Saturated Fat, Still Dangerous

Regardless of what you might hear from the media, scientists continue to study nutrition in the laboratory and in people. What they find is painting a remarkably clear and consistent picture that for human beings, saturated fat is uniquely bad. The findings suggest that saturated fat creates what is referred to as lipotoxicity. This has been shown to cause cells to essentially commit suicide, a process referred to as apoptosis. New studies also point to direct effects from saturated fat, as well as indirect effects mediated through by-products of saturated fat metabolism. The tissues in which saturated fat causes this cell-suicide to take place, will sound familiar to anyone who knows what modern, civilized people die of. Saturated fat causes beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin to commit suicide. It also causes the cells of the liver to do this. Also the cells lining the arteries (called endothelial cells). Also the beating cells of the heart. Yep. The heart. “But Dr. Allen,” you ask, “didn’t a bunch of studies exonerate saturated fat as a cause of heart disease?” Let’s look at what those “studies” were. First, not a single new patient was studied. Nobody conducted a new trial or enrolled a new set of patients. What they did was a meta-analysis, which is a study of studies. Doing a meta-analysis can be valuable, but it can also allow for some shenanigans. You can look at all the results in advance and run a huge number of statistical tools over the combination of all the data and then just publish the data sets that you want. The key trick in all the “new studies” was to introduce a new way of “controlling” the data. This included controlling for serum cholesterol or LDL, which are known risk factors. But of course, high levels of these are also how saturated fat causes heart disease. So the only subjects who were then still candidates to be studied were those people who ate a lot of saturated fat, yet who didn’t elevate their cholesterol. Those in whom saturated fat did cause elevated cholesterol were now “controlled” for. One of the earliest of these studies was openly funded by the dairy industry. Why would the dairy industry want to make you think saturated fat is ok? Because dairy products are the largest source of saturated fat in the American diet. Those of you who read my work a lot probably have it memorized, but cheese, pizza, grain-based desserts, dairy-based desserts and chicken are the top five sources of saturated fat in the US diet. Want to get healthier but not ready to make a huge number of changes? Just get rid of those five. I had a patient lose thirty pounds and improve their health significantly by only making those changes. But to really get results, drop your saturated fat as much as is possible. The results don’t begin and end with weight loss, either. Cholesterol can go down dramatically with reductions in saturated fat, as can blood sugar and insulin resistance. Longer life means more time with friends and family and less time with doctors. A win all the way around!

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