Remembering Kevin Moore

NOT GUILTY: The Long-Standing Vilification Of Saturated Fat Finally Turning To Vindication

After long being blamed for poor health, is saturated fat actually harmless?

I have long contended that the final barrier to public acceptance of the healthy high-fat, low-carb nutritional approach is the subject of saturated fat. No thanks to the methodical efforts of the late physiologist Ancel Keys and his now-infamous “Seven Countries Study” a half-century ago that concluded higher saturated fat consumption leads to increased levels of cholesterol and thus a greater occurrence of heart disease (aka “The Lipid Hypothesis”), we now have a population full of people who are absolutely scared out of their wits to eat any fat at all and especially saturated fat which is usually lumped together with trans fat as part of the “bad fats.” But as bestselling author and science journalist Gary Taubes so brilliantly outlined in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, the data supporting Keys’ claims was severely flawed and he made some rather misleading conclusions as a result. Don’t miss this clip from Tom Naughton’s FAT HEAD documentary as well as Dr. Malcolm Kendrick’s 77-second rebuttal to Keys’ conclusions for more on how the general public was bamboozled into believing the lies about saturated fat.

Flash forward to 2010 and we’re still seeing a relentless vilification of saturated fat. In fact, just this week, a heart surgeon named Dr. Shyam Kolvekar is seeking to ban butter in the UK because of what he says all that saturated fat is doing to the heart health of the youth in that country. He suggests people opt for low-fat alternatives like margarine, spreads, and 1% milk as well as ditching red meat as a means for eliminating that dastardly saturated fat from your diet for health purposes. This ridiculous declaration has already spawned a Facebook group called “Do not ban butter – it is a healthy fat!” Unfortunately, Dr. Kolvekar isn’t alone in his damnation of saturated fat-laden foods like butter. Let’s take a look at what some of the leading American and world health groups have to say about the health concerns surrounding saturated fat.

American Heart Association (AHA)

Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Be aware, too, that many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol – which raises your blood cholesterol even higher. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7 percent of total daily calories. That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 140 of them should come from saturated fats. That’s about 16 grams of saturated fats a day.


National Institutes of Health (NIH)

[Saturated fats] are the biggest dietary cause of high LDL levels (“bad cholesterol”). When looking at a food label, pay very close attention to the percentage of saturated fat and avoid or limit any foods that are high. Saturated fat should be limited to 10% of calories. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats. They are also found in some vegetable oils — coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.


U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Too much can increase the risk of developing raised blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels. Saturated fats have been linked to higher risks of heart disease and stroke. Children older than the age of 2 should try and keep their saturated fat intake under 10% of their total daily calories. This is the same for adults.


Harvard School of Public Health

Our bodies can make all the saturated fat we need, so we don’t need to eat any of it. That’s why saturated fat can be in the bad category—because we don’t need to eat any of it, and it has undesirable effects in cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats boost total cholesterol by elevating harmful LDL. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to keep your intake of saturated fats as low as possible. Saturated fats are part of many foods, including vegetable oils that are mainly unsaturated fats, so we can’t eliminate them from our diets. Seven percent of total calories or lower is a good target. Red meat and dairy fats are the main sources of saturated fat in our diets, so keeping these low is the primary way to reduce intake of saturated fat.


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Fats and oils are part of a healthful diet, but the type of fat makes a difference to heart health, and the total amount of fat consumed is also important. High intake of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol increases the risk of unhealthy blood lipid levels, which, in turn, may increase the risk of coronary heart disease. A high intake of fat (greater than 35 percent of calories) generally increases saturated fat intake and makes it more difficult to avoid consuming excess calories. Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids.


American Diabetes Association (ADA)

Why should you eat less saturated fat? Because saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels. High blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. People with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease and limiting your saturated fat can help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. One of the important diabetes nutrition guidelines is to eat less than 7% of calories from saturated fat. For most people eating, this is about 15 grams of saturated fat per day. That is not much when you consider just one ounce of cheese can have 8 grams of saturated fat.


