Saturated Fat Doesn’t Raise Blood Fats Or Cardiovascular Risks

| January 1, 2015

If you’re starting to worry about the amount of saturated fat in all those fried breakfasts, rich cheeses and pâtés you’ve been enjoying over the festive season, here’s some reassuring news. A new study from Ohio State University provides conclusive evidence that saturated fat in your diet doesn’t translate into dangerous fatty acids in your bloodstream. In fact, the researchers found that increasing dietary intake of saturated fats actually reduced levels in the blood. And they were also able to point the finger directly at the real culprit for increased blood fats (and body fat) – yes, you’ve guessed it – carbohydrates.

The science behind the ‘lipid hypothesis’, which says that saturated fat in the diet raises cholesterol and blood fats, which in turn raises heart disease risks, has looked very shaky for years. As I pointed out here, putting the blame for heart disease on saturated fats was probably the biggest medical blunder of the 20th century. Last year, a meta-analysis of 76 separate studies involving 650,000 people concluded that there is no evidence to link either saturated fat or total dietary fat with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.1 Yet official guidelines still cling to this discredited and, as it now turns out, dangerous dogma.

The Ohio researchers didn’t rely on laboratory mice or rats. Their study involved real people with metabolic syndrome, a collection of symptoms that typically includes abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, low HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and raised blood fats.2 The participants started with a three-week run-in period, during which they were encouraged to limit carbohydrate intake. They then ate six consecutive diets, each one for a period of three weeks. They started with one that was high in saturated fat and very low in carbohydrates. After that, each diet had progressively less saturated fat and more carbohydrate content, but was identical in terms of protein and total calories. And the results were astounding!

Body mass, blood pressure, insulin resistance and blood fat levels all dropped sharply during the run-in and the initial high-fat, low-carb diet. As progressively more carbohydrate and less saturated fat were consumed, these early changes slowed and started to reverse. These results show that, far from being a cause of cardiovascular disease, saturated fat intake along with a low-carbohydrate diet actually reduces cardiovascular risk factors, turning conventional advice about eating saturated fat on its head.

High blood fat levels come from eating carbs, not fats

Blood fat levels and in particular those of some specific saturated fatty acids have been shown to be reliable markers for diabetes and heart disease risks. But where conventional medicine got it wrong was in assuming that eating these saturated fats raises their levels in the blood. The Ohio study shows that the opposite is true – a low-carb high-fat diet reduces levels of dangerous blood fats, while the low-fat, high carb diet recommended by the so-called ‘experts’ raises them! Saturated fatty acids that raise cardiovascular risks are made in our bodies as a direct result of eating carbohydrates.

As Dr Jeff Volek, who led the Ohio study explained, “When you consume a very low-carb diet your body preferentially burns saturated fat. We had people eat two times more saturated fat than they had been eating before entering the study, yet when we measured saturated fat in their blood, it went down in the majority of people. Other traditional risk markers improved, as well.”

Despite solid evidence that the official advice on saturated fats has been wrong all along, don’t expect it to be revised soon. Such things are slow to change. After all, naval surgeon James Lind proved in 1753 that citrus fruits cured scurvy, but it was 1867 when the Admiralty finally got around to giving sailors a daily ration of lime juice!

The messages to remember from the latest research are:

  • Whatever the official advice says, saturated fat intake is not implicated in cardiovascular disease
  • Saturated fat in your diet won’t raise the levels in your blood – just as cholesterol in your diet doesn’t affect blood levels
  • Eating a low-fat diet doesn’t protect you from heart disease – if anything it actually increases cardiovascular risks
  • The more carbohydrate you eat (particularly sugar and rapidly-digested carbs), the higher your level of unhealthy blood fats is likely to be

Body fat is usually bad news, linked with chronic inflammation, insulin resistance and a whole list of health problems. But there is one kind of body fat, called brown fat, that plays a key role in regulating body weight and can help to stave off obesity and diabetes. In my next blog post I shall tell you how a simple bedtime routine can boost your body’s production of this amazing substance.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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  1. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, Crowe F, Ward HA, Johnson L, Franco OH, Butterworth AS, Forouhi NG, Thompson SG, Khaw KT, Mozaffarian D, Danesh J, Di Angelantonio E. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014; 160(6):398-406.
  2. Volk BM, Kunces LJ, Freidenreich DJ, Kupchak BR, Saenz C Artistizabal JC, Fernandez ML, Bruno RS, Maresh CM, Kraemer WJ, Phinney SD, Volek JS. Effects of step-wise increases in dietary carbohydrate on circulating saturated fatty acids and palmitoleic acid in adults with metabolic syndrome. PLoS One. 2014; 9(11):e113605.
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Category: Diabetes and Heart Disease

Comments (1)

Testimonials are based on the personal experience of individuals. Results are not typical and the potential benefits of taking any drug or supplement may vary depending on your individual needs and health requirements. Please consult your GP before making any changes to your medical regimen.

  1. MartinHum says:

    Thank you for your kind words, Lizette. I don’t really think of myself as cool, but I do enjoy keeping up with the latest diabetes and nutrition research and sharing it. If it helps people, that makes me very happy! Best wishes, Martin Hum