Here’s a riddle for you nutrition buffs: How is saturated fat like house paint?
Give up? Well, let me tell you.
See, the white paint produces a certain result when you mix it with black paint, a different result when you mix it with blue, and an entirely different result when you mix it with yellow.
So it is with saturated fat.
Saturated fat mixed into a low carb diet is a wonderful source of fuel. The body will be delighted to use it as such.
But when you mix that saturated fat into a diet high in sugar and carbs — i.e. the typical American diet — then all bets are off.
Here’s why: There is an association between saturated fat and an increased risk for some diseases, but the association isn’t with saturated fat in the diet. It’s with saturated fat in the blood.
If that seems like a minor distinction to you, let me explain why it’s anything but minor.
The saturated fat you eat has very little effect on the levels of saturated fat in your blood. (It’s similar to dietary cholesterol which has practically no effect on the blood levels of cholesterol that your doctor measures.)
Eating a lot of saturated fat doesn’t drive up your blood levels of saturated fat, just as eating eggs doesn’t drive up your LDL cholesterol. And cutting back on saturated fat doesn’t drive your blood levels down.
What sends your blood levels of saturated fat skyward is the sugar you eat with it. Or the starch. Or the processed carbs. Or whatever else drives your blood sugar up through the roof.
Therefore, as researchers writing in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine point out, the best way to lower saturated fat in the bloodstream is to lower sugar in the diet.
If you’re eating a very low-carb diet, saturated fat is going to have absolutely no negative effects on your health. In fact, the absolute worst thing you could say about saturated fat is that it’s neutral — essentially harmless.
Unlike olive oil or fish oil, saturated fat doesn’t have a resume of studies saying we should eat more of it. But, contrary to popular belief, the research does not support that we should eat less of it.
The real problem with saturated fat has nothing to do with the fact that it’s saturated. The only thing that makes animal fats “unhealthy” is the hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, steroids, and other chemicals that factory-farmed animals are constantly ingesting.
On the other hand, no one has the slightest thing to fear from the meat or fat (saturated or otherwise) from grass-fed animals who are not exposed to any of that stuff.
Remember, fat tissue in mammals is like a safe house for toxins. We store all the crap we’re exposed to — from hormones to pesticides to environmental poisons — right there in our fat cells. That’s true for cows and humans.
So when you eat fat from toxic, factory farmed animals, you’re consuming those toxins.
And therein lies the problem.
If you’re inclined to worry about your food and the food you feed your family, you’d be well advised to stop worrying about fat. Focus instead on the foods that really rob you of your health: processed carbohydates, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), and meat and dairy from factory farms.
Posts by Jonny Bowden, PhD
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