Saturated Fat: Health Food or Health Hindrance?

By Nora Gedgaudas, CNS, NTP, BCHN

The latest advisory issued by an American Heart Association (AHA) released report on June 15, 2017 seems to be causing quite a storm of controversy online, as well as generating a lot of confusion in a whole lot of people. The AHA stated with incomprehensible bravado that Americans should be eating no more than 5-6% of daily caloric intake as saturated fat and should be replacing these with “heart healthy” vegetable oils such as corn oil, soybean oil and peanut oil.” The AHA further condemned the widespread use of coconut oil and described it as being “as unhealthy as beef fat and butter.” I was rather surprised at the number of emails I received from those that had read it expressing concerns about coconut oil, which has otherwise actually enjoyed quite a bit of cause célèbre as a bit of a rock star in health circles in recent years. There was almost what seemed like a carpet bombing of articles and anti-saturated fat propaganda surrounding the AHA advisory, originally published in the journal, Circulation titled, “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association”. The AHA decree offered essentially a reiteration of its own obsolete and absurdly antiquated recommendation to curb the intake of saturated fats in favor of supposedly “heart healthy” unsaturated/polyunsaturated fats.

The AHA’s “new” declaration was so nonsensical and full of errors that there is widespread speculation that all of this must be a hoax. –“Fake News”, as it were. –Would that it were so (well, it is and it isn’t).

Nonetheless, on the American Heart Association web site the following headline was emblazoned: “Advisory: Replacing saturated fat with healthier fat could lower cardiovascular risks”

Wow….really? Is the world STILL flat?

The authors of the article in the journal Circulation stated “Taking into consideration the totality of the scientific evidence, satisfying rigorous criteria for causality, we conclude strongly that lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of CVD [cardiovascular disease].” Hmmmm yeah…and I’ve got some swampland in New Jersey to sell you. The nutritionally illiterate AHA really still thinks they can sell this obsolete swill to us? This AHA declaration basically does little more than echo the long-since tired and thoroughly debunked, decades old failed policy of our USDA government guidelines.

The AHA would have you believe that swapping out “artery-clogging saturated fats” with “healthy vegetable fats” can do “as much good” for some people as taking a statin drug.

Ummmm…no argument there if you consider all the potential harm that statin drugs inflict.  Here’s a link to 515 peer reviewed abstracts demonstrating very real health concerns related to taking statins:

Don’t even get me started about the cholesterol myth (perhaps another time).

What is the actual truth of the matter? Why is this coming out now?

Well, more than just recycling tired old ideas about the mythic role of saturated fat in this equation, what I believe we are actually seeing is instead more of a concerted backlash against the flood of debunking that has taken place in recent years that threatens certain entrenched aspects of traditional medical authority, not to mention the coffers of multinational industry. There are literally billions—if not trillions of multinational corporate dollars here at stake ranging from Big Agribusiness (the #1 customer of Big Oil) and food industry interests, to the insatiable greed of Big Pharma. I would imagine health agency funding (which has demonstrably been largely a waste of money) is part of the concern here, too. In fact, there is also a certain degree of potential legal culpability in the AHA’s wanton ignorance, blatant disregard for more current science, and intentional misleading of the American people. In a manner not unlike a frightened child pulling the covers over their head, by refusing to see or acknowledge what frightens them they are hoping to believe the truth isn’t really there, hovering over their beds.

Putting all this into perspective

First off, it might make sense for us all to take a peek at what the history of this “evidence-based” policy over the last 50 years has actually done for the American people:

In May of 2015 researchers for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey decided to take a look at the impact that government guidelines, admonishing Americans to reduce their intake of saturated fat and cholesterol while increasing carbohydrates, had been having on the actual health of the American public. For decades it had been assumed that the rapid increases in heart disease, obesity and other metabolic disorders had simply been due to a failure of adherence to these guidelines. In other words, the decline in health of Americans had consistently been blamed on the average American’s stubborn failure to follow the rules. This survey was designed to more closely examine that assumption.

This research survey tracked both the government guidelines and the dietary habits of the US between the years’ 1971 and 2011. In the background information supplied by the study’s abstract the authors stated, “For almost 50 years, the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has measured the caloric consumption, and body heights and weights of Americans. The aim of this study was to determine, based on that data, how macronutrient consumption patterns and the weight and body mass index in the US adult population have evolved since the 1960s.”

Among other things the study pointed out that: “The Senate’s Dietary Goals report also included the objectives of lowering saturated fat consumption to “about 10 percent of total energy intake” and reducing total cholesterol consumption to “about 300 mg per day”. The findings were quite clear that Americans’ consumption patterns actually followed these guidelines. In 1971, saturated fat made up 13.5% of total calories consumed. By 2011, Americans were obediently eating just 10.7% of their calories as saturated fat, which was a 20.5% reduction since 1971.

