Saturated Fat REDUCES risk of stroke and heart disease

As readers of the book know, we regard saturated and monounsaturated fats as the only macronutrients that are safe in unlimited doses. Other macronutrients become toxic above certain levels: glucose above 600 calories per day, protein above about 600 calories, and polyunsaturated fats above 100 calories. We recommend that 60% of calories or more be obtained from saturated and monounsaturated fats.

Since eating more saturated and monounsaturated fats is likely to displace toxic nutrients from the diet, in the general population we would expect higher saturated and monounsaturated fat intake to reduce disease rates.

Despite the prejudice the medical profession has long held against saturated fats, there was never real evidence against them. But after many decades of demonization, high quality studies are now showing saturated fat to be health-improving – just as we would expect.

A New Study from Japan

Via Dr. Briffa and Dr. Stephan Guyenet comes word of a new study from Japan.

This study followed 58,453 Japanese adults, aged 40 to 79 at the start of the study, for 14.1 years. [1] The study found that higher saturated fat intake was associated with:

  • A 31% reduction in mortality from stroke
  • An 18% reduction in mortality from cardiovascular disease

It was only earlier this year that a systematic review of the literature found that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.” [2] In a few decades the reviews will probably have to go further: there will be significant evidence that dietary saturated fat is protective against CHD and CVD.

References

[1] Yamagishi K et al. Dietary intake of saturated fatty acids and mortality from cardiovascular disease in Japanese: the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risk Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Aug 4. [Epub ahead of print] http://pmid.us/20685950.

[2] Siri-Tarino PW et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):535-46. http://pmid.us/20071648.

Leave a comment ?

86 Comments.

  1. Hi Andre,

    Well, a factor of 2 is something. Also, the species that digest resistant starch may be more probiotic and less immunogenic. It would be interesting to hear back from Aaron to see how he is doing.

  2. I’ll give it a try and see what happens 🙂

  3. I miscalculated. I did not count the resistant starch in the plant food I already ate. The “before” amount of fiber + resistant starch must have been much greater than 50g.

    Anyway, I tried it for a couple of weeks, but did not see any change in the symptom I was exploring — ectopic beats and atrial fibrillation following saturated fat intake.

    However, my arthritis got a little better after a couple of days. Definitely an interesting result.

  4. Paleo in Ohio – Adventures in Inflammation | Critical MAS - pingback on December 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm
  5. Hello,

    I want to preface my post by saying that I’ve actually been following a Paleo/Primal diet for the last few months, and started reading your book. I find it very thorough and well-researched, and was considering adjusting my diet to your ratios.

    For the most part I was sold on a Paleo/Primal/PHD diet and ascribed to it until I started reading countering evidence that I wanted to inquire your opinion on. In particular, I’ve been having trouble wrapping my mind around the fat ratios you propose, especially with saturated fats, and animal meat consumption.

    As a woman, the things I have read about animal and fat consumption effects on the body are a bit troubling, as they’ve been often linked with a high rate of breast cancer.

    I’ve read numerous research studies that have shown countries with a higher intake of fat, especially fat from animal products, such as meat and dairy products, have a higher incidence of breast cancer:

    Armstrong B, Doll R. Environmental factors and cancer incidence and mortality in different countries, with special reference to dietary practices. Int J Cancer 1975;15:617-31.

    Carroll KK, Braden LM. Dietary fat and mammary carcinogenesis. Nutrition and Cancer 1985;6:254-9.

    Rose DP, Boyar AP, Wynder EL. International comparisons of mortality rates for cancer of the breast, ovary, prostate, and colon, and per capita food consumption. Cancer 1986;58:2363-71.

    They have also found that the consumption of high fat animal foods increase estrogen in the body, which promote cancer cell growth:

    Dorgan JF, Hunsberger SA, McMahon RP, et al. Diet and sex hormones in girls: findings from a randomized controlled clinical trial. J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95:132-41.

    I’ve always been devil’s advocate on these sorts of things and thought it must be very difficult to isolate these factors from other confounding variables like alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking, until I started reading studies about 7th day Adventists — known for their very “clean” lifestyles, they’ve shown that the 7th Day Adventists who practice vegetarianism over consuming meat have significantly lower rates of cancer:

    Fraser GE. Associations between diet and cancer, ischemic heart disease, and all-cause mortality in non-Hispanic white California Seventh-day Adventists. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70(suppl):532S-8S.

    Then of course the countless studies on meat consumption on colorectal cancer, due to high temperature cooking and release of carcinogenic compounds (e.g. HCAs).

