Review Article Exonerates Saturated Fat

Here’s a journal article the anti-fat hysterics at the USDA, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, etc. all should read. (Of course if they did, they’d dismiss it.) The article, published in Advances in Nutrition, is titled Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence. Let’s look at some quotes:

Although early studies showed that saturated fat diets with very low levels of PUFAs increase serum cholesterol, whereas other studies showed high serum cholesterol increased the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), the evidence of dietary saturated fats increasing CAD or causing premature death was weak.

The evidence was weak because the anti-fat hysterics relied on teleoanalysis: saturated fat raises cholesterol (in some people) and cholesterol is associated with heart disease, therefore saturated fat must cause heart disease.  Bad logic leads to bad theories.

Numerous reports and reviews in recent years have begun to call the perceived pernicious effects of dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs) into question.

And yet few of those reports have changed the thinking of your average health reporter … not to mention the goofballs who write those annoying Eat This, Not That books and articles.

The purpose of this review is to summarize the scientific understanding as it relates to dietary fats in health and disease, particularly with regard to the innocuous nature of SFAs and the physiological effects that have implicated PUFAs in numerous disorders and diseases. The role of dietary fats in cardiovascular disease (CVD) and many other diseases is complex, yet there is a powerful inertia that has allowed the saturated fat doctrine to endure.

I don’t think powerful inertia is the correct phrase here. More like powerful vested interests.

Human food preferences tend to favor foods with both fats and sugars, which complicates any attempts to correlate saturated fats with disease.

Well, that should complicate any attempts at correlation, but the geniuses at the American Heart Association and other promoters of arterycloggingsaturatefat! hysteria found a simple solution: if people who eat saturated fats mixed with sugars get heart disease, blame the fat. (After all, you can’t blame sugar and still put your seal of approval on boxes of Cocoa Puffs.)

Because dietary saturated fats do not promote inflammation, it may be wiser to minimize omega-6 PUFAs and consume more SFAs to reduce various types of inflammation.

But … but … but the American Heart Association says corn oil is good for you.

Investigators often seem to have a particular bias against saturated fats.

That’s a polite way of saying “Scientists are freakin’ liars.”

Campaigns were waged against tropical oils (palm and coconut oils) in the early 1980s because of their high levels of SFAs, even though palm oil contains about as much MUFAs acids as SFAs and has an ample amount of PUFAs to keep serum cholesterol low …. Claims that tropical oils with a high SFA content increase the risk of CAD lack clear scientific evidence to that effect. Indeed, countries with high intake of tropical oils have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

Quick, somebody call The Guy From CSPI. He was behind those campaigns waged against tropical oils, which caused coconut oil to be replaced with trans fats – which he declared safe at the time. Given the success (ahem, ahem) of his campaigns, I’d like him to comment on that last paragraph.

Many of the shorter chain fatty acids found in milk fat and coconut oil have beneficial health effects. The shorter chain SFA in milk (C4–C12) are not only metabolized rapidly for energy in infants, but have been found to have important antiviral, antimicrobial, antitumor, and immune response functions. Lauric acid, which is present in milk and the most abundant fatty acid in coconut oil, is effective in preventing tooth decay and plaque buildup. Diets rich in coconut oils have also been shown to lower other risk factors for CAD, such as tissue plasminogen activator antigen and Lp(a).

Aren’t you glad the USDA has decided kids in school can’t drink whole milk, but sugar-laden skim milk is fine and dandy?

It should not be surprising that substitution of carbohydrates (starches) for saturated fats in the diet has relatively little effect on serum lipids. Excess carbohydrates are converted to fats for efficient energy storage, and the human body synthesizes primarily SFAs from excess carbohydrates, although MUFAs are also formed. Consequently, from a physiological viewpoint, there is no reason to believe that replacing fat in the diet with carbohydrate at a constant caloric intake will improve the serum lipid profile significantly. Indeed, a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet causes an increase in serum triglycerides and small, dense LDL particles, which are more strongly associated with CAD than serum total cholesterol or LDL-C.