Here’s what they concluded about what they found (and I hope you’re sitting down for this):

Americans in general have been following the nutrition advice that the American Heart Association and the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have been issuing for more than 40 years: Consumption of fats has dropped from 45% to 34% with a corresponding increase in carbohydrate consumption from 39% to 51% of total caloric intake. In addition, from 1971 to 2011, average weight and body mass index have increased dramatically, with the percentage of overweight or obese Americans increasing from 42% in 1971 to 66% in 2011.”[1] (bold emphasis mine)

The influence of following government guidelines on BMI (body mass index)

Even though we never quite made it to the 10% or below of daily saturated fat intake wished for by the AHA, you would think even a 20.5% reduction would have yielded some benefit. It hasn’t. In fact, the health of Americans has worsened in direct proportion to their obedience to these established guidelines. The more closely Americans have followed the rules, the sicker and more obese we have become as a society.

The fact is that there really is nothing new under the sun with this new AHA decree. The AHA “Presidential Advisory” on their web site[2], together with their article in the journal, Circulation[3] is really just recycling decades-old, obsolete mythology concerning the role of saturated fat in our ongoing burgeoning levels of heart disease, obesity and pretty much everything else they think they can blame on saturated fat.

Many people are still surprised to learn that the dietary heart hypothesis first advanced in the 1950s and 1960s was never actually proven to be true, even as this hypothesis has served to drive official policymaking for the last five decades. It is also surprising that so many people either missed or forgot about the earthshaking headlines from the New York Times just last year (September 12, 2016) titled: “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame To Fat”. The article clearly outlined information based on clear documentation (published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, no less) presenting irrefutable evidence that it was in fact the sugar industry in the 1960s that literally bought and paid for certain research conclusions that were designed to conceal and protect that industry from all of the emerging evidence showing clearly that dietary sugar was in fact the primary culprit in the burgeoning levels of heart disease. They did this by conveniently directing blame toward dietary fat—and especially dietary animal fat (a dietary inclusion that has played a key and demonstrably beneficial role in our evolution for close to 3 million years). Major collaborators in this conspiracy like Ancel Keys—the narcissistic father of the so called “dietary heart hypotheses”— (the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol were to blame for rising levels of heart disease) made headlines on the cover of Time magazine with the results of his (now soundly debunked) Seven Countries Study.[4] Basically, in a nutshell, we now know that he saw to it that cherry picked data (intentionally ignoring and suppressing a wealth of evidence to the contrary) in order to confirm his bogus dietary heart hypothesis. And all of this chicanery amounted to fame and fortune for himself (and now infamy) at the expense of literally millions of lives unnecessarily since.

It was a researcher by the name of Stanton Glanz, a professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco that (in part) made this recent discovery, which was published in 2016, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine.[5] It showed that five decades of so-called research documenting the role of nutrition and heart disease and shaping public policy and government guidelines for roughly half a century have been based on the interests of the sugar industry. Stanton Glanz commented in the NY Times that “They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades.”[6]

In my most recent book, Primal Fat Burner, I present a wide range of highly credible evidence clearly exonerating the role of dietary saturated fat/animal fat in heart disease, and pretty much any other health malady for which it has been unjustly blamed. I then took all of this evidence a step or two farther demonstrating not just the innocence of the accused, but effectively creating an entire paradigm shift that places dietary animal fat squarely at the positive center of our human evolutionary and health equation. Superb journalists like Nina Teicholz and Gary Taubes have additionally laid important ground work toward revamping dietary fat’s story. The real verdict on saturated fat has been in for a while. What the AHA is proposing in it’s “new” advisory isn’t just untrue, it is literally the opposite of what is true.

Mainstream eyebrows really flew up a couple of years ago when a respected British cardiologist by the name of Aseem Malhotra at Croydon University Hospital in London published his revolutionary article in the British medical Journal in October of 2013 titled “Saturated Fat is Not the Major Issue.”[7] Toward the beginning of the article, Malhotra exclaimed, The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades. Yet scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks.”  He went on to even say that, Indeed, recent prospective cohort studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. Instead, saturated fat has been found to be protective.(bold emphasis mine)

Yes, you heard right: “PROTECTIVE.”

And an editorial published just this past April in the British Medical Journal found no association between saturated fat and coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke or type II diabetes in healthy adults, according to a brand spanking new landmark systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.   The authors stated that “Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong.”  The three scientists, each from the US, the UK and Europe, rightfully admonish that the treatment of coronary artery disease “urgently requires a paradigm shift”. But when it comes to the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, the same experts write, “There is no benefit from reduced fat, including saturated fat, on myocardial infarction, cardiovascular or all-cause mortality”. They also stated that, “Decades of emphasis on the primacy of lowering plasma cholesterol, as if this was an end in itself and driving a market of ‘proven to lower cholesterol’ and ‘low-fat’ foods and medications, has been misguided.” And that “Selective reporting may partly explain this misconception.”[8]

Apparently the American Heart Association missed this memo. In fact, they missed the actual science altogether.


