For example, how did they know it wasn’t the carbohydrates in high SFA foods? Perhaps it was the excess caloric intake associated with SFA? A meta-analysis (2010) of previous studies showed that no correlation exists between SFA intake and CHD.

Another analysis of all the evidence regarding SFA, states that much is still unknown in 2010, but SFA intake is clearly not playing a major role in CHD.

Here is a six week study that put obese patients on essentially a high-SFA keto diet (one absent of carbs). Weight loss was the result, without any adverse effects. A similar study finds that in a low-carb/low-calorie environment, dietary SFA’s does not increase stored SFA. In fact, regardless of SFA intake, weight loss still occurred, triglycerides were reduced, and fat was not being created.

This analysis finds that their most significant study is the one which found that a high-SFA diet is linked to reducing coronary artery disease in women with metabolic syndrome. Another similar study found that in postmenopausal women with a low fat intake, can reduce the progression of coronary atherosclerosis. Carbohydrates may increase the progression.

dounts small fileWhat does all this evidence suggest?

Unfortunately, only one of those studies kept track of caloric intake. Instead it seems that the findings are that saturated fats don’t lead to a higher triglyceride count and therefore CHD. Instead, carbohydrates do. The truth is that when you cut out carbs and increase fats and proteins, you’re going to feel more satisfied and consequently eat less. This would suggest that it is not the absence of carbohydrates that improve your health and weight, but rather just eating less does the trick.

Most foods that contain saturated fats are also high in calories. People can easily overeat when they aren’t aware of how to do proper calorie counts. However, the data clearly implies that if total daily calories are reduced, a high SFA intake could be beneficial and not fattening at all.

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