T Nation

Why Saturated Fat?

I have read on this site several times that you need all three types of fats including saturated. What are the benefits of saturated fat? What ratio of fats should we eat?

cell membranes are comprised of saturated fats, and they also play an important role in hormonal production, specifically T-levels IIRC.

Berardi recommends an even split between, sat, poly’s and mono’s with 25-35% of calories coming from fat.

[quote]AmandaSC wrote:
I have read on this site several times that you need all three types of fats including saturated. What are the benefits of saturated fat? What ratio of fats should we eat?[/quote]

I have a very simple reason: it is unadulterated and unprocessed. For example if you eat an avocado, or use coconut oil, it has been unchanged. Or if you eat a piece of meat, it has been unprocessed except for the application of heat. Even butter has been minimally changed from it’s natural form.

Then look at margarine…

[quote]jehovasfitness wrote:
cell membranes are comprised of saturated fats, and they also play an important role in hormonal production, specifically T-levels IIRC.

Berardi recommends an even split between, sat, poly’s and mono’s with 25-35% of calories coming from fat.[/quote]

What he said.

Saturated fat is not “good” for you, and should be kept to a healthy minimum along with trans fats(damaged fats) and hygrogenated fats(making an unsaturated fat saturated).

Our bodies are capable of producing most of the fatty acids that we need to live, but our bodies cannot produce all of them. The essential fatty acids(polyunsaturated fatty acids think Omega 6 and Omega 3s) are neccessary for us to survive.
Fats can be good, especially those of the monounsaturated variety(olive oil) are very good for us and have been shown in epidemological studies(mediteranian diet) to keep us healthy.

Fish Oil is full of unsaturated fats that will reduce your risk for heart disease, reduce inflamation, and a whole host of other beneficial things.

The real message is, don’t worry about the breakdown of your fatty acids as much as you should worry about eliminating the unhealthy fats and let the others fall where they may.

[quote]Zagman wrote:
Saturated fat is not “good” for you, and should be kept to a healthy minimum along with trans fats(damaged fats) and hydrogenated fats(making an unsaturated fat saturated).

Our bodies are capable of producing most of the fatty acids that we need to live, but our bodies cannot produce all of them. The essential fatty acids(polyunsaturated fatty acids think Omega 6 and Omega 3s) are neccessary for us to survive.
Fats can be good, especially those of the monounsaturated variety(olive oil) are very good for us and have been shown in epidemiological studies(mediteranian diet) to keep us healthy.

Fish Oil is full of unsaturated fats that will reduce your risk for heart disease, reduce inflamation, and a whole host of other beneficial things.

The real message is, don’t worry about the breakdown of your fatty acids as much as you should worry about eliminating the unhealthy fats and let the others fall where they may. [/quote]

Easy there, captain underpants. Unsaturated fat is good for you, in that if you eliminate it from your diet it will be sorely missed. You say to keep it to a healthy minimum, but who decides what that minimum is?

The only reason saturated fat got a bad rap is because it increases total blood lipid levels. And since the idea that there is a positive correlation between cholesterol and heart disease has become medical dogma (even though it is patently false), this was evidence enough that saturated fat is a silent killer to be feared.

And as for the Mediterranean Diet nonsense, the only thing that that study showed was that the Mediterranean diet and associated lifestyle, IN ITS ENTIRETY, is beneficial. We can’t just pick and choose which elements of the diet we want to claim are responsible, like olive oil, or fish, or daily exercise, or lack of smoking…

It is almost impossible to find studies that isolate saturated fats or fats in general (or to account for quality of saturated fats, like an avocado vs a whopper). Usually, they have a group eat like shit, which includes a lot of calories from fat (mostly hydrogenated) and processed grains, and another group eating a spartan diet of fish, whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Then when the obvious result occurs, that the fat-eaters are less healthy, they point to the fats. NOT the inclusion of unprocessed foods or the healthier overall lifestyle, because that doesn’t support the party line.

Epidemiological studies don’t prove anything. All they do is show correlations between observables. And correlations on their own are meaningless.

Ok, captain jockey.
I never said unsaturated fat was bad for you, I recomended eating unsaturated fats. I did say that excess saturated fat is bad which is following the recommendations of many health organizations. There is a strong positive correlation between diets high in saturated fat/hydrogenated fat/trans fat and heart disease. If you are refuting that claim, I would like to see some research to back it up. But, for now it is fairly safe to say the trying to keep our intakes of saturated fats low is a healthy idea.