    I just feel like the evidence against meat and fat consumption is entirely too large to chalk up to poor data collection or analysis (e.g. the China study) and countless epidemiological studies have been done to show that populations who consume high amounts of meat and fat are getting cancer. While I’ve read things about multiple vitamin deficiencies in some vegetarians and many vegan populations, I’ve never seen studies show that these diets causing cancer or heart disease the way I have with the animal/fat-based diets.

    Could you possibly offer some insight?

  6. I also wanted to add the startling research I’ve seen showing WHEAT (which I’ve read so many horror stories about and banished from my diet over a year ago) actually has antioxidant properties:

    Wheat antioxidants suppress intestinal tumor activity in Min mice:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531705002502

    Preventive Potential of Wheat Bran Fractions against Experimental Colon Carcinogenesis: Implications for Human Colon Cancer Prevention
    http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/60/17/4792.full

    So how does one know what is true anymore?

    • Food processing removes the bran and with it all the healthy nutrients and antioxidants, only carbs are left. Choose whole foods instead of processed ones. Brown rice instead of white rice, whole grain bread instead of white bread.

  7. It is good to see some studies which support the consuption of saturated fat. After all, it is a natural substance, plus, dietary fats are used by our body to make cholesterol from which hormones are made.

    The liver produces 80 percent of cholesterol, the rest of it, we must acquire through diet.

    However, I believe that anything in excess can be bad for us. Because of it, we must balance our intake of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

  8. Hi Paul,
    So far the only fat in my diet is 3 Yolks and Salmon. I’d like to add more saturated fat, but first I’d like to learn more. There’s so much conflicting info… I’d like to know what you think of the below (taken from whfoods website). Is any of the below based on facts?

    1. Butter, like ghee, can increase risk of cardiovascular disease when consumed in excessive amounts. One research study has shown that 3 tablespoons of butter per day over 4 weeks can increase total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol. For this reason, if you are going to cook with butter, you will want to keep the amount at a moderate level of no more than 1-2 tablespoons.

    2. The benefits of butter at moderate levels do not yet have the same level of research backing as ghee.

    3. Butter contains about 12-15% of these medium-chain and short-chain fats, whereas ghee contains about 25%. (Our bodies metabolize medium-chain and short-chain fats differently than long-chain ones, and medium- and short-chain ones are not associated with cardiovascular problems in the same way as the long-chain ones are.)

    4. Ghee is most notably said to stimulate the secretion of stomach acids to help with digestion, while other fats, such as butter and oils, slow down the digestive process and can sit heavy in the stomach.

    • Hi Monnyica,

      You really should read our book to understand why saturated fats are healthful. Butter and ghee are very good for you. Ghee is clarified butter so their fatty acid profile is similar. Ghee is better for cooking.

    • Hi Paul,
      I guess I’ve been brainwashed to think the worst of saturated fat. Just don’t know what to believe. But I trust your take on things, so butter here I come! I do plan on getting your book, hopefully soon!

      I have a few questions. Is butter like organ meats, where you should definitely buy organic and grass-fed?

      And, I’m a bit confused… Saturated Fat (like butter) can be eaten in unlimited amounts daily? But what about when considering calories?

      Also, could I bother you with a math question? I’m trying to calculate the amount of butter I should eat to get enough saturated fat for the day.

      -Total Calories: 2000 (1000 for Carbs/Protein, thus 1000 for Fats)
      -Current Fat: 3 Yolks and 6 oz Salmon = 300 calories
      -Thus 700 calories leftover for Fat
      -100 calories in 1 tbsp of butter
      -Thus 7 tbsp of butter daily??

      If I eat more than 7 tbsp of butter, is that considered excessive?
      Thanks!!

      • Hi Monnyica,

        7 tbsp butter is possible but it seems a lot, unless you’re an endurance athlete. I would recommend eating more like 8 oz meat and increasing egg yolks for a little more fat.

        You don’t need to worry about toxicity from butter but yes, the calories add up and you don’t want to eat an excess of calories. So just eat an amount that makes your food taste good.

        Butter from grassfed cows is more nutritious, but all butter is healthy.

      • Monnyica,

        To give you a reference, the first edition of PHD recommends ~4T added fats/oils (pg 2) for 65% calories from fat (20% carb). I believe the upcoming edition will recommend less fat and more carb. So, I’m thinking more in the 2-3T range and it should be tasty and not oily.

        Also keep in mind that while most might not see a jump in serum cholesterol, some appear to be hyper-responders to butter/cream/SFA even with what appears to be healthy thyroid function and a nutritious diet.

  9. Hey Paul,

    Sorry if this question is in the book somewhere I just started. Does the saturated fat content of a food like coconut oil protect the pufa content from oxidization if heated? if you are eating a steak or cheese is the pufa content relatively un-oxidized after grilling or pasteurization?

