Animal Fat is the New Superfood

100% Pasture-fed Animal Fats:  Villain or Under-appreciated Superfood?   

By Nora Gedgaudas, CNS, NTP, BCHN

You might be asking yourself what something like animal fat is doing in a discussion about superfoods? People expect to see things like broccoli sprouts, avocados, turmeric and blueberries when it comes to this topic, and animal source foods are rarely considered in this discussion. I believe the time has come to turn this around. When I looked at the mountain of research on this topic that I pored through in writing my recently released book, Primal Fat Burner, I realized that there was a long overdue and radically under appreciated story that needed to be told.

For over 100,000 generations of human evolutionary history our ancestral forebears led a purely hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and more research has come to light in recent years underscoring the fact that we have been mostly hunters throughout the majority of this time, between roughly 2.6 million years ago to just about 10,000 years ago when we adopted a more agriculturally-based lifestyle and began eating a more carbohydrate-based diet. The first signs of what we call the “diseases of modern civilization” began to emerge at that time; radically accelerating since then following the industrial revolution. And our supposedly short life span reduced further by roughly HALF.

Prior to all that, highly coveted dietary fat from the wide variety of animals and fatty megafauna that we habitually hunted supplied us with the structural basis for our most distinctly unique human characteristic: our extremely large and sophisticated brains. Our brains are, in fact, constructed from the very fats we supply them with by what we choose to eat. And two fatty acids in particular: arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)– unique 20- and 22-carbon fatty acids found more or less exclusively within fully pasture-fed/naturally wild-foraged animal source foods– are utterly key to human cognition.[1] AA makes up at least 11% of the fatty acids needed by the brain and lower levels are associated with cognitive decline. DHA is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants. DHA is also required for maintenance of normal brain function in adults. The inclusion of plentiful DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whereas deficiencies of DHA are associated with deficits in learning.”[2] And while DHA is also popularized as being richly found in fatty, cold water fish, our evolutionary antecedants most commonly got their primary share of DHA from mainly animal fats, which offered both needed brain fats (DHA and AA) in a healthy balance. Although arachidonic acid (AA) is sometimes vilified as being pro-inflammatory, this really is not an issue where sufficient EPA and DHA are also present. And you simply cannot have a healthy brain without AA. It’s all about the relative balance of natural fatty acids and not any given one, in and of itself.

The preponderance of omega-6 fats in factory farmed or feedlot meat is a much greater cause for concern. Anti-inflammatory omega-3’s are richly found in fully grassfed meats (and absent from feedlot or factory farmed meat). [3] [4] [5]  This more appropriate balance naturally occurs in animal source foods fed in a manner most similar to those our ancestors would have hunted (i.e., from animals naturally and exclusively consuming fresh, green forage/grass). By eating exclusively grass-fed sources of animal fats we supply our bodies with a rich plethora of vital nutrients critical to the health of your body and brain you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. “Research spanning three decades suggests that grass-based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid (FA) composition and antioxidant content of beef…” And “Grass-based diets have been shown to enhance total conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) isomers, trans vaccenic acid (TVA), a precursor to CLA, and omega-3 fatty acids on a [gram for gram of] fat basis.” Plus “Several studies suggest that grass-based diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries.”[6]

Wow…talk about a superfood!

As just mentioned in this last study, pastured animal fats are also especially rich in a particularly important fatty acid known as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). What’s so special about that?


CLA has actually been shown to show positive benefits for not only cancer[7] [8] [9] [10] [11] but also obesity[12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] autoimmunity,[26] [27] infections,[28] inflammation,[29] [30] bone health[31], diabetes.[32] [33] [34] [35] and even heart disease![36]

In fact, natural, animal source CLA may be one of the most broadly beneficial and potent cancer-fighting substances in our diet. It is somewhat uniquely able to (in very small amounts) block all three stages of cancer: 1) initiation 2) growth/promotion and 3) metastasis. Most “anticancer nutrients” are typically helpful in only one of these areas. To date, beneficial effects of natural CLA from animal fat have been found in cancers of the breast, prostate, colon and skin. In animal studies, as little as one half of one percent CLA in the diet of experimental animals reduced tumor burden by more than 50 percent.[37]  As if this wasn’t exciting enough, there is more direct evidence that CLA may reduce cancer risk in humans. In a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those having the lowest levels. Switching from grain-fed to exclusively grass-fed meat literally places women in this lowest risk category! Additionally, French researchers measured CLA levels in the breast tissues of 360 women and found that the women with the most CLA had the lowest risk of cancer. In fact, the women with the most CLA had a staggering 74% lower risk of breast cancer than the women with the least CLA. [38]   Other studies have additionally shown breast cancer and even colon cancer preventative benefits.[39] [40] [41] [42] In keeping with this, CLA additionally exerts potent anti-inflammatory effects.[43] The inherent stability of CLA also seems to maintain itself even when meat is cooked.[44] [45] One study pointed put the following, Of the vast number of naturally occurring substances that have been demonstrated to have anticarcinogenic activity in experimental models, all but a handful of them are of plant origin. Conjugated linoleic acid is unique because it is present in food from animal sources, and its anticancer efficacy is expressed at concentrations close to human consumption levels.”[46]