I think the first point that needs to be made is the fact that saturated fat is not simply one thing; but is, in fact many things. There are saturated fatty acids of varying lengths, with highly varied physiological effects starting with short chain saturated fatty acids (defined by class as being less than eight carbons long). Different forms of saturated fat are even digested and/or metabolized quite differently. Butyric acid (four carbons long, technically a short chain saturated fat), for instance, plays a role in feeding our colonocytes (colon cells), as well as potentially supplying immediate energy. Propionic acid (just three carbons long) and caproic acid (6 carbons long) are its innocent siblings. Medium chain saturated fats between eight and 12 carbons in their fatty acid chain include fatty acids such as caprylic acid (8 carbons long) and lauric acid (12 carbons long), as are found in, among other things, coconut oil. Medium-chain saturated fatty acids tend to have some impressive antimicrobial/antiviral properties and, much as the short chain fatty acids, tend to bypass biliary digestion and enter into the portal blood where they can almost immediately be used for energy. These fats do not tend to get stored as body fat in the same way longer chain fats can and tend to be utilized preferentially for energy. The longer chain saturated fats (which have anywhere from 14 to 24 carbons in their fatty acid chains) include myristic acid (14 carbons), palmitic acid (16 carbons), stearic acid (18 carbons), arachidic acid (20 carbons—not to be confused with arachadonic acid, an omega-6), behenic acid (22 Carbons), lignoceric acid (24 Carbons long) and cerotic acid (26 Carbons long). Both stearic and palmitic acids play important roles in fueling the human heart,[9] as can ketones. Different types of naturally saturated fat play a variety of different positive natural roles in the body.


Independent scientists from the US federally funded 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee even made the recommendation to (ever so) quietly abandon previous recommended restrictions on dietary fat for the first time since 1980. The author of an actual American Heart Association (AHA) 2015 Statistical Update study titled “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics,”[10] Dariush Mozaffarian, MD (the Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy of the Tufts University) stated in an interview: “We really need to sing it from the rooftops that the low-fat diet concept is dead. There are no health benefits to it.”[11] Although this was clearly a small step in a better direction, animal fats were still notably excluded from the green light, with the same old tired push toward vegetable-based and other unsaturated/polyunsaturated oils. They seem to persistently fail to recognize the inherent role that saturated fat plays in both protecting and enhancing the utilization of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (otherwise highly vulnerable to rancidity and oxidation), among a plethora of other useful and important roles.

The fact that saturated fat is inherently resistant to oxidation, in and of itself, makes it the perfect form of fat to cook with. Coconut oil is notably richest in heat-protective saturates, in fact. Saturated fat in general has always appeared naturally in the foods we have eaten from time immemorial and no healthy ancestral society has ever willingly restricted its consumption. The fact is, that roughly 50% of pasture-fed meat is actually made up of unsaturated fats (including both monounsaturated fat similar to that found in olive oil and essential polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 in a healthfully balanced state). Saturates make up typically less than half of red meat’s fatty acid profile, even as these foods are (in ignorance) typically identified as having mostly or even only saturated fat. But the saturated fat that is there in red meat (always preferably the meat of 100% pasture fed and finished animals, btw) and, for that matter, in us for a reason—we are not internally refrigerated. Saturated fats by nature are inherently resistant to oxidation. Without the protective role of saturated fats all those delicate and vulnerable polyunsaturated fats in us are simply sitting there in an average ambient temperature of 98.6°F all the time. Think about it: if you were to take a dish of, say, “heart healthy” omega-3 fish oil and set it out on your kitchen countertop—and let’s just say your kitchen countertop happens to be in your home in Atlanta, Georgia on a hot, 98.6% summer day with no air conditioning—how long would it be before your whole house smelled like dead, rancid fish? Saturated fat, naturally insulating and inherently resistant to higher temperatures and oxidation forms a protective coating for polyunsaturates (like omega-3’s) that prevents them from going bad. We NEED it! Its inherently stabilizing nature gives it certain protective qualities (i.e., it’s role as a disaturate molecule in lung surfactant, for instance), much like an antioxidant. And it helps actually improve our utilization of the essential fatty acids we absolutely require. [12]  That’s also why it’s naturally present in the animal-source foods we were designed to eat. Saturated fat in red meat is not there as part of Mother Nature’s evil, underhanded, and nefarious plan to kill us. It serves a useful and healthful purpose for both the animals that contain it and those of us that consume the meat of those animals. It provides a protective role for the otherwise oxidatively prone unsaturated fats and helps protect them…and YOU.

