But isn’t saturated fat dangerous?

It’s understandable you might think dietary cholesterol is bad for you, or that eating too much saturated fat will increase your risk of heart disease or early death.

After all, for about five decades that’s what we’ve been told by governmental bodies and nutritional panels.

So when I suggest that one of the most important keys to a healthy diet, #BodyBabyStep Two, is “Seek Satiety in Filling Fats,” it’s understandable that you might have misgivings.

If eggs, fatty cuts of red meat and the like are filled with “artery-clogging saturated fats,” we should avoid them, right?

That sounds plausible, but the scientific evidence doesn’t support it, as my Health Sherpas would testify.

In this excellent video (embedded below) from the 2015 Low Carb Down Under conference, Professor Jeff Volek of The Ohio State University reviews what the peer-reviewed studies of low-fat vs. low-carb diets have suggested.

I have cued it to begin as he starts discussion of dietary saturated fat and the ketogenic diet, and would encourage you to watch it when you have time. For a quick summary, scroll down below the video player.

Professor Volek’s key points:

  • Dietary intake of saturated fat was not associated with heart attacks, stroke or death from cardiac causes, based on three pooled results of 60 cohort studies involving nearly a million total participants (see slide below).

  • Increased saturated fat in the bloodstream and stored in body tissues is associated with heart disease.
  • The Key: Those stored and circulating saturated fats do not come from the saturated fats you eat, but rather from the way your body processes excess carbohydrates, turning them into fat in your liver.
  • Eating more saturated fat as part of a ketogenic diet actually reduces saturated fat levels in your bloodstream.
  • Your body metabolizes the saturated fat you eat much differently in the presence of carbohydrates and insulin. With high carbs and saturated fat, you’re more likely to store the saturated fats in unhealthy forms.

There’s lots more detail in the video, and I’d encourage you to check it out in its entirety.

Feel free also to look up the scientific papers he cited, to check his work. I searched for the first one and found the PDF, which you can download if you’d like. Here’s the money quote as I see it:

There is probably no direct relation between total fat intake and risk of CHD. The strongest evidence in support of this judgement comes from the Women’s Health Initiative that showed that CHD risk was not reduced after 8 years of a low-fat diet. The observational evidence, summarised in the meta-analysis, showed no association between total fat intake and CHD risk, although there was heterogeneity between the study results.

Dietary studies are difficult with free-living subjects; you can’t know for sure that people were fulfilling the requirements of their “arm” of the study. Others rely on surveys asking people to estimate what they had eaten over the course of some period. Memories are faulty, and sometimes subjects understate their participation in what might be considered “unhealthy” choices.

The main point is that those who have been telling us saturated fat is dangerous do not have strong evidence to support that claim.

Still, their perspective has governed nutrition policy and what is offered in school lunches, hospital cafeterias and throughout the food ecosystem.

With prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome tripling in the last few decades, we’ve clearly been going in the wrong direction .

As far as I’m concerned, the low-fat proponents do not have the evidence on their side, and as you explore for yourself I think you’ll agree.

That, along with the better results I’m seeing personally not only in weight loss and improved vitality but also lowered blood pressure and triglycerides and increased HDL (the “good” cholesterol), makes me confident low-carb is most effective for most people.

At least for the two-thirds of Americans who are currently overweight or obese.

We have to do something different, right?

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Seek Satiety in Filling Fats

Stopping Sugar and Cutting Carbs are important ingredients in the #BodyBabySteps, but the “meat” of the plan — literally and figuratively — is to Seek Satiety.

You will likely need cut back significantly on your carbohydrates, but that’s a negative focus. A positive focus is more helpful, emphasizing what you do eat instead of what you don’t.

My first meal of the day is typically four eggs, meat, cream cheese and guacamole. I’m usually not hungry for the rest of the day.

The key is to start with satiety as your goal, and to seek it in meats, full-fat dairy, cheese, eggs and other substantial foods.

Build your meals around these main courses. They’re your anchors. Don’t load up on carbohydrates first, and then top off with your filling foods. Start with rich, satisfying foods with a good amount of fat.

Eat at a leisurely pace, and stop when you’re full.

