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Health benefits of saturated fats

here are many benefits of saturated fats - much more than the supposed dangers, which may not even exist.

As we saw in Part I of this article on saturated fats, the belief that they are hamful arose more out of mistakes and misunderstandings in scientific research.

Yet doctors, nutritionists and other so-called health experts focus their attention almost entirely on these supposed dangers. The public is constantly told about how harmful such fats are and few people actually know the important roles that they play in supporting health.

I, too, used to be ignorant - even though I had been learning and teaching about health since the mid-1980s. It was only around 2004 that I discovered the many important benefits of saturated fatty acids. I was surprised that the list runs so long. Let's take a closer look, starting with...

Cell integrity

Our cell membranes consist of 50 percent saturated fats! Adequate intake of these fats help ensure the stiffness and integrity of our cell membranes. This, in turn, protects our cells against virus attack - as viruses cannot harm us unless they break through the cell walls and enter our cells. Maintaining the integrity of our cell walls is therefore vital in immunity.

A high intake of polyunsaturated fats, in the form of vegetable oils, tends to make our cell walls too soft and flexible. Yet another problem with the modern diet is the high intake of trans fats, which are fat molecules that have been artificially distorted during the hydrogenation process to make margarine and vegetable shortening. These fats distort and weaken the cell walls.

Killing harmful microorganisms

Apart from maintaining the integrity of our cell walls, saturated fats further support immunity by directly destroying many harmful microorganisms, including virus, bacteria, fungi and parasites. They do this by dissolving the cell walls of these microorganisms, causing them to fall apart and die. And they do the job safely, without causing serious side effects, unlike antibiotics, antivirals and other powerful drugs.

There are many types of saturated fatty acids, but these can be roughly classified into three groups - short, medium and long-chain fatty acids. In particular, three of the short and medium chain fatty acids - lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid - are known to work powerfully against harmful microorganisms.

Lauric acid and its extract, monolaurin, have been found to be effective in destroying the HIV virus associated with the disease Aids. Given that lauric acid plays such an important role in supporting immunity, it is perhaps not surprising that it is abundant in human breast milk. At the same time, it is abundant in coconut milk and coconut oil, and this is one reason why coconut oil is used to manufacture infant breast formula.

Caprylic acid is effective in destorying yeast and is widely used as a natural treatment for candida (yeast) infection. This condition is extremely difficult to treat with pharmaceutical drugs and the side effects are often serious. Yet caprylic acid has proven to be a safe alternative.

These short and medium chain fatty acids are found in coconut oil and palm oil - the very oils that have been lamblasted as being "bad for health".


Related to immunity is the problem of allergy, which arises from an over-active immune response.

In 2001, researches from Finland reported that children who developed allergies tended to eat less butter and more margarine. Polyunsaturated fats, like those in margarine, are thought to promote inflammation and cause the immune system to release a protein that triggers allergic reactions.

Bone health

Osteoporosis, the loss of calcium from the bones, has become a serious problem in modern times. There are two aspects to solving this problem:

  1. Preventing calcium loss
  2. Ensuring adequate calcium intake and calcium absorption,

The first aspect s more important yet seldom addressed. We shall look more closely at another time. But the second aspect is often addressed in the wrong way.

In nature, milk is rich in calcium and also rich in saturated fatty acids. There is a good reason for this, because saturated fats are needed for calcium absorption. For the body to absorb calcium effectively, at least 50 percent of the dietary fats should be saturated.

But what do milk companies do? They produce low fat milk, or even special "Hi-Lo" milks, high in calcium but low in fat. This defeats the purpose because then the calcium will not be effectively absorbed. In any case, due to pasteurization, ultra-hith temperature (UHT) treatment and other processes, the calcium in milk has become even more difficult to absorb.

Milk is NOT the answer to preventing osteoporosis, especially when it is low-fat milk. A far richer source of calcium is seaweed and it is interesting to note that in some parts of Europe, seaweeds are traditionally eaten with butter.

