Saturated and unsaturated fats
Warning Science Content:
Last week we discussed What are Trans Fats, broke them down chemically and discussed what the problems were with them. Now, lets look at saturated fats. A saturated fat is one that has been “saturated” with hydrogen. In the unsaturated fat there is a single double bonded carbon pair, in the saturated fat all available bonding sites are occupied by hydrogen.
Saturated fat gets a bad rap and was associated with elevated levels of heart disease in a 1953 document titled ”Atherosclerosis, a Problem in Newer Public Health” by Ancel Keys. In this paper Keys postulated a correlation between saturated fat intake and heart disease. USA being the highest rate of heart disease and the highest intake of saturated fats, and the lowest of each being Japan. The other 4 countries fit into a nice curve in the middle. Unfortunately there was data on another 16 countries that was not included in his paper, and once the data for those countries was included the correlation went away. Other factors were not considered and saturated fat was demonized.
The three primary saturated fats that are consumed by humans are stearic, palmitic, and lauric acids. These comprise most of the saturated fats in beef, milk, chicken skin, butter, etc. Stearic acid is converted to oleic acid in your liver. Oleic acid is the primary monunsaturated fat found in olive oil. No problems there. Palmitic and lauric both elevate blood cholesterol levels. So, could these be a problem. Here’s the thing. They increase both HDL and LDL levels, and indications are that they increase HDL (good) cholesterol more than bad leading to better blood lipid ratios, and a reduction in heard disease indicators.
It is also pretty clear that unsaturated fats are better than saturated fats from a blood lipid profile perspective, but saturated fats are not to be avoided as aggressively as we have been led to believe. We have seen numerous cases locally of individuals increasing their overall saturated fat intake (while simultaneously reducing grain and sugar intake) and have seen dramatic blood profile improvements.
The only way to be sure for yourself is to monitor your own numbers. Pay attention to your blood work numbers and how they relate to what you are eating. Change things in a specific way, and only one variable at a time. Changing multiple variables eliminates the possibility of isolating exactly what is causing the changes. So, while we don’t recommend eating only bacon, eggs and red meat, there is no reason you can not consume moderate portions of all of them and maintain stellar health.