Dietary saturated fat is used by the human body in an incredible variety of critical ways—and one of them is NOT plaqueing your arteries!

NOTE that I am not saying “the more the merrier” necessarily when it comes to eating saturated fats (no need to start drinking lard), only that you have literally no reason to fear them. The fact is that we need animal fats in their natural, balanced state. Animal source fats have been a part of our evolutionary hominin diet from the very beginning, over 3 million years ago. Were they detrimental to us, we never would have survived as a species long enough to make it this far and we never would have developed (at least most of us) the uniquely large and sophisticated brain we have as a species today.


  • The Heart (yes—the heart) actually prefers saturated long-chain fats like 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid as its primary source of fuel!
  • Bones need dietary saturated fat and fat soluble nutrients to assimilate calcium and other minerals effectively
  • Hormones use saturated fat as signaling messengers for their production
  • Cell membranes require the inclusion of roughly 50% saturated fat (plus cholesterol) for proper membrane functioning
  • Lungs use 100% oxidative-resistant saturated fat (16-carbon palmitic acid) to make lung-surfactant (a di-saturate molecule) to form a protective barrier for the vulnerable lung tissue
  • Fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins’ A (retinol), D3, E-complex, K1 & 2 and beta-carotene need saturated fat as a protective carrier and are required by beta-carotene for the conversion to vitamin A
  • Cancer prevention may be enhanced through saturated fat’s (butyric acid) modulation of genetic regulation, particularly with respect to colon cancer and its role in protecting polyunsaturates from becoming rancid and exerting a mutagenic role
  • Appetite is better satiated by the presence of fat in general, which leads to less over-eating and healthier weight (primarily in the absence of dietary sugar and starch)
  • Energy in the form of ketones and beta oxidation from readily utilizable free fatty acids is rapidly generated through the consumption of saturated medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) richly found in foods such as coconut oil and human breast milk
  • Dietary protein and EFA’s require saturated fat for their best absorption and/or utilization. Saturated fats help protect delicate EFA’s (highly polyunsaturated essential fatty acids) from rancidity
  • The immune system uses saturated fats in many critical ways:
    • Certain short and medium chain saturated fats have potent anti-microbial properties
    • Saturated fats prime white blood cells to destroy invading bacteria, viruses and fungi, as well as tumors.
    • Tumor growth is suppressed in a state of ketosis (and cancer must have a sugar-rich environment to thrive in the first place, btw)

We’re just getting warmed up here. Not only is saturated fat NOT the detriment to the heart—or any other aspect of your health that it has been presented over decades, but it may have been our most overlooked, (and unjustly vilified) health ally!

A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition[13] titled “Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease”. After looking at data from 500,000 people they found that any reduction of saturated fat was not linked to cardiovascular disease. They also said that dietary saturated fat must be evaluated in the context of its replacement by other macronutrients, such as carbohydrates. When you replace saturated fat with a higher carbohydrate intake, particularly sugary/starchy or refined carbohydrate, you exacerbate insulin resistance and obesity, increase triglycerides and small LDL particles, and reduce (so-called) beneficial HDL. The authors of this study found that dietary efforts to improve your cardiovascular disease risk should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrate intake, and weight reductionand NOT the elimination of saturated fat! The authors of the study, upon evaluating the existing data said Recent studies point to the beneficial effects of reducing carbohydrate intake, but not saturated fat, on this dyslipidemic state.” (bold emphasis mine) In their concluding remarks they said “the relative effect of dietary saturated fat on CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk requires reevaluation. This is of particular concern with regard to the implications of further restrictions in total and saturated fat beyond prevailing US dietary guidelines, which call for levels no higher than 10% of total energy, and the recognition that subsets of the population may not benefit, and may even be harmed, by the substitution of high intakes of carbohydrates, especially re-fined carbohydrates, for fat in the diet.” The study ended by saying “…the increasing burden of CVD risk associated with atherogenic dyslipidemia should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrate intakes and a reduction in excess adiposity.” (bold emphasis mine)

In 2016 the same journal reinforced the findings it this previous article, finding that saturated fat intake actually lowered cardiovascular risk, and that “Substituting SFAs [saturated fatty acids] with animal protein, cis monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), or carbohydrates was significantly associated with higher IHD [ischemic heart disease] risks.[14]

In 1997 a six-year study based at the Department of Nutrition, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki Finland actually exposed a bit of a “Finnish paradox”.  The research showed that men eating the most saturated fat actually experienced a 27% decrease in heart disease and death, while those who consumed the most cholesterol enjoyed an 8% decrease in coronary death and a 7% decrease in major coronary events compared to those consuming the least cholesterol! Interestingly, those consuming the most supposedly “heart healthy” polyunsaturated fats (in the form of vegetable oils and margarine) actually suffered a 27% increase in coronary death, with an 11% increase in major coronary events compared to those men consuming the least amount of this type of fat.[15]

And what about those “heart healthy” vegetable oils the AHA is recommending we replace saturated fats with?

