T Nation

Saturated Fat & Cholesterol?


With so many clashing views on saturated fats and the link to higher LDL I’m wondering if anyone with more knowledge in this area could shed some light on this please.

Just how bad are saturated fats or are they completely safe?

Are saturated fats, when eating a high protein mostly animal based diet, with very low processed food intake I.e no soda, no candy, no junk food etc actually bad for you?

I know there is said to be a link to higher LDL, but LDL alone isn’t the whole picture, particle size seems to matter more, I’ve read research that suggests SAT fat increases the larger fluffier type LDL which isn’t bad for you.

Is this correct?

In terms of dietary fats, saturated is very stable, where as PUFA’s are not, so is it correct to avoid PUFA apart from omega 3 oil and eat sat and mono fats only?

Do cholesterol levels even matter when overall inflammation is low?

Logically to me it seems unusual that natural food sources such as meats would be harmful when this what we have evolved eating for thousands of years way before farming and the industrial revolution, and it seems plant / seed fats are turning out to be very unhealthy for us, it doesn’t make sense to me logically that Sat fat would be bad when it is very stable.

Your logic is indeed correct. Saturated fat has been erroneously vilified for decades and PUFAs championed when there has been excellent science showing the reverse is in fact the case. If you are interested in the back story to this, I suggest you find a lecture by Professor Tim Noakes on Youtube called the ‘Cholesterol Hypothesis’.

The good news is that, at long last, mainstream medicine is taking notice and national guidelines are beginning to change. For example, less than a year ago, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published an article reviewing the data. The abstract of which is below:

The recommendation to limit dietary saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake has persisted despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Most recent meta-analyses of randomized trials and observational studies found no beneficial effects of reducing SFA intake on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and total mortality, and instead found protective effects against stroke. Although SFAs increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, in most individuals, this is not due to increasing levels of small, dense LDL particles, but rather larger LDL particles, which are much less strongly related to CVD risk. It is also apparent that the health effects of foods cannot be predicted by their content in any nutrient group without considering the overall macronutrient distribution. Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of CVD. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.

My understanding of the science is that damaged LDL particles cause CVD, not arbitrary high LDL levels. Damage can occur through glycation, i.e. over exposure to sugars and oxidation. PUFAs are key contributors to oxidative stress. Therefore, combining both, sugar and PUFAs, is the perfect storm for metabolic disease.

Of course, how these facts play out politically, given the current climate of pushing populations more to plant-based diets, is a difficult challenge. However, that does not impact on the science demonstrating what is, and what is not, good for human health.

For the last 30 years I have avoided PUFA’s and replaced them with virgin olive oil and coconut oil (last 15 years) for cooking. I supplement a tablespoon of fish oil for essential fatty acids. I like and use butter.

I had always questioned that saturated fats were evil, and refused to “follow the science.”

Thank you! This was a very informative post and I’ll definitely take a look into the video you recommended.

Very Interesting, have you had blood work done along the way?
What are your cholesterol numbers and inflammation markers like?


I have two blood tests handy. The first is at 62 years old, the second is at 69 years old.

Total Cholesterol: 132 and 147
HDL: 50 and 53
LDL: 69 and 81
Ratio: 2.6 and 2.8

If I am doing 30 minutes of cardio a day my ratio will drop below 2.0.

What are inflammation markers?

Very impressive numbers!

Inflammation makers are -
A2 (Lp-PLA2) ( this shows inflammation from blood vessels and plaque if you have any)

And also your HbA1c is a good indicator of metabolic health.

It is my understanding that inflammation plays a large role in heart disease. I don’t find any of those tests in my blood tests.
I take a product with 250 mg of N-Aceytl-L-cysteine and 10 mg of Pyrroloquinoline quinone disodium salt with the hopes that they help combat inflammation.

I do have “Comprehensive Metabolic Panel” tests. My fasted glucose was 85 and 97.