Vitamin D

Also needed for calcium absorption and bone health is Vitamin D. With the 2009 H1N1 flu "pandemic" there has also been much discussion about the role of vitamin D in enhancing immunity and protecting against the flu. Click here to learn more about Vitamin D and the flu.

The best source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure. The best food source of vitamin D would be foods like liver, which are high in saturated fats. Cod liver oil is a particularly rich source of vitamin D.

Vitamin A

Another important fat-soluble vitamin found in products like liver is Vitamin A. In nature, it is commonly observed that when animals kill their prey, they eat the liver - and the brains - first.

Ever wondered why the liver contains plenty of fats? Well, saturated fats protect the liver against toxicity from alcohol and certain pharmaceutical drugs such as Tylenol. If you have taken too much alcohol, it helps to eat some butter or fatty animal foods.

The heart

This brings us to another organ that has lots of fatty tissues around it - the heart.

The popular belief is that fat tissues surrounding the heart are there to cause problems. But if fats are in the liver to protect the liver, wouldn't they not be around the heart to also protect the heart? Or at least to benefit the heart in some other ways?

Here's the surprise!

Saturated fats are the preferred fuel for the heart – meaning the heart works best when it is fueled by these fats. This is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated. During times of stress, the heart draws on this reserve.

These saturated fatty tissues also prevent heart lesions or tissue damage. In the 1970s, Canadian researchers studied rapeseed oil and canola oil, which they thought was the “ideal” fat. But they found that animals given exclusively canola oil developed heart lesions. When these animals were also given saturated fatty acids, they no longer developed heart lesions.


Yet another surprise involves cholesterol. As we shall see in another article, cholesterol is not a bad thing. Cholesterol is good. And its role is mainly to protect the blood vessels against damage due to inflammation and other causes. But for the purpose of this article, let's just go along with the common belief that there are "bad" cholesterol (low-densitity lipoprotein or LDL) and "good" cholesterol (high density lipoprotein or HDL).

Now saturated fats have been widely blamed for raising cholesterol levels. But when you look more closely at what really happens, you will see a totally different picture.

First, you need to understand that there are many different types of saturated fatty acids. However, only three types make up about 95 percent of all the saturated fatty acids that people typically consume in bacon, a fatty steak or chicken skin. In butter or full-cream milk, these three types of fat make up about 70 percent.

They are streaic acid, palmitic acid and lauric acid. And what do they do?

Stearic acid does nothing to cholesterol levels. In fact, the liver converts it to oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that is found in olive oil and found to be good for health. As for palmitic and lauric acids, they raise the level of "bad" cholesterol as well as the level of "good" cholesterol by just as much, or even more. So they actually protect the heart!

Omega 3

Another substance that protects the heart is Omega 3. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are polyunsaturated fats and they are called "essential fatty acids" because they are essential for health and we have to take them from food. The body cannot produce these substances.

As we saw in the article about polyunsayturated fats, one problem with the modern diet is too much Omega 6 and too little Omega 3. And this stems largely from the use of polyunsaturated vegetable cooking oils.

Using saturated, instead of polyunsatured fats solves this problem in two ways. First, it reduces the intake of Omega 6. Second, it helps the body to absorb and utilize Omega 3. Studies have found that elongated omega-3 fatty acids – the type found to protect the heart and impart other health benefits – are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fatty acids.

And so on...

There are many, many more benefits of saturated fats. I don't know them all and I don't think it is necessary to know them all. What is important to know, however, is that saturated fatty acids are highly beneficial to health in many, many ways. And that they are not harmful.

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More sections to come
Natural Cancer Cures
Flu treatments
Stop Trans fats

Healthy cooking oils
Monounsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated fats - the dangers
Saturated fats - why they are not harmful
Saturated fats - health benefits
Saturated fats and heart disease I
Saturated fats and heart disease II
What is canola oil
Canola oil dangers
Duck fat
How to render duck fat
Choosing olive oils - what to look for
Extra virgin oilve oil / olive oil fraud
Olive oil health benefits
Olive oil types and grades
Olive pomace oil
Premium olive oils
Rapeseed = canola
Rice bran oil
Cooking with raw / toasted sesame oil
Sesame oil health benefits