So skip the bacon and eggs and eat your Cheerios. The American Heart Association says those processed grains are good for your heart.

The meager effect that saturated fats have on serum cholesterol levels when modest but adequate amounts of polyunsaturated oils are included in the diet, and the lack of any clear evidence that saturated fats are promoting any of the conditions that can be attributed to PUFA makes one wonder how saturated fats got such a bad reputation in the health literature. The influence of dietary fats on serum cholesterol has been overstated, and a physiological mechanism for saturated fats causing heart disease is still missing.

No, no, no … I’ve heard nutritionists, doctors and dietitians on TV insisting that thousands of studies prove that saturated fat causes heart disease. Thousands!

It is time to reevaluate the dietary recommendations that focus on lowering serum cholesterol and to use a more holistic approach to dietary policy.

Well, the USDA dietary experts reevaluate their dietary recommendations every five years. Then, acting like the division of Monsanto the USDA has become, they recommend even less natural saturated fat and more mutant grains. But give them another 50 years or so, and they may actually pay attention to the science.

And another 50 years after that, the American Heart Association may do the same.


19 thoughts on “Review Article Exonerates Saturated Fat

  1. desmond

    Good timing. I just placed a hold on “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” at my local library.

    Excellent book. Enjoy.

  2. Justin B

    Thank you for continuing to post things like this. I get silently frustrated every time people in my office start discussing nutrition, or even make off-hand comments… as I typed that, someone walking past me said to someone else “too much of anything is bad for you”. Yeah, that old rhetoric. Anyway, I stay silent because arguing is a lose-lose battle, I have found. I just trust in science, something I really wish more people were open to doing.

    Here’s what’s frustrating: yesterday (while looking for something else) I came across a study from 1999 in which the researchers concluded that the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! theory doesn’t hold up to research, including theirs. That’s 14 years ago, yet anti-fat hysteria still reigns.

    1. Ines

      You mean 14 years or is it indeed 2023, already?

      Whoops. That’s what happens when I type replies in a hurry from my desk at work.

    2. cave horse

      My standard reply is to chuckle, shake my head and say, “Heh, I didn’t think anyone still believed that tired old propaganda.”

  3. Kristin

    Finally a study that encapsulates so many of the concepts we typically have to go running all over the place to pull together. I have a friend who won’t read anything that isn’t a study and considers lectures just scams (scams?…university lectures from experts in the field?) Anyway I have tried to get her to read a small stack of studies to demonstrate why she should be concerned about her very low fat/high sugar diet (yes she has a lot of chronic conditions including a boggling array of food sensitivities.) She claims she doesn’t have that kind of time to research independently. Sure. I get that.

    So I went to your kindly posted link and read the study. Wow. Even more great stuff than what you chose to present here. So I sent her that link. Perhaps she will read one study. One can only hope. She is a dear friend and I hate to have to watch her suffer.

    You can try, but don’t get your hopes up. People are resistant to changing their minds.

  4. Jonas Larsson

    They keep coming up with conflicting views!But here’s the plan:just stick to the usual they call unhealthy-bacon,eggs,meat.Do not be fooled.They are all very healthy in fact.Guess rendering the likes of USDA and AHA irrelevant from a personal stand point is what will work in the end-with great results to show for it!

    We’ll all ignore their advice and be healthy. Then we’ll all be labeled as anomalies.

  5. cTo

    Thought youd enjoy the fact that I read this article while eating a bowl of coconut cream (the pure sat fat that separates out at the top of a can of coconut milk) with frozen blueberries.

    I do, but I suspect you enjoyed them more.

  6. illalumni97


    Great work as always. I actually found Fathead and your blog based on the recommendation of a nutritionist I started working with last September. See there are actually nutritionists out there that “get it”. 9 months and 60lbs lighter, I am feeling great and my blood work came back great too.

    I am not sure if you saw that our friend Gary Taubes was in the news this weekend. I will be waiting for the results of this study with bated breath!;_ylt=AhEciRKIuDnnS3DS8KZ6gpDQtDMD

    We just need several thousand more nutritionists like yours. Congratulations on the weight loss; that’s quite an accomplishment in nine months.