Not only this, but natural CLA from 100% grass-fed animals has anti-inflammatory[47] and immune-modulatory properties, making it an important addition to any autoimmune dietary protocol.

You won’t get this from a CLA pill (even though they sell them!)

But it’s important to point out that (invariably synthetic) CLA supplements (capsules) sold in health food stores do NOT have the same benefits as the form of CLA in grass-fed meat—and in fact may even be counterproductive to your health! ONLY CLA from the fat of wild game and fully pastured animals has the real anticancer health benefits you want.[48] Another study showed that cows grazing green pasture and receiving no supplemental feed had 500% more conjugated linoleic acid in milk fat than cows fed typical feedlot diets.[49]

As supplements go, the emu oil caps/liquid I often recommend by Walkabout Health Products additionally contain appreciable levels of CLA and contain the only natural source of supplemental CLA and vitamin K2 (MK-4 form) I am aware of in the marketplace.

So what are my favorite CLA-rich, animal fat superfoods to cook with? When it comes to fully pastured and organic beef tallow, I am partial to the brand name, ‘Fatworks’. They also carry other exceptional quality and nutrient dense, flavorful animal fats one can (and should) cook with. Another high quality dietary source of CLA and other critical fat-soluble nutrients often missing in many diets can be enjoyed in a particular form of 100% grass-fed and organic Cultured Ghee sold by a wonderful company called ‘Pure Indian Foods’. This is actually the only dairy product I ever consume, mainly for the reason that it has been lab tested to show “undetectable” levels of dairy proteins. This can be important for anyone suffering from an immune reactivity to dairy proteins, as well as many forms of autoimmunity. Pure Indian Foods also sells a fantastic Turmeric Superghee, which contains 800 mg of organic turmeric (tested lead-free), rich in curcumanoids known to have a vast range of health benefits.

NOTE: I have no financial ties to these companies, but promote them because of their unwavering integrity.

A vast body of research shows us (as does common sense, given how well adapted the human genome is to animal source foods) that animal fats are not necessarily the villains they have long been made out to be. In fact, they may not only be central to your best health (when used in the right way—in the absence of sugary/starchy foods), but may also be literally central to what made us human in the first place.

It’s hard to beat pastured animal fats for their ultimate superfood potential!

~ Nora

For more information or to order my new book, please see Join me and many others on my weekly online education series Primal Power 52. In addition, I’m currently taking applications for my next Mastermind 12 week program that starts soon!


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[3] Rose, D. P., J. M. Connolly, et al. (1995). “Influence of Diets Containing Eicosapentaenoic or Docasahexaenoic Acid on Growth and Metastasis of Breast Cancer Cells in Nude Mice.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 87(8): 587-92.

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[7] Pariza MW, Hargraves WA. “A beef-derived mutagenesis modulator inhibits initiation of mouse epidermal tumors by 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene.” Carcinogenesis 1985;6:591–3.

[8] Ip, C., J. A. Scimeca, et al. (1994). “Conjugated linoleic acid. A powerful anticarcinogen from animal fat sources.” Cancer 74(3 Suppl): 1050-4.

[9] Białek A, Tokarz A. “[Conjugated linoleic acid as a potential protective factor in prevention of breast cancer].” Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2013 Jan 11;67:6-14.

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[25] Steck SE, Chalecki AM, Miller P, et al. “Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for twelve weeks increases lean body mass in obese humans.” J Nutr. 2007 May;137(5):1188-93.

[26] Yang MD, Pariza MW, Cook ME. “Dietary conjugated linoleic acid protects against end stage disease of systematic lupus erythematosus in the NZB/W F1 mouse.” Immunopharm Immunotox 2000;22:433–49.

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[29] Whigham LD, Cook EB, Stahl JL, et al. “CLA reduces antigen-induced histamine and PGE(2) release from sensitized guinea pig tracheae.” Am J Physiol 2001;280:R908–12.

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