According to an interview done by NBC’s Today online[16] with Dr. Frank Sacks, lead author of the bogus advisory, “good” fats supposedly include corn, soybean and peanut oil.

Wow, really?

All these oils are highly processed, exceedingly prone to rancidity, and extremely high in inflammatory omega-6’s. Two out of three of these oils are GMO-based oils demonstrating a wide range of widely researched ill health effects in the literature. Soybean oil, in particular (made up of mainly inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids) is nearly always partially hydrogenated (containing trans fats) or interesterified (which is equally bad). It also typically contains significant levels of cancer-causing glyphosate, bleach, deodorizers, and chemical solvents like hexane. Carcinogenic hexane residues have, in fact, been found at levels “10 times higher than what the FDA considers normal.” (naturally, the FDA doesn’t actually regulate this)[17] Vegetable oils, rich in inflammatory omega-6’s in general have been long shown to enhance cardiovascular risk.[18] [19]

These vegetable oils have also been linked with cancers in both animals and humans.[20]  Also, cooking with vegetable oils is massively problematic and heat degrades omega-6 vegetable oils into toxic compounds that have “properties that often signal carcinogenesis”.[21]

The third (peanut oil) has been directly associated with atherogenicity.[22] [23] Researchers call peanut oil “unexpectedly atherogenic for rats, rabbits and primates,” generating fibrous lesions in arteries of those consuming it due to the biologically active lectins it contains.

A published peer reviewed study in 1998 titled “Choice of cooking oils—myths and realities” states the following: “Sole use or excess intake of these newer vegetable oils are actually detrimental to health and switching to a combination of different types of fats including the traditional cooking fats like ghee, coconut oil and mustard oil would actually reduce the risk of dyslipidaemias [unhealthy blood fats/lipid profiles], AHD [atherosclerotic heart disease] and Type-2 DM [Diabetes Mellitus].”[24]

Corn oil, nearly always GMO and typically solvent-extracted, is also chock full of mostly inflammatory omega-6’s. Its negative effects on cardiovascular health have been recorded since the 1960’s.[25] [26] [27]

Mind you, they also included olive oil among the “approved” saturated fat substitutes, and olive oil (organic, extra virgin) is certainly fine–assuming it actually contains what it claims to, which is a problem nowadays—but no one should be actually cooking with the stuff except on the lowest possible heat setting on the stove due to its extremely low smoking (oxidation) point. It’s fine for salads and drizzling over steamed vegetables (or making my Primal Gaucho Argentine Chimichurri with—recipe in Primal Fat Burner), but olive oil supplies no real nutrients or fatty acids actually required for human health.

Also, it is worth pointing out here that fully 80% of what plugs up your arteries in atherosclerosis is neither saturated fat OR cholesterol, but instead oxidized/rancid (AHA recommended) unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats![28]

As far back as 1965 there was a study showing the superiority of saturated animal fat in promoting the survival rate of individuals having already previously suffered a heart attack. The study looked at three different forms of fat—polyunsaturated corn oil, monounsaturated olive oil and saturated animal fat. Only the corn oil seemed to lower serum cholesterol levels, which was seen as an initially promising effect. But no prize. Monounsaturated olive oil yielded still better results—but in the end, by far the most protective effect was experienced by the study group eating the most animal fat. Fully 75% of them managed to avoid a second heart attack![29]

In March of 2014, a new meta-analysis was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.[30] In it a team of researchers used data from nearly 80 studies and more than a half million people. The study revealed (yet again) that those consuming higher amounts of saturated fat have no more heart disease than those who consume less. Furthermore, they failed to find less heart disease in those individuals that dutifully consumed higher amounts of recommended unsaturated fats—including olive oil and other vegetable oils. Their conclusion?

“Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”

In the same year, a powerful editorial appeared in the medical journal, Open Heart, titled “The cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or Ω-6 polyunsaturated fats: Do the dietary guidelines have it wrong?”[31] In it, the editorial’s author James DiNocolantonio listed of the deleterious cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates and polyunsaturated omega-6 fats (which dominate AHA recommended vegetable oils). The list includes:

  • An increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, and death from heart disease and increased overall (all cause) mortality
  • Reduced HDL
  • Increased oxidized LDL
  • Increased small, high-density LDL particles
  • Increased inflammation
  • A shift to an overall more atherogenic lipid profile (lower HDL, increased triglycerides and increased ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio)
  • Increased thrombogenic markers
  • A greater incidence of impaired glucose tolerance, higher body fat, weight gain, obesity, and diabetes
  • An increased risk for cancer

According to DiNicolantonio the best available scientific evidence to date regarding cardiovascular health and disease suggests that:

  • Dietary guideline recommendations suggesting the replacement of saturated fat with carbohydrates/Ω-6 polyunsaturated fats do not reflect the current evidence in the literature.
  • A change in these recommendations is drastically needed as public health could be at risk.
  • The increase in the prevalence of diabetes and obesity in the USA occurred with an increase in the consumption of carbohydrate, not saturated fat.
  • There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has any positive effects on health. Indeed, the literature indicates a general lack of any effect (good or bad) from a reduction in fat intake.
  • The public fear that saturated fat raises cholesterol is completely unfounded as the low-density lipoprotein particle size distribution is worsened when fat is replaced with carbohydrate.
  • A public health campaign is drastically needed to educate on the harms of a diet high in carbohydrate/sugar.
  • It would be naive to assume that any recommendations related to carbohydrate or fat intake would apply to processed foods, which undoubtedly should be avoided if possible.

He concluded the editorial by saying, In summary, the benefits of a low-fat diet (particularly a diet replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or Ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids) are severely challenged. Dietary guidelines should assess the totality of the evidence and strongly reconsider their recommendations for replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or Ω-6 polyunsaturated fats.”

Are we starting to see the common trend here? How many nails do we need to see pounded into this coffin before we can lay the mythology of the dietary lipid heart hypothesis to rest, once and for all?

QUESTION: Is there any form of saturated fat that is bad for the heart?

ANSWER: YES. Artificially saturated fat (typically found in margarine, vegetable shortening, snack foods and packaged baked goods). These are also known as Hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils and trans fat—together with other artificially altered industrial processed fats including interesterified fats, fractionated oils, and low-linolenic oil varieties (made using GMO soybean oil), along with commercial soybean and canola oils which—apart from being genetically modified to begin with are additionally partially hydrogenated as part of their deodorization process or (increasingly) interesterified.

Also, for the record: aged and processed saturated fats such as those found in processed lunch meats, hot dogs, commercial bacon and aged salami, etc. do appear to be detrimental (due to their inherent oxidation/rancidity issues, and possibly other factors such as the presence of chemical preservatives, nitrates/nitrites, etc.).

The crazy thing here is that for years scientists failed to distinguish between naturally saturated fats found in quality animal source foods and tropical oils–and industrially generated saturated fats created through a process of hydrogenation and/or other chemical industrial processes. –It was ALL lumped together and the results of any research were automatically conflated. Misleading? YOU BET. Particularly since the two types—naturally and artificially saturated fats—literally have opposite effects in the body. Dr. Mary Enig, among the earliest researchers looking at the specific effects of artificially/industrially saturated fats publicized this issue for years, but it seems to be taking until now for other scientists to recognize the egregious error in their earlier assumptions—at least when it comes to trans fats.

A large meta-analysis study performed at McMaster University and published in August of 2015 in the British Medical Journal was highlighted in the online research news website, Science Daily. The study’s authors interviewed for Science Daily had this to say:

Contrary to prevailing dietary advice, a recent evidence review found no excess cardiovascular risk associated with intake of saturated fat. In contrast, research suggests that industrial trans fats may increase the risk of coronary heart disease.”


“…trans fats are associated with greater risk of death and coronary heart disease, but saturated fats are not associated with an increased risk of death, heart disease, stroke, or Type 2 diabetes.”[32] (bold emphasis mine)

In the discussion of the principle findings the researchers reported that, This is the first meta-analysis of prospective observational studies examining associations of saturated and trans fats with all cause mortality and confirms the findings of five previous systematic reviews of saturated and trans fats and CHD.”

The study itself reported that, We found no association between saturated fat intake and all cause mortality, the Seven Countries’ Study notwithstanding.” “Studies of saturated fats and other major causes of death, such as colon and breast cancer, also generally fail to find significant associations.”[33]

They also stated that, Trans fats are associated with all cause mortality, total CHD, and CHD mortality…”

The caveat was this:

In this same study, processed and aged meats in were in fact associated with increased mortality risk and cancer. Something to decidedly keep in mind.

Previously published meta-analyses studies similarly seeking to clarify the effects of saturated fats upon health have found that: Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”[34]

And also: A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”[35]

Finally (and I hope you’re still sitting down for this), there was one meta-analysis study published in 2015 in the peer reviewed journal Open Heart that made a point of systematically evaluating the data (in detail) available to researchers that supposedly led to the fat-restrictive guidelines established between 1977 and 1983. The authors presented their research objective in the following way:

“National dietary guidelines were introduced in 1977 and 1983, by the US and UK governments, respectively, with the ambition of reducing coronary heart disease (CHD) by reducing fat intake. To date, no analysis of the evidence base for these recommendations has been undertaken. The present study examines the evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) available to the US and UK regulatory committees at their respective points of implementation.” In the description of their methods they presented the following: “A systematic review and meta-analysis were undertaken of RCTs, [randomized controlled trials] published prior to 1983, which examined the relationship between dietary fat, serum cholesterol and the development of CHD.”