I also agree about the epidemological studies, but we don’t have better evidence currently; I just pointed it out to help make a point. I should have said a potential connection with regards to the epidemological study and the use of healthy fats in a high fat diet with a low incidence of heart disease.

Whopper vs Avocado: The majority of the fatty acids in an avocado are monounsaturated fats, not saturated fats.

You point out that hydrogenated fats are bad, hygrogenation is the process of taking an unsaturated fat, either monounsaturated(one point of unsaturation) or polyunsaturated(multiple points of unsaturation) and pushing hydrogen atoms into them until they become fully saturated, i.e. a saturated fat.

[quote]Zagman wrote:
Ok, captain jockey.
I never said unsaturated fat was bad for you, I recomended eating unsaturated fats. I did say that excess saturated fat is bad which is following the recommendations of many health organizations. There is a strong positive correlation between diets high in saturated fat/hydrogenated fat/trans fat and heart disease. If you are refuting that claim, I would like to see some research to back it up. But, for now it is fairly safe to say the trying to keep our intakes of saturated fats low is a healthy idea.

I also agree about the epidemological studies, but we don’t have better evidence currently; I just pointed it out to help make a point. I should have said a potential connection with regards to the epidemological study and the use of healthy fats in a high fat diet with a low incidence of heart disease.

Whopper vs Avocado: The majority of the fatty acids in an avocado are monounsaturated fats, not saturated fats.

You point out that hydrogenated fats are bad, hygrogenation is the process of taking an unsaturated fat, either monounsaturated(one point of unsaturation) or polyunsaturated(multiple points of unsaturation) and pushing hydrogen atoms into them until they become fully saturated, i.e. a saturated fat.[/quote]

My bad about the avocado, you are absolutely correct. I was thinking of coconuts and then was momentarily dumb.

I’m not a big fan of playing the “go find me a study” game, but here is an oldie that showed that saturated fat had no appreciable effect on heart disease rates (but trans fats did).

And here is an interesting recent review. Basically, they seem to be hanging on to any thread of hope that saturated fats are bad for you. The first suspicious thing is that they immediately bring up the Seven Nations Study which was performed by Ancel Keys, the infamous charlatan who only presented the seven nations that showed an positive correlation between saturated fat intake and CHD.

And then they go on to say that other recent studies have shown both positive and negative correlations. Yeah, no shit, it’s because there is no correlation. It’s pretty funny that they go on to say “it has been estimated” that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats will decrease risk by x amount. I’d love to see those calculations. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

I would suggest taking a look at “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. While he just replaces one nutritional pariah with another instead of focusing on whole unprocessed foods, he does provide a great historical description of how we’ve come to believe such idiocy as the lipid hypothesis and that saturated fats from wholesome sources are bad for you.

I think Bertrand Russell said it best:
“If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.”

As for your point about hydrogenation, yes it pushes H onto the fats until saturation, but there is no way in hell that the process doesn’t have any unintended effects.

I think you’re both in on a similar page, just saying it in different ways, unless I’m wrong.

to say saturated fat is evil is going to the extreme, but to say we are ok by eating tons of it, is just as extreme. There should be a happy medium.

after all, I’d rather have some saturated fat from an animal that is in a natural state, rather than cram tons of highly processed trans fat down my throat.

there are safe levels of saturated fat in the diet with some benefits, there are NO benefits to trans fat, nor is ANY amount good for us.

“In addition, results from epidemiologic studies and controlled clinical trials have indicated that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is more effective in lowering risk of CHD than simply reducing total fat consumption.”
Types of Dietary Fat and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review
Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPh and Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPh

There is a direct quote from the abstract of the second article.

I never said that saturated fat is evil, I said it is not good for you and should be kept to a minimum. That is in line with the stance of the majority of the nutritional community. Any saturated fats that our body needs can be produced by our bodies though the use of other fats, proteins, and carbohydrates though metabolism, so there isn’t going to be a problem with minimizing their intake. What I mean my minimizing intake of saturated fats is choosing leaner cuts of meat, low fat milk, and swapping out butter in favor of olive oil. I can’t imagine that there is still contention on this point.

It is my opinion that we should give solid information, information that will not promote deadly diseases based upon the current research. Maybe in five or ten years the stance on saturated fat will be reversed or modified, but until the necessary wealth of knowledge is available we should avoid jumping to conclusions that contradict our current research.

Back to the original question posted by AmandaSC. I apologize for the hijacking of your thread.

