The Dietary Experts Who Cried Wolf – Saturated Fats
Yet we believe them? Luckily (all be it slowly) Saturated Fats are slowly losing their place as the food world’s whipping boy. As western nations “progress” toward a more and more unhealthy and diseased state, finally some very savvy biochemists, MDs and anthropologists have been asking the question, “Have we been given the correct nutritional advice by the powers that be?” We now face a pandemic of modern diseases; type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancers and auto-immune disorders, yet it’s taken 30 years (about the length of time the USDA food pyramid has existed) for anyone to ask the question.
One macronutrient that has consistently been vilified (unfairly so) in the war on modern diseases is saturated fats. Since the introduction of the USDA food pyramid we have made a move towards large servings of grains, legumes and carbohydrates, apparently this needed so our brains can function, guess they have never heard of Gluconeogenesis. There has also been a lean towards polyunsaturated fats (even processed polyunsaturated fats such as Margarine, which is only a few molecules away from being a plastic) and a recommendation to avoid consuming animal fats at all costs.
Since these dietary recommendations came into play, the health of western society has taken a drastic dive for the worse. I think its fair to say that these recommendations are not working.
Here’s why, and I’ll make this to the point.
For 2 million years our ancestors survived mostly on animal foods, including a high intake of saturated fats. In fact, it’s one of the key factors in us developing our large brains. When a species consumes a food source for 2 million years there are only 3 potential outcomes;
#1 – Adapting to that food source.
#2 – Dying out
#3 – Stopping consuming that food source.
Human’s beings and their ancestors have been consuming between 60-90% of our calories from animal foods (animal protein and saturated fats) for over 2 million years, up until the advent of agriculture around 10,000 years ago. As stated above, there are only 3 possible outcomes for a species that consumes a food source for that long. We didn’t die out and we didn’t stop eating meat, so there can only be one conclusion: Adaption, and in fact, a reliance.
There are no hunter-gatherer populations on earth that don’t consume meat. There is also no tooth decay, no cancer or early onset heart disease or other modern world problems in these populations. An example of this is the hunter-gatherer Hadza people of Africa who Weston A. Price observed. Their diet has been used in studies on rats; with control groups of rats fed the standard British diet of processed grains (wheat), pasteurized milk and cooked vegetables (similar to the USDA food pyramid diet). The results were astounding. The rate of disease for the rats eating the diet based on the modern food pyramid was astronomical, the Hadza Rats nil. The Hadza diet falls in line with what the majority of evolutionary nutrition experts and anthropologists believe hunter-gatherer humans ate (pre 10,000 years ago).
The limitation of meat consumption was and is never due to choice, only availability.
Several factors need to be taken into account in our modern environment:
#1: Hormones: Incorrect feeding and antibiotics; animals fed corn, injected with hormones and antibiotics are not only toxic, but lack nutritional value. There are only two types of meats you should buy; free range poultry & eggs, pasture raised meat, or wild caught seafood and meat. The nutrient value of these meats is completely different from the “production line” raised animals that it’s like comparing cardboard to an orange. For example, corn fed cattle have almost no CLA in their fat and no omega 3. These fats are extremely beneficial and even essential for human nutrition.
#2: Cooking: Our ancestors and even modern hunter-gatherers didn’t cook their meat very much if at all. Don’t over cook red meats (you must cook white meats thoroughly due to diseases like salmonella). Over cooking red meats destroys the nutrients and proteins and also produces carcinogens. Eat grass fed meats medium rare when possible.
The Science of Fats:
If anthropological president alone is not enough to convince you, here’s some biological science to go with it. Lets kick off with a bold statement; Saturated fats don’t cause heart disease, excess carbohydrates and inflammation does. Omega 6 fatty acids are highly inflammatory and have even been linked to heart disease, yet they were touted as the very thing we should consume to prevent heart disease? Up to 75% of the blockages found in arteries are made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Several leading heart surgeons have come out and stated that inflammation causes heart attacks not cholesterol (Cholesterol is merely an indicator of other internal dysfunction: i.e. insulin resistance causing excess glucose to overload the liver).
In fact, saturated fats have the following benefits;
#1: Increase HDL cholesterol. This “good” cholesterol binds to other cholesterols and takes them back to the liver for recycling.
#2: Are absolutely necessary for the body to correctly process calcium (look at the rates of osteoporosis and arthritis today)
#3: Cholesterol and saturated fats are absolutely necessary for hormonal and nerve function.
#4: Animal fats and plant saturated fats such as coconut actually promote fat burning processes in the body. Coconut has been linked to boosting thyroid function and grass fed animal fats contain high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which is actually sold as a fat burner supplement.
Polyunsaturated Fats and Omega 6 Fatty Acids:
The old recommendations suggested we completely remove saturated fats from our diet in favor of these so-called “protective” or “healthy fats”.
#1: Polyunsaturated fats are known to be inflammatory. Inflammation has now been targeted as a primary cause of heart disease.
#2: Biopsies of arterial clogs found that the predominant Fat found in the clogs were polyunsaturated Fats, up to 70%. Saturated Fats were the least.
#3: Polyunsaturated fats go rancid (oxidize) very easily; this is also why they contribute to heart disease. When polyunsaturated fats bind to the arterial wall they oxidize more easily than other types of fats. This then causes inflammation and an immune reaction by the body. This is how arterial plaques are formed.
#4: The recommended ratio of omega 3 (anti-inflammatory fatty acids) to omega 6 (inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids) is 1:1. The average American consumes around 20:1 omega 6 to omega 3. If you look at the factory type process the produces 97% of the meat in the USA, and the fatty acid ratios of the animals you will find they are very similar (corn fed beef has virtually no CLA, omega 3, ALA yet a grass fed beef animal has a lot of it) you can see why the ratio is way off and why people have so many inflammatory conditions. Throw in the use of cheap filler oils such as canola and soybean oil (these oils are not used for health reasons, purely to improve bottom line) and you can see why we are where we are.
What we recommend to BodyWorks Bootcamp and BodyWorks Lifestyle Personal Training clients are the following:
- Eat a diet low in carbohydrates (aim for less than 100 grams of carbs per day). Not only will you see body fat drop off and never come back (providing you predominantly stay off the carbohydrates), but you will lower your risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
- Eat whole foods only. They are rich in nutrients and have all necessary co-factors necessary to digest and absorb all nutrients.
- Eat a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids and saturated Fats (Wild Salmon, Walnuts, Avocado, Coconut, Grass fed Bison, Lamb, Beef, Wild Venison, free range or wild Turkey, Duck, Pork, Chicken & quail)
- Get regular intense exercise. High intensity weight training and high intensity cardio will decrease body fat and decrease your risk of heart disease and diabetes.