We all need saturated fat

Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet.

by Mary Budinger — 

Is it better to get your energy from sugar or from fat? This is not as easy to answer as it sounds, thanks to nutrition “experts” who push a low-fat diet. Hint: sugar is not the answer.

Thanks to a researcher named Ancel Keys, natural fat began to be demonized in the late 1950s. Keys’ message was that saturated fat and cholesterol will cause a heart attack. His studies have been proven to be clearly wrong, but calls to retract this information were overpowered by those who benefited from the misinformation. The saturated fat and cholesterol mantra is a convenient method used to sell statin drugs and processed low-fat and nonfat foods.

Industry began to promote polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable, corn, canola and soybean oils — the very oils that set the stage for heart disease. These polyunsaturated fats quickly turn rancid when oxidized and produce large amounts of harmful free radicals that accelerate aging, cause clotting, increase the risk of cancer, and promote inflammation and weight gain.

Anyone who has eaten his way across France has observed that the French diet is loaded with saturated fats in the form of butter, eggs, cheese, cream, liver, meats and rich patés. Yet the French have a lower rate of coronary heart disease than many other western countries.

Saturated fatty acids are workhorses within the body. Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet. Fats in a meal slow down absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. Without saturated fats, we could not incorporate calcium into our bones. Saturated fats protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins, such as Tylenol. Saturated 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid are the preferred foods for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated — the heart draws on this reserve in times of stress.

Virgin coconut oil has important antimicrobial properties that protect our digestive tracts. Fats are the building blocks for a variety of hormones including serotonin, which keeps us happy instead of depressed. Fats also act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. If you go to the trouble of juicing vegetables and do not add cream, you will not absorb many of the nutrients you were after.

While serum cholesterol levels provide an inaccurate indication of future heart disease, a high level of a substance called homocysteine in the blood has been positively correlated with pathological buildup of plaque in the arteries and the tendency to form clots — a deadly combination. Folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and choline are nutrients that lower serum homocysteine levels. These nutrients are found mostly in animal foods.

Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from more fat in the diet, rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Man has been consuming saturated fats for thousands of years. All animal products, like meat, eggs and dairy, contain saturated fats, as do plant fats like coconut oil and palm oil.

Do not be surprised if eating a sunny-side-up egg cooked in butter, along with bacon and full-fat yogurt, results in weight loss, while your friends on a low-fat diet laden with artificial sweeteners struggle to get results.


Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about complementary and alternative medicine. 602-494-1999.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 2, Apr/May 2010.

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