We should take steps to minimize and control the intake of unhealthy fats and use primarily healthy fats in their place. The specific breakdown and ratios are unimportant when considering dietary fat intake. Make smart and healthy choices about what fats are being included in your diet and you will be fine.

I hope that that recommendation will be satisfactory.

[quote]Zagman wrote:
“In addition, results from epidemiologic studies and controlled clinical trials have indicated that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is more effective in lowering risk of CHD than simply reducing total fat consumption.”
Types of Dietary Fat and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review
Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPh and Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPh

There is a direct quote from the abstract of the second article.
[/quote]

Yes, and that’s exactly why I’m suspicious. First of all, the authors are sucking at the teat of Ancel Keys, which is automatically a reason for concern, and second of all, in the paper they never actually explain how they come up with this little gem of nutritional advice. They claim that there was no significant trend with saturated fat, and yet they still claim that it should be replaced with unsaturated fat. Why? Well, of course they never say why.

There absolutely IS contention on this point, and there has been ever since Ancel Keys came out with his scientifically unethical Seven Nations Study. Look up the work of Dr. Jacob Yerushalmy, the founder of the biostatistics program at UC Berkely who called out Keys on his selective data analysis, and more recently of Dr. Ronald Krauss who has done studies of saturated fat intake and dense LDL lipoproteins. He has shown that replacing carbs with saturated fat actually decreases the number of dense LDL particles in the blood, which are the type of LDL most strongly associated with heart disease.

My favorite example of the lunacy of the saturated fat hypothesis is the Masai tribe in Africa whose diet consists almost exclusively of raw whole milk, beef, and cow blood. Saturated fats are responsible for over 60% oft their total calories and they have no heart disease and normal levels of blood lipids. However, when they move off of the plains and into the cities, and start eating a more Western diet, they start dying of the usual Western diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. So, how could you possibly implicate saturated fat as the risk factor that we should all fear? And let me remind you that when they adopt a Western diet they are REPLACING SATURATED FAT WITH UNSATURATED FAT. Hmmm…

The research that exists is indefinite at best, and misleading at worst. The best study done to date is the Women’s Health Initiative, and it showed no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease, even though the authors want to think it did.

The “nutritional community” as you put it has been telling us to eat low-fat diets for twenty years. If you want bow at the alter of nutritional science, be my guest, but I refuse to take anything they say as fact until I am convinced that it is right. And to date, I have been convinced of very little of the advice coming from the conventional medical community. The way I see it, if you follow conventional Western nutritional advice then you will be rewarded with conventional Western diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And of course, you will be treated with conventional drugs and surgery. The choice is yours!

As for me, I will stick to my butter, coconut oil, and pasture-raised meats. Have fun with your processed vegetable oils…

1% increase in dietary saturated fat(% total Calories) ----> 2% increase in blood LDL cholesterol ----> 2% increase in Heart Disease Risk.

1% decrease in dietary saturated fat(% total Calories) ----> 2% decrease in blood LDL cholesterol ----> 2% decrease in Heart Disease Risk

Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults(Adult Treatment Panel III), HIH publication no. 02-5215 (Bethesda, Md.: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2002) pp. II-4 and V-8

You bitched about me using an epidemiological study, and you return with one that is just as subjective. Good job. The Mediterranean diet consists of a very high fat diet that is full of monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and is low in transfat and saturated fat. They should be dead, huh.

I agree, for a long time the “nutritional community” advocated a low fat diet. Since a wealth of information came out that showed that total fat did not need to be minimized, just saturated and trans fat, they have changed their recommendations. They do a meta-analysis of many studies and attempt to come up with a healthy recommendation. When the research changes substantially, so do their recommendations. Maybe in five or ten years their recommendations will do a 180 telling us to minimize fish oil intake, avoid olive oil, drink whole milk, and replace all other fats with processed vegetable oil while gorging ourselves on the fattiest cuts of meat we can find. Sure they will.

Processed vegetable oil is hydrogenated, it mimics the negative health effects of saturated fat; so, I will not be having fun with my processed vegetable oil. I will be eating my grilled chicken basted with olive oil, and snacking on my almonds and natural peanut butter.

It is not wise to base recommendations on a handful of studies, especially when they contradict the established guidelines. In the mean time, I will follow my textbook and listen to my professors, very smart individuals with PhDs in the Nutritional Sciences, over some random
graduate student in physics and astronomy. If there really is a basis for your point of view, it will undoubtedly be reviewed and potentially incorporated into future guidelines. I must also point out, you haven’t given any recommendations or answers to the original question, you attack me and my recommendation without offering the same courtesy.

