Let’s make one thing clear – when someone is going to lower carbohydrate content in their diet, they should replace it mostly with fat, not protein. Eating a lot of protein with little fat and carbs may be a short term strategy for initiating fat loss, but not a healthy way of eating in the long run. A lot of people, who are willing to try or have already felt the benefits of low-carb/high-fat eating, are scared of hurting themselves, because the common knowledge is that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease by clogging arteries. In reality, that is as far from the truth as Planet Earth is from the Sun!
Saturated fat (SF) and cholesterol (CH) are both important components of healthy cell membranes – SF makes them optimally rigid and without CH our trillions of cells would collapse into jello-like substance. Unlike polyunsaturated fatty acids, saturated fatty acids do not oxidize easily, because they have a very stable molecular structure. By the way, atherosclerotic plaque found on the walls of arteries is made up mostly of unsatured fatty acids.
By minimizing SF intake, it is impossible to get enough fat soluble vitamins. A lot of nutrients found in vegetables go to waste if not prepared with fat – and by fat I mean SF, because only saturated fatty acids have the ability to resist heat and thus not oxidize. Moreover, energy provided by fats is long-lasting and does not result in an energy crash. And SF is the most satiating macronutrient of all!
CH is vital for healthy brain function and it protects against depression. It acts as a powerful antioxidant, even protecting us from cancer. Without CH our skin is incapable of synthesizing vitamin D from sunlight. With too little CH, our bodies cannot make new cells and repair old ones quickly enough, which means accelerated aging. In addition to being a building material for cells, cholesterol is used by the body to synthesize hormones we need for fighting stress and simply living a normal life. That is why a stressful lifestyle raises CH levels in the blood – we need more CH to cope with increased demands. Older people have higher CH levels, because their lifespan has created more cellular damage compared to younger people – thus its unwise to lower their CH with drugs. By the way, people with higher CH levels live longer than people with lower CH levels.
Because CH is such a valuable substance, manufacture of this complicated molecule in the body is highly regulated: production increases when you eat little of it and decreases when you eat large amounts.
So why do we have such a fear for SF and CH? Why are we being told that they are harmful and dangerous?
The story started in the mid 1950’s, when one man so eagerly wanted to dicover the cause of coronary heart disease (CHD). He came out with his hypothesis that SF and CH are the culprits. Ancel Keys was so in love with this idea, that he “produced” the paper, showing a close correlation between total fat intake and deaths from CHD in 6 countries. Why do I use a word “produce”? Because at that time information was available from 22 countries! If all countries were included, the correlation would cease to exist! He was laughed at because his study had obvious weak statistics, but mr. Keys came back with vengeance. He conducted a study in different regions of 7 countries, which showed contradicting results – for example a different number of deaths in different regions of the same country. But Keys and his supporters saw only what they wanted to see and the results of the study were analyzed in a way which satisfied their expectations (and justified spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money!). Any open minded researcher, who has access to the whole material, would come to the conclusion that the incidenced rate of CHD was correlated with sucrose intake! Unfortunately all Western nutritional education and advice is based on that study. All the big studies later on failed to confirm the results of Keys’ study, but the public was informed otherwise – and they still continue doing that.
In scientific studies it is possible to concentrate only on those methods of analyses, which confirm your expectations. Moreover, statistical analyses leave plenty of room for interpretation. Also, it is possible to simply lie about the results and get away with it. Usually the abstract is the only part of the study that is read, not the whole study.
How could this fallacy happen and why is this still going on? There are several reasons:
1) There are professional careers on the line. Often a researcher or doctor has dedicated most or all of his/her career to promoting the ‘CH/SF cause heart disease’ hypothesis. Making a U-turn is unacceptable for most – that’s just human nature – they are protecting their own interests;
2) The researchers could lose all their research funding if they stand against generally held beliefs, as it is impossible to find research money for trying to prove that CH and SF are beneficial;
3) Those few, who understand the real issue, are too afraid to speak up. Many lawsuits could follow if the dogma would be falsified. Accusations could arise for giving wrong and in some cases even lethal medical advice (people commit suicide due to depression more readily when their CH level is decreased too low);
4) Sunken fortunes. Too much money is already buried into CH research – admitting that it has all been a waste is unacceptable.
Those, who did their homework and stood against this dogma, were treated accordingly:
1) Kilmer McCully discovered that high homocysteine (not CH level) in the blood is the accurate predictor of atherosclerosis. He was fired because of questioning the CH “thing” and US authorities made it impossible for him to continue his research elsewhere;
2) Finnish dairy company Valio pointed that SF and CH are harmless. They were silenced by severe media attacks which continued for months;
3) Finnish version of Uffe Ravnskov’s book “Cholesterol Myths” was lit on fire on a Finnish national television telecast!
Yes, going against any dogma is dangerous! Burning politically incorrect books reminds me of the actions against humanity during the times of the Great Inquisition and the III Reich.
So far, so bad? Not exactly. Currently Diet Dictocrats, Cholesterol Nazis and Big Pharma are experiencing some shaky ground.
Meta-analysis that came out at the beginning of 2010 has helped reshape our understanding about saturated fat and cholesterol. In meta-analysis, data from studies on the same subject are combined. Conclusion (in lay person language): there is no connection between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease (CVD) whatsoever. Really? But the most remarkable is the concluding sentence of the study:
“More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by a specific nutrient used to replace saturated fat.”
No kidding! For god sake, what could that specific nutrient be?
Isn’t it obvious that by removing/restricting a naturally occurring macronutrient from the diet and from the food itself, it will be replaced by another one? Fat gives food fragrances and taste – this loss is compensated by adding sugar to the food to make it more palatable. Abundance of carbohydrates (coming mostly from sugar) and lack of saturated fat (also replaced with vegetable oils) are causing overeating which lead us to all modern diseases like CVD, CHD, diabetes, ADHD, hypertension, obesity, bone diseases, cancer and so on.
Medical drugs can improve only one single biomarker but not enhance ones health. New drugs capable of raising CH carrier, high density lipoprotein (HDL), in the blood (higher level is considered protective) and lowering triglycerides in the blood (higher level is considered a risk factor) do not improve heart health. But we have to look at human biochemistry at work! The facts are that HDL is raised by eating more SF and triglycerides are lowered by restricting carbohydrates, especially sugars, in the diet. If you follow recommendations of food pyramids or ‘plates’ you consume too many carbohydrates in the form of cereals, breads, pastas, fruit juices and sodas, which all have a nasty capability of triggering sugar craving and overeating. At the end it will be you who looks like a pyramid and gets sick as well.
I hope I convinced you that eating more natural fat and less carbohydrate is perfectly safe and most importantly, is the key to good health and better looks. How much you should increase saturated fat intake and decrease carbohydrate intake depends on your genetic background and energy needs. Everyone has to find that out by themselves.
Read the full article here: http://www.nutritiopedia.com/2011/06/about-saturated-fat-and-cholesterol/