Their conclusions after all that analysis?

“Dietary recommendations were introduced for 220 million US and 56 million UK citizens by 1983, in the absence of supporting evidence from RCTs [randomized controlled trials].”[36]

Translation? We’ve all been living an intentionally institutionalized lie…and countless people trusting those guidelines have died as a result of that lie.

Dr. Richard Feinman, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry at Downstate Medical Center (SUNY) in New York
 has made the key point, that “The deleterious effects of fat have been measured in the presence of high carbohydrate. A high fat diet in the presence of high carbohydrate is different than a high fat diet in the presence of low carbohydrate.”   

It seems clear that the combination of dietary fat and utilizable carbohydrate (sugars and starches) are not a positive combination and are more or less akin to placing a lit fuse on top of a powder keg. You can’t keep piling butter and sour cream on top of your baked potatoes, eating hash browns and toast with your egg, bacon and cheese omelet’s or full fat whipped cream on top of your desserts and expect a positive metabolic outcome. But if you have to choose between fat and sugar/starch, it is useful to point out the fact that there is no scientifically established human dietary requirement for any form of carbohydrate in the diet. In fact, in one reasonably current textbook of biochemistry, Lippincott Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry published in 2013 the textbook’s author stated point-blank, “Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients.” In yet another similar textbook of medical biochemistry published in 2012 (Marks’ Basic Medical Biochemistry) the authors stated, “No specific carbohydrates have been identified as dietary requirements.” Fat, on the other hand–including saturated fat–has a wide variety of vital roles to play in the brain and nervous system, immune function, hormones and neurotransmitters and in cellular structure and function… Just for starters.

By now any rational person would be reasonably convinced that we have largely been bamboozled by decades of science driven and/or blinded by what George V. Mann, MD has referred to as a stubborn adherence to “pride, profit and prejudice.”

That the AHA persists in this fictitious and lethal fabrication even in light of all the evidence to the contrary today in 2017 is beyond any pale of comprehension. Or ethics.

So how does coconut oil fit into all of this?

Coconut oil, roughly 91% saturated (according to Wikipedia[37]), contains roughly 50% lauric acid, which converts to a substance known as monolaurin in the human body, which is profoundly antiviral/antimicrobial. It additionally contains myristic acid, palmitic acid, caprylic acid (also antimicrobial/antifungal and a viable substrate for ketone production), decanoid acid and even a touch of oleic acid (the stuff everyone says is so good for you in olive oil). The medium chain fats that dominate its composition tend to bypass biliary digestion, moving more directly into the portal blood and getting used preferentially for energy within the body. As a source of some readily produced ketones, coconut oil has shown promise in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It has also shown clear evidence-based benefit in a variety of conditions that range from brain-boosting effects[38], to antimicrobial[39], anti-inflammatory[40], bone health[41] and even blood lipid-improving effects, consistently improving the LDL: HDL ratio in the blood of those that consume it (in direct contradiction to the antiquated assertions in the American Heart Association article from June 15th). In fact, in an article published in the journal, Lipids in 2009, the authors clearly stated, “It appears that dietetic supplementation with coconut oil does not cause dyslipidemia and seems to promote a reduction in abdominal obesity.”[42] (bold emphasis mine).

Heart Healthy Benefits of coconut oil?

Coconut oil in particular, long vilified for its highly saturated fat content is today emerging an actual hero in the fight against heart disease! In fact, no other form of saturated fat has received more positive attention in recent years. A study at Boston University in 2007 showed that medium chain triglycerides from coconut oil substantially increased insulin receptor sensitivity and reduced the body’s need for higher cholesterol, as compared to longer chain, unsaturated corn oil.[43]   Yet another study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Lipids in 2009 found that coconut oil helped women participating in the study significantly lose weight and led to an increase in their HDL, while soybean oil had no positive effect on weight loss whatsoever and led to a deleterious drop in HDL.[44]

Native peoples near the coast of New Zealand in both Tokelau and Pukapuka (atolls near the equator) eating a diet extremely high in saturated fat (63% among Tokelauans and 34% among Pukapukans, mostly from coconut and other tropical oils) were studied for the presence of heart disease in their populations. Cholesterol levels among Tokelauans were on average 35 to 40 mg higher than in Pukapukans. Researchers determined that despite the diet rich in saturated fat, heart disease was nonexistent in either group. Interestingly, heart disease rose significantly among Tokelau Islanders who migrated to New Zealand and began consuming higher carbohydrate diets.[45]

So…is there any down side to coconut oil?