World Health Organization (WHO)

Increased consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of…saturated fats…have led to obesity rates that have risen three-fold or more since 1980. As incomes rise and populations become more urban, diets high in complex carbohydrates give way to more varied diets with a higher proportion of fats, especially saturated fats. Effective weight management for individuals and groups at risk of developing obesity involves a range of long-term strategies. These include cutting the amount of fatty, foods in the diet and moving from saturated animal-based fats to unsaturated vegetable-oil based fats.


When you see so many well-known health groups full of so-called health “experts” out there all engaged in such blatant groupthink on one particular subject like saturated fat declaring it GUILTY when it comes to health, then it should lead you to one of two conclusions: 1) they must all be exactly right and thus agree with each other, or 2) they have always believed it to be true and just accept it as such without further investigation. The missing element in this is an honest scientific look at the actual evidence and drawing reasonable conclusions from that data. Up until now, the research in opposition to the supposed negative role of saturated fat in heart disease has been virtually ignored. But not anymore!

Dr. Ronald Krauss exposes the myth of CVD risk from saturated fat

Published in the January 13, 2010 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is a huge bombshell in the “saturated fat is bad” campaign that has plagued our country for the past several decades called “Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease” by lead researcher Dr. Ronald M. Krauss from Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. He took the premise of all those organizations I listed above and the work of Ancel Keys that reducing saturated fat in the diet would improve cardiovascular health and looked at 21 epidemiological studies that referenced saturated fat and heart disease. The studies ranged from 5-23 years in length and followed 347,747 study participants.

Dr. Krauss, along with Dr. Frank B. Hu and Dr. Patty W. Siri-Tarino, concluded that “intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD.” Did you catch that? Let me say it again. Eating saturated fat which has been deemed off limits for the past 50 years is NOT ASSOCIATED WITH AN INCREASED RISK of getting a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular disease! This is HUGE! The researchers added “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD” and that “more data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat.” Hmmm, I wonder what people are consuming when they cut down on their saturated fat…oh, yes, it’s carbohydrates! But all those “healthy whole grains” that provide such “necessary” nutrition can’t possibly be leading to an increased risk in heart disease could they? The pieces are ever-so-slowly coming together now.

My fellow high-fat, low-carb blogging buddies have been all over this:

Laura Dolson at About.com Low Carb Diets
David Mendosa at HealthCentral
Peter at Hyperlipid
Stephan at Whole Health Source
Yoni at Weighty Matters
Dr. BG at Animal Pharm
Richard at Free The Animal
Dr. John Briffa’s blog
Dr. A at Livable Low Carb
Chris at The Healthy Skeptic
Justin at The Truth Shall Set You Free
Christer at veteraaniurheilija

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard from Dr. Krauss (remember this May 2006 study where he declared low-carb, high-fat diets “beneficial” for cholesterol?) and it most certainly won’t be the last. I have invited him to appear on my podcast show to discuss his findings even further and hope he will agree to share even more about the work he is doing. In a press release regarding this latest study, Dr. Krauss praises livin’ la vida low-carb for bringing about changes in health apart from weight loss.

For people at risk of cardiovascular disease because of their lipid profile, this means that moderate carbohydrate restriction to the range of about 25 percent can have significant benefit, even if these same people can’t lose weight.

This is something I’ve harped on quite a bit lately regarding my own personal weight concerns and to those who e-mail me frustrated that the pounds aren’t coming off on the scale. Although we may weigh more than we’d like despite consuming a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, the fact is implementing this way of eating into your life will greatly improve your health in so many ways, including improving heart health. And this is happening when you eat this way whether you’re losing weight or not. Weight loss is nice, but being healthy is even better.

Dr. Krauss went even further stating that limiting carbohydrates seems to be the key and when you do that your body actually responds well to an increase in saturated fat in order to provide maximum results.

It’s the carbohydrate that appears to have most of the effect when it comes to dietary influences. Increasing saturated fat does not appear to reduce the benefits of limiting carbohydrate. Higher fat, lower carbohydrate diets can have benefits and as far as the low carbohydrate effect, that appears to provide a fairly uniform benefit.