    • Hi BS,

      No, I’m afraid saturated fat doesn’t protect PUFA from rancidity. Vitamin E or vitamin A might extend shelf life.

      Pasteurization doesn’t harm fats. Grilling might if it is very high heat.

  10. Hey Paul,

    thanks for the answer… are you aware of any studies or information that might give a clue to the temperatures at which pufa’s oxidize? so if I am using something like Palm Kernel oil to higher heat fry items the omega 6 content could oxidize? but it’s minimal enough i shouldn’t be worried? Also curious if the cheese making process would cause oxidization to the pufa’s? I get raw milk cheddar cheese which is aged 60+ days and it has 1/3 gram of omega 3 per serving.. curious if this would be oxidized or not?

    • I am also curious about saturated fat, in humans we store a lot of toxins in our fat .. is this not true for animals? or does their large livers keep environmental toxins out of their body fat?

      • Hi BS,

        I think with PUFAs it is a combination of time and exposure to other compounds as well as heat that leads to rancidity. Heat by itself is not necessarily the major factor, though of course high enough temperatures will destroy the fats.

        All PUFAs will oxidize in storage, but dairy fats are low in PUFA so cheese is relatively safe.

        Fats cycle in and out of adipose tissue and generally speaking, toxin levels should be low in the body with healthy living. Animals have the same biology so it is a matter of exposure.

  11. It Ain't The Fat, People! - pingback on February 13, 2014 at 6:18 pm
  12. Hello Paul,

    Once again thank you for the great post.

    You refer that the the only macronutrients that are safe in unlimited doses are the saturated and monounsaturated fats. However the following study stats that “Overfeeding Polyunsaturated and SATURATED Fat Causes Distinct Effects on Liver and Visceral Fat Accumulation in Humans”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24550191

    I really would like to know your opinion on the subject.

    I have been following PHD for some time now. It really feels right. But there is always some study that contradicts the diet that we follow and this can be very frustrating…what to believe and what not to believe?

    I count with you to demystify this one 🙂

    Kind Regards,

    /Hugo

    • Hi Hugo,

      It’s all about the context of the rest of the diet. You need various nutrients in combination with the fat. It is within the context of an otherwise optimized diet that saturated fat is safe.

      • Hello Paul,

        Thank you so much for the reply.

        I did not understood exactly the context of the diet used in the study.

        So basically by following a diet PHD like , we should not worry about the amount of saturated fats consumed or is there a threshold at which saturated and monounsaturated fats could be harmful?

        Usually I consume a lot of coconut oil and even more olive oil, I am afraid that I could be over consuming it.

        Best Regards

        /Hugo

  13. A Scientific Reality Check On 5 Diet Myths - pingback on January 21, 2016 at 1:40 am
  14. Hi Paul! Great book and great site, thank you for all of this! Could you comment on the saturated fat section of the following article from Dr. Ian A Myles published in the Nutrition Journal in 2014:

    It states that saturated fats are causing inflammation. I would be very interested in your opinion on this.

    Thank you!

    • Hi jpf,

      This is too simple. Saturated fats aren’t inflammatory per se, their effect depends on the rest of the diet. If you are eating an energy-excess, omega-6-excess diet, then saturated fats can be inflammatory. On a good diet they are health-promoting.

      Best, Paul

  15. Hi Paul.I Have read your book.I was eating the Ray peat way for about 2 years (eventually got very bloated and lots of acne(too much white sugar).I have had neck cancer In the past and Ray seemed logical at the time.I have 3g of evening primrose oil a day (helps my mood and oily fish(450g a week)When I start to add butter or ghee to my diet my skin dries up and looks haggard.I am having liver once a week.also a lot of the butter seems to make me very depressed.Why is this .I would like to up my fat (50% of diet) but why does my mood get effected with butter as well as the dryness.Also if I eliminate the epo then I get dryness.Thanks for a great book and great website.

    • Hi anwar,

      It’s difficult to respond to your situation without a full view of medical data. The fact that you feel better with so much evening primrose oil and fish oil suggests that you have an excess of oxidative stress depleting PUFA from cell membranes. For that, make sure you are optimizing zinc, copper, vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione (glycine, NAC, taurine), and carotenoids; and try to address whatever inflammatory condition is causing the stress. Immune supports including iodine, vitamin A, and vitamin D will often help. Butter is healthful but can add to oxidative stress when you have an excess of calories. Be sure to do intermittent fasting to keep calories down. High cholesterol is typically due to oxidized LDL or hypothyroidism, be sure to get thyroid status checked and hypothyroidism treated.

      Best, Paul

  16. hi paul forgot to mention I also eat 2 eggs a day.should I have more egg yolks.i am a bit worried because my recent blood test showed a litte high cholesterol.cheers

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