Well…one thing to point out about coconut oil is the fact that it really doesn’t contain any essential fatty acids or any structurally critical fatty acids required for optimal human health. It is a potentially helpful source for substrates usable for generating brain-enhancing ketones… But really only a minute fraction of the fatty acids in coconut oil (mainly caprylic acid)—found in just under 10% of it’s fatty acid composition–are capable of readily doing so.

In my view, coconut oil, although it is superbly stable for cooking, really isn’t the “be-all and end-all” of dietary fats. It certainly offers its decided benefits (and btw I do use it at home), but there really is no rational argument for its “essentiality”. It also doesn’t really contain any particularly vital fat-soluble nutrients, as otherwise contained in fully pastured animal fats, such as vitamin A (retinol), vitamin D3, vitamin K2, Vitamin E, beta carotene, CLA… Or any others. That doesn’t make it “bad”, mind you, but it doesn’t add appreciably to anyone’s nutritional status. Gram for gram, pastured animal fat is king when it comes to its overall nutritional benefits.

The one potential “dark side” to coconut oil is it’s potential for contamination with mycotoxins, including aflatoxin.[46] [47] [48] [49] That said, some of the more reputable brands such as Tropical Traditions and Wilderness Family Naturals do claim to routinely test for this in their products. It’s worth calling the company whose product you have purchased to follow-up on this issue. It’s a valid one.

In summary…

Overall, however, most of what we are seeing with this resurgence of saturated fat vilification here and throughout the UK of late (including Australia) seems to have political and economic motivations having nothing whatever to do with their actual effects on human health. The fact is, saturated fat—particularly from animal source foods– has always, always played a meaningful role human diets throughout the whole of our evolutionary history and evidence for issues such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and the rest of what we now look upon as the “diseases of Western civilization” did not begin to emerge until after the dawn of agriculture roughly 10,000 years ago (when our supposedly brutish and short Paleolithic lifespan was further divided by half until about the 18th century)[50] [51], when non-essential carbohydrates became a more dominant feature—for the very first time—in the human diet. The already slippery slope got considerably steeper (and slipperier) once we began industrializing the food supply.

I’ll take naturally saturated fat from coconuts and especially pasture fed- and- finished red meat over the metabolically destructive effects of sugar (or for that matter the health- and planetary-destroying products of monoculture agriculture and the food industry) any day of the week.

Bogus headlines be damned.

Read Primal Fat Burner to discover why and how adopting a fat-based (vs sugar based) metabolism can in fact truly optimize your health, as well as why and how dietary animal fats are not only central to human health, but also literally central to what made us human in the first place!

~ Nora Gedgaudas, CNS, NTP, BCHN

PS. If you liked this article, please consider making a contribution/donation here on my Patreon page. Thank you so much!

Also, I’m offering a FREE 3 week trial of my Primal Restoration™ online membership program if you signup before July 1, 2017!

“I was so impressed with Nora’s latest book “Primal Fat Burner” that I immediately signed up for Primal Restoration. The weekly presentations are loaded with outstanding information and resources that Nora has gathered over her 20-years of clinical experience.  As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) in full time practice, I was thrilled to learn I can receive 12 CEU’s per year for this exceptional continued education program. It’s refreshing to learn from a successful professional who speaks my language of nutrition. I look forward to the weekly content and highly recommend Primal Restoration for my fellow NTP’s or anyone interested in learning more about restoring health.”                       ~ Diane Rohrbach, NTP  


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  1. Carol says

    Great article, thanks for making it easy to understand. Can you please comment of the use of avocado oil for cooking, non-cooking use such as salad dressing and topical use.
    Thank you.

  2. says

    Brilliant response and so well referenced as always. Thank you.
    BTW love the new book Primal Fat Burner.
    Your first book, Primal Body Primal Mind, is still the most popular book in our surgery waiting room

  3. GilEtheridge says

    Great job! I will be using some of your information for a Healthcare Faculty meeting this Thursday where I am presenting on the current status of the US healthcare System.

    Thanks Again
    Gil Etheridge, Ph.D., AT

  4. admin says

    I would only cook with avocado oil on a very low heat setting. Avocado oil is great for salad dressing. I’ve never used it topically but I suppose it’s fine. ~ Nora

  5. says

    A really important article. Some glancing blows at the subject appeared about two years ago. However, all aspects of what may be of growing concern ‘obesity’ and ‘morbid obestity’, plus the place in the Food Industry of ‘Fats’ , needs a lot of careful ‘re-viewing’ in the proper sense of that word and far more ‘in depth’ and simplified understanding.
    Thank you.


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