Again I apologize that we have hijacked this thread, it could have been full of meaningful and positive recommendations, but it has turned into a pissing contest between two people, one agrees with current recommendations while the other radically opposes them.

AmandaSC, good luck in making your own decisions on the topic.

One last thing, I am not an expert, you are not an expert, we are merely educated amateurs. My position is to defer to the experts, yours is to oppose a mass conspiracy of people “sucking at the teat of Ancel Keys” as you would put it.

Let it go.

[quote]swordthrower wrote:
. . .Dr. Ronald Krauss who has done studies of saturated fat intake and dense LDL lipoproteins. He has shown that replacing carbs with saturated fat actually decreases the number of dense LDL particles in the blood, which are the type of LDL most strongly associated with heart disease.
[/quote]

Wanted to throw my own experience in here. I don’t have as much knowledge as others when it comes to this stuff, but after I switched from a carb-based diet to a low carb/high fat/high protein diet, my triglyceries went from 111 to 37. I don’t know if such a low tri number is good, but my doc said that 150 or less is optimal.

Also, my cholesterol went from a 140 to 144, with an increase in HDL (28 to 45) and a slight increase in LDL (90 to 92).

This is directly contributed to the drastic change in my diet, as nothing else really changed.

Look, I already said I didn’t want to play the “show me the study” game. There are lots of studies, each with different results, so obviously we could just choose the ones that support our opinion.

I’ll wrap up my crazy anti-establishment ramblings with this: none of these studies differentiate the quality of fats (i.e. conventionally raised meat vs. pasture-based meats), nor do they consider such obvious factors such as sugar and processed grains.

My recommendation is simple. Eat whole, unprocessed foods (and remember, there is no such thing as an unprocessed grain) from natural sources (not factory farms). Basically, meats, fish, eggs, dairy (preferably unpasteurized), nuts, vegetables, fruits.

And I’m still waiting for an explanation of the Masai herdsman. If every 1% increase in saturated fat increases CHD risk by 2%, then why are they getting heart disease only AFTER they adopt a lower fat Western diet?

I sure as hell hope no one forgot the only way to synthesize testosterone is with cholesterol.

Thus saturated fat is necessary. If everyone followed the adage “too much or too little of anything is bad”, then we’d be okay.

All I know is the human race was eating dead animals and all that saturated fat for millennia and until the dawn of processed foods did not have near the trouble with things like heart disease and diabetes that we do now. Study some people that haven’t already spent half their life eating shit and sitting on their ass and get back to me. Ooops, can’t do that because just about everybody survives on shit nowadays.

[quote]Tiribulus wrote:
All I know is the human race was eating dead animals and all that saturated fat for millennia and until the dawn of processed foods did not have near the trouble with things like heart disease and diabetes that we do now. Study some people that haven’t already spent half their life eating shit and sitting on their ass and get back to me. Ooops, can’t do that because just about everybody survives on shit nowadays.[/quote]

i usually give that argument as well. the only downside, is well humans in the past didn’t live as long as they do today so they didn’t really have a chance to develop such problems as listed above, let alone have their arteries checked.

that being said, from a natural standpoint, we were designed to eat such food, we were not designed to eat margarine and oreos.

Exactly, something had to be blamed for all the heart attacks in this country…they targeted saturated fat for some reason, word spread like wildfire and a witch hunt was born. Dont eat butter or red meet b/c itll clog your arteries! But nobody says a word about all the isles of complete garbage in the supermarket, its all good since its reduced fat! or better yet, fat free!

[quote]Fulmen wrote:
I sure as hell hope no one forgot the only way to synthesize testosterone is with cholesterol.

Thus saturated fat is necessary. If everyone followed the adage “too much or too little of anything is bad”, then we’d be okay.[/quote]

I think this is the answer to the original question that I posted. As a woman though, how does important is saturated fat? I would imagine less saturated fat would be needed in the diet of a woman as compared to a man’s diet. Does anyone have an opinion on this idea?
Just for the record I completely agree that trans fats are garbage and to be avoided. I have actually been avoiding them (as well as many other additives) for about ten years. My mother thought some of my non-mainstream beliefs were a bit cookey at the time but now that word gets out and the media uses it to make money it suddenly seems believable. Ahh the all mighty media. Don’t get me started on the whole grain thing too. Hey aren’t Sugar Corn Pops cereal made with whole grain? Must be healthy.