Breaking Research: Does Saturated Fat Really Cause Heart Disease?
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Recent studies led by researchers at the University of Cambridge shed new light on fat in our diet.
The large review (involving almost 80 studies and more than half a million people) found that saturated fat does not cause or even contribute to heart disease. (1)
Saturated Fat, Unsaturated Fat, and Trans Fat
Saturated fat is solid at room temperature. Maybe this is why it’s so easy to believe that saturated fat will clog your arteries.
Research has proven that saturated fat does not cause or contribute to heart disease. Trans fat has been linked to tissue damage and inflammation.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and can withstand higher levels of heat because they are stable. At a molecular level, saturated fat contains uniformly linked, solid strings of carbon atoms known as fatty acids. This stability means that they can withstand higher levels of heat, light, and air—which would damage delicate, double-bonded unsaturated fats.
Depending on how they are handled, these delicate unsaturated fats—whether mono-unsaturated fats (avocado or olive oil) or poly-unsaturated fats (fish oil, canola oil, and corn oil)—can break down and oxidize, aging the body.
Trans fats are exactly this: Broken down, oxidized unsaturated fats that have been mechanically designed to look like saturated fat (for example, Crisco). When reading labels, the words “partially hydrogenated” indicate the presence of trans fat.
Trans fat has been linked to heart disease because trans fatty acids are oxidized and create free radicals. This damages tissue and generates inflammation. (2)(3)
Saturated Fat on the Body Ecology Diet
The Body Ecology Diet recommends that we cook with coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter), which contain high levels of saturated fat; these cooking fats are stable at higher temperatures.
There are other benefits to using these fats.
For example, coconut oil contains fatty acids that are naturally antiseptic when digested. These fatty acids help kill harmful bacteria and yeast, like Candida. Ghee is clarified butter. Both ghee and butter contain specific short-chain fatty acids that help to control inflammation and leaky gut. Interestingly enough, one of the reasons why probiotics are so good for us is because they produce these same short-chain fatty acids.
The body needs fat in order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, like:
- Vitamin A, including vegetables with pro-vitamin A (such as dandelion green, sweet potato, and carrots)
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin K2
What to Remember About Foods Naturally High in Saturated Fat
According to the principles of The Body Ecology Diet, foods that are naturally high in saturated fat should make up 20% percent of your plate:
Choose the best quality versions of these foods—such as grass-fed dairy, artisanal cheese, wild-caught salmon, and meat and eggs from pastured animals.
Dairy foods from cow’s milk—including cheese and butter—contain proteins that can inflame a wounded gut. Goat and sheep dairy are hypoallergenic. Eggs are also a problem for many people. On the first stage of the Body Ecology Diet, we recommend that you remove all dairy.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Research has busted one common heart disease myth: Saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, compared to unsaturated fats like olive oil, canola oil, or corn oil. Unsaturated fats can break down and oxidize, prematurely aging the body.
Trans fats are oxidized, unsaturated fats designed to look like saturated fat; Crisco is the perfect example. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease since they are oxidized and create free radical damage. Trans fats damage healthy tissue and spread inflammation.
Saturated fat is welcomed on the probiotic-rich Body Ecology Diet, in moderation. You can cook with coconut oil or ghee, which are stable at higher temperatures. Your body needs these healthy fats to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, K, and K2.
Important Body Ecology Tip: Remember to enjoy saturated fats on only 20% of your plate at each meal; high-quality saturated fats like grass-fed dairy, wild-caught salmon, and artisanal cheese are recommended. Dairy from cow’s milk can be inflammatory and is not recommended on the first stage of the Body Ecology Diet; goat and sheep dairy products are hypoallergenic alternatives.
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- Chowdhury, R., Warnakula, S., Kunutsor, S., Crowe, F., Ward, H. A., Johnson, L., … & Di Angelantonio, E. (2014). Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of internal medicine, 160(6), 398-406.
- Willett, W. C., Stampfer, M. J., Manson, J. E., Colditz, G. A., Speizer, F. E., Rosner, B. A., … & Rosner, B. A. (1993). Intake of trans fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease among women. The Lancet, 341(8845), 581-585.
- Kummerow, F. A. (2013). Correlation Between Oxysterol Consumption and Heart Disease. Eat your eggs. Atherosclerosis, 1, 1.