best natural foods

Saturated fats are HEALTHY!

Yes, you've read correctly.


And by the way, cholesterol is healthy too.

I must say I was both surprised and sceptical when I first heard this. Like most people, I had been brainwashed to believe that these fats are "bad, bad, BAD!"

When I first came across articles ahout saturated fats - and cholesterol - being good for health, my first reaction was that they were written by people trying to justify their enjoyment of meat and rich foods.

When I read further - with an open mind - I became all excited. After about 25 years of learning and teaching about health, this was my biggest and most important discovery ever. That foods like butter, pork lard, organ meat, coconut milk, coconut oil and more... are all GOOD for health.

But, but...

But hadn't it been scientifically proven that such rich foods cause heart disease?

Not really. The "proof" that is widely cited is the "Seven Countries Study" (1970) as well as an earlier "Six Countries Study" (1957) by Dr Ancel Keys. In these studies, Dr Ancel Keys showed that countries where people consumed the largest amounts of fatty foods had the highest rates of heart disease.

It seems convincing, but... It seemed that Dr Ancel Keys had "cheated" by highlighting only the data that supported his hypothesis, and quietly left out the rest!

Dr Ancel Keys had actually collected data from 22 countries. Even back in 1957, his critics pointed out that when the data for all 22 countries were analyzed, there was no longer any link between fat consumption and heart disease. For example, the death rate from heart disease in Finland was 24 times that of Mexico, even though people in both countries ate roughly the same amounts of fat.

In the Seven Countries Study, there was actually no corelation between fat and heart disease in three of the seven countries - Finland, Greece and Yugoslavia. For example, eastern Finland had twice as much heart disease and five times as many deaths from heart attack as western Finland, even though people in the two regions ate about the same amounts of saturated animal fat and had roughly the same cholesterol levels.

In spite of all this, the "findings" of Dr Ancel Keys were widely adopted by the American Heart Association as well as the media. And in 1977, the US Congress recommended a low-fat diet, going against criticisms from the American Medical Association and other scientific bodies.

Several other major studies seem to further support the idea that saturated fats cause heart disease. But these studies were not well controlled and the findings were not all that clear cut.

Counter evidence

The Women's Health Initiative is one of the US government's largest and most expensive diet study ever conducted, costing some US$725 million. It involved monitoring some 20,000 women who followed a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol over a period averaging eight years. In 2006, the researchers reported that a low fat diet had no impact in reducing the rates of heart disease and stroke.

In 2000, a group of international scientists called the Cochrane Collaboration conducted a "meta-analysis" of scientific studies on cholesterol-lowering diets. More than 200 studies were initially looked at, but after eliminating those that were not rigorously conducted, the group examined 27 studies involving more than 18,000 participants.

The group found that consuming less fat may help reduce heart disease. But it also found that diets low in saturated fats have no significant effect on mortality, or on deaths due to heart attacks. Study leader Lee Hooper, PhD, said: "I was disappointed that we didn't find something more definitive."

Trans fats

Also, many of the studies that "proved" saturated fats to be harmful had confused them with trans fats, These are fat molecules that have been artificially distorted when liquid oils are turned into sold fats - in a process called hydrogenation - during the manufacture of products like margarine and vegetable shortening.

As long ago as the 1970s, or even earlier, a few scientists had warned of the dangers of trans fats. But their warnings went largely unheeded. And when studies were done to find out the effects of eating foods high in saturated fatty acids, no effects were made to study trans fats separately.

In other words, studies were done on people who ate saturated as well as trans fats. And when these people developed heart health problems, saturated fats got blamed. Trans fats got away scot free. It was only in recent years that scientists began to study the effects of trans fats separately. And they discovered that trans fats are the real culprits. When people ate only saturated - but not trans - fats, they did not develop health problems.

Historical perspective

These new findings tie in with historical observations. Historically, people had always used cooking oils high in saturated fatty acids - butter in Europe, pork lard in China and other East Asian societies, beef tallow in America, Ghee in Northern India, coconut oil in Southern India and across the tropics... There is also goose and duck fat, both of which are considered delicacies in France and used in parts of China.

And these people had always been healthy. The people of Okinawa, Japan, are famous for their long life and good health. Yet they cook mainly with pork lard. And one of their favourite foods, eaten on a regular basis several times a week, is stewed pig's trotters, laden with lard.

Heart disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases were rare until less than a hundred years ago. In the United States, the rate of heart disease began to rise only after the 1920s. Elsewehre across the world, heart disease rates started to climb only after the 1950s, or even later.

And, surprise, surprise... the increase in incidents of heart disease and other modern ailments actually coincide with increased consumption of polyunsatured cooking oils. These oils, which turn rancid easily, are major contributors to widespread degenerative diseases.

Health benefits

Many of the so-called "scientific proof" that saturated fats cause heart disease are therefore due more to mistakes and misunderstandings. In reality, these rich fats may not pose any dangers at all. Or even if they do, the dangers are minor compared to the long lists of benefits.

Part II of this article will elaborate on the many benefits of saturated fats.

But before we end off here, let's remember that we are on the subject of COOKING OILS and that it is in cooking that such fats out perform all others. To understand why, we need to consider what it means when we say that a fat is "saturated".

This is a chemistry concept, but I will try to make it simple for non-chemists to understand. There are many different types of fats, or fats molecules (collections of atoms). But essentially, they are all made up of carbon atoms (C), hydrogen atoms (H) and hydroxide molecules (OH).

When we say that a fat is "saturated" it really means that it is saturated with hydrogen atoms. In turn, this means that the fats can no longer form chemical reactions in which they take on additional hydrogen atoms. Ultimately, it means that when a fat is saturated, it is very stable.

This makes the fat very suitable for cooking because it remains stable when heated. It does not spoil and turn rancid; it does not become toxic and harmful.

In contrast, poiyunsaturated fats are those that have many unsaturated links. Such fats are highly unstable and they spoil easily - when heated as well as when exposed to air and light. They easily become rancid and rancid oils are extremely harmful to health.

The best fats or oils for cooking, particularly for high heat cooking, are therefore those that are saturated. As mentioned above, this is something that humans have known all along. Because throughout history, people have always used saturated fats - lard, butter, ghee, coconut oil, palm oil, etc - as the main cooking fats.

Sadly, modern health "experts" have become so misguided and confused that they cannot understand this fundamental wisdom.

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Saturated fats - health benefits
Saturated fats and heart disease I
Saturated fats and heart disease II
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