Fats are your friends, as long as they’re coming from natural, healthy sources like beef, fish, poultry, pork, nuts, olive oil and avocados. That’s not an exclusive list, but what you’ll notice about all of these is they are basic, whole foods.

They’re not highly processed.

What fats aren’t healthy? The so-called “vegetable” oils – corn, canola, soybean, safflower, sunflower. These are extracted from seeds under immense pressure and with the aid of industrial solvents. In their natural states no one would think of these seeds as “oily.” And instead of the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, they are predominantly the less stable Omega-6s.

Dr. Ken Berry is one of my Health Sherpas, and one thing I appreciate about him is his down-to-earth, no-nonsense communication style, with short videos that get to the point.

He’s a great resource because as a physician, rigorously following the “eat less, move more” dogma he was prescribing to his patients, he found himself at about 300 pounds.

He suspected that if he was following the dietary guidelines and had become obese, that’s probably what was happening with his patients, too.

Here he discusses common misconceptions even physicians have about fats:

For related discussion, see also Dr. Berry’s video about “The Proper Human Diet.”

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Weekend Watching: Another Look at Dietary Guidelines

Conventional dietary wisdom tells us that we should limit intake of fat, and that saturated fat is the worst!

Right at the top of the Nutrition Facts panel on any of the processed food we buy is a declaration of its fat content: Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat and Monounsaturated Fat.

Total Carbohydrate doesn’t even get second billing: it’s below both Cholesterol and Sodium.

There was a time when I was extremely grateful for the product at right, when I had recently been diagnosed with celiac disease.

Other cereals I had tried were gluten free, but that was the most you could say for them. They were not at all tasty. Chex cereals were the first ones made for the mass market that also were gluten-free, and Corn Chex was my favorite variety.

I ate it for breakfast almost every day, and as you can see on the label I definitely wasn’t getting too much fat, even with 2% milk. But each serving did have 33g of carbohydrates, even when I didn’t add any extra sugar.

Over just a few years it played a significant role in me gaining 40 lbs. and getting to Peak Lee.

Knowing that I had been on a diet that was rich in so-called “healthy whole grains” and yet was anything but healthy, when I started to run across messages challenging this dietary consensus I was open to at least trying a different approach.

Of course it was not without a bit of concern: after all, if I lost a bunch of weight but was setting myself up for heart disease, that wouldn’t be a net benefit.

That’s why I found it really helpful to have serious scientists like Dr. Peter Attia review the literature and outline what the research on diet and heart disease really says.

I think you’ll find this video fascinating, as I did. Watch it for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments.

If you doubt that it’s worth the 79 minutes to watch, I’ll provide a few bullet point highlights below.

  • Studies of Benedictine and Trappist monks, Navajo Indians, Irish immigrants to Boston, Swiss Alpine farmers and Maasai and other African pastoralists report no association of saturated fat to heart disease.
  • A 1957 study of 5,400 male employees of Western Electric Company compared the 15 percent who ate the most fat to the 15 percent who ate the least. “Worthy of comment, is the fact that of the 88 coronary cases, 14 have appeared in the high-fat intake group and 16 in the low-fat group.”
  • A follow-up study of the Western Electric cohort in 1981 found “The amount of saturated fatty acids in the diet was not significantly associated with the risk of death from CHD.”
  • The Minnesota Coronary Study, which involved 9,000 men and women whose diets could be strictly controlled because they were in mental institutions, found 269 deaths in the intervention group (with low saturated fat and cholesterol) and 206 deaths in the control group. The results, available in 1973, went unpublished for 16 years. Why? “We were disappointed in the way they turned out.”
  • 2001 Cochrane Collaboration meta-analysis involving 27 well-controlled randomized trials with 10,000 subjects followed for an average of three years each found No effect on longevity and No “significant effect on cardiovascular events.”
  • A second Cochrane Collaboration meta-analysis in 2006 “Multiple risk factor interventions for primary prevention for coronary heart disease” with 900,000 patient years of observation concluded: “The pooled effects suggest multiple risk factor intervention has no effect on mortality.”

OK, now go back and watch the video. It’s a pretty compelling story.

What do you think?

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