WOW! This is so cool to hear from a researcher these days, although much of this research has been out there for many years. Interestingly, of the 132 total references cited in the Krauss study, just ONE came from the highly-respected low-carb researchers you and I know have been on this for a while:

Yancy WS Jr, Olsen MK, Guyton JR, Bakst RP, Westman EC. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 2004;140:769–77.

That’s it! No research from Dr. Jeff Volek from The University of Connecticut, Dr. Stephen Phinney from The University of California-Davis, and countless others who have been doing this for years. It’s almost shocking to think they could omit such studies in a meta-analysis on saturated fat of this magnitude. It makes you wonder if the upcoming 2010 Dietary Guidelines that are forthcoming from the USDA might actually recommend lower carbohydrate intake and higher fat, including saturated fat. I’d fall out of my chair if it happened, but hopefully the people I’ve been blogging about and interviewing will get the recognition they so richly deserving for obtaining the necessary funding for their research, publishing the results of their findings, and forging the path for people like Dr. Krauss.

I’d say this turn of events declares saturated fat NOT GUILTY and vindication is now underway. Somebody will need to wipe the smile off the faces of Gary Taubes, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, and the many more who have been shouting the truth about saturated fat forever! It’s about time we’re beginning to see a crack into the mainstream where acceptance of high-fat, low-carb is a lot closer than you think.

  • pjnoir

    I watched one of these morning tv doctors pour oil in his palm and hold it out to the lady of the house- although he was touting olive oil over the veg/corn oil he just poured, the comment was incredible stupid, “How would you like that flowing thru your arteries?” As if it went directly from mouth to blood stream. I bet his beloved oatmeal would be worse if indeed it worked like that. Lets face it- the medical community knows squat about nutrition.

  • Great post Jimmy!

  • Dan (aka Renegadediabetic)

    It’s also interesting that he noted a publication bias. Studies that contradict the “saturated fat is the root of all evil” dogma are less likely to get published. Maybe this is a modern, “civilized” form of book burning. If you include unpublished studies, the case against saturated fat is even weaker.

    Well, they couldn’t burn this one. However, I and others have noted the lack of media attention to this. if it had shown even a minute association between saturated fat and CVD, we’d hear about it all over the place.

  • Nicole

    I used nutritiondata.com’s calorie requirement calculator today, and it did more than just calories. It also said I should get a minimum of 130g of carbs (ha!) and a minimum of 56g of protein (which is ridiculously low, IME). It gave no minimum for fat. Apparently, I don’t need to eat any fat.

    For reference, I’m 5’8″ and my BMI is 23, so it’s not thinking I need to lose weight. I’d be miserable on that macronutrient ratio.

    That’s the kind of thinking we are up against here, so I don’t really hold out much hope for the 2010 USDA dietary guidelines making any progress into the realm of reality.

  • Sue

    Yoni at weighty matters recommends margarine instead of butter. So the study didn’t sway him!

    Not surprising from him, but that’s too bad. The evidence is clear.


  • Dan (aka Renegadediabetic)

    One more thought, after reading the the WHO statement, I wonder what they’ve been smoking.

    “Increased consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of…saturated fats…have led to obesity rates that have risen three-fold or more since 1980. As incomes rise and populations become more urban, diets high in complex carbohydrates give way to more varied diets with a higher proportion of fats, especially saturated fats. Effective weight management for individuals and groups at risk of developing obesity involves a range of long-term strategies. These include cutting the amount of fatty, foods in the diet and moving from saturated animal-based fats to unsaturated vegetable-oil based fats.”

    Saturated fat intake has decreased, carbohydrate consumption has increased, and obesity has increased. How do they make an association between obesity and saturated fat intake? Must be some new math that I can’t comprehend. 🙂

  • Bad cholesterol: It’s not what you think
    It’s time to rethink the halo-and-pitchfork view of our blood fat levels
    I know Jimmy was way ahead of the game reporting the work of Dr Krauss back in 2006 but it’s great to see it getting detailed coverage in the media.

    Those who like to read the full text of research papers may like to know the KRAUSS meta-analysisJimmy has linked to above. is available online free from here

  • Tom Anderson