    I was delighted to see Gary and Peter are getting the funding they need.

    1. Bill C.

      This is very good news! Gary and Peter have the potential to make a lot of heads turn. The AHA, FDA, USDA ect. will have a hard time blatantly ignoring their studies.

      Let’s hope, but they’ve certainly ignored a lot of other studies.

      1. Stipetic

        I dunno, Bill. These guys majored in blatantly ignoring studies. PhD’d up. We are going up against la creme de la creme of ignoramuses.

      2. Josh

        Bill C, physicians and PhD’s are some of the most stubborn people you will ever meet. Only politicians are more stubborn. When physicians and other doctors get together with politicians and bureaucrats, don’t count on them ever changing their minds.

  7. Ed Terry

    I can attest to the cholesterol raising effects of saturated fat. When I limited my saturated fat intake to 31 g a day and my PUFA intake to 62 g a day and my dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg, my total cholesterol was 124.

    I now eat 190 g saturated fat, less than 18 of PUFA and 1600 mg dietary cholesterol and my total has skyrocketed….to 175.

    My total was much higher when I ate a healthly low-fat diet and my HDL was 30. My doctor just shakes her head when she sees my labs because I’ve explained my diet to her. About the only time I need to see her is when I do something stupid in the gym.

    I don’t think all scientists are liars. Some are just idiots with a PhD.

  8. Marc


    when you have a minute,
    please take a look at my friends site

    Some really thorough studies are pointing to the importance of sat fat vs unsat fat ratios.
    Matt is dissecting it pretty good right now.
    He will be again presenting at AHS this summer.

    Keep up the good work and thank you for making me snort coffee up my nose
    with your hilarious account of your night patrol 🙂


    Sorry about the coffee-snort.

  9. Sampath

    I had a health checkup in 2012 and my numbers were as follows ( TC: 208, HDl: 28, Triglyceride: 194, LDL: 141, Blood pressure 116/84 and fasting Glucose: 114). My ratios were as follows:

    Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio is: 7.43 (ideal ratio: < 5)
    LDL/HDL ratio is: 5.03 (ideal ratio: < 5)
    triglycerides/HDL ratio : 6.964 (ideally < 4).

    My HDL was only 28. The glucose number was scary since my family has a history of diabetes and this number showed that I had pre-diabates. The lower blood pressure number was above the recommended number of 80 level.

    Then I started the usual low-fat diet and continued it for a year. Then I watched your fat head movie in netflix and that motivated me to read Gary Taubes and other authors. I switched to low-carb diet. It was not an esay decision because being from India, I was a vegetarian for 40 years. Reading about "The vegetarian myth" in your website, I bought the book and it convinced me that I was wrong. After 2 months into low-carb diet ny numbers are as follows: (Total Cholesterol: 267,HDL: 47,LDL: 196,VLDL:23, Triglycerides: 117, fasting glucose: 72, Blood pressure 108/74)

    Even though my total cholesterol and LDL increased, my ratios showed considerable improvement.

    Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio is: 5.68 – (Previously 7.43)
    LDL/HDL ratio is: 4.170 – (Previously 5.03)
    Triglycerides/HDL ratio: 2.489 – (Previously 6.96)

    Thank you for the movie and all your efforts. Watching your movie postponed my risk of heart attack by at least 20 years and removed the risk of diabates. My father gets 4 insulin shots everyday on a vegetarian low-fat diet . Mostly rice and lentils. I failed to convince him. I also removed the risk of hypertension. I will continue with this diet and hope that my ratios and numbers improve even more.

    I predict your numbers will be even better in the future.

  10. David Despain

    “Because dietary saturated fats do not promote inflammation, it may be wiser to minimize omega-6 PUFAs and consume more SFAs to reduce various types of inflammation.”


    It would be wise to point out that nutrition scientists such as Walter Willett and Martha Belury disagree with this statement. As I reported on my blog, these scientists really shared at the EB2013 conference in Boston that there is no evidence that n-6 promotes inflammation In addition, they claim that PUFAS may be responsible for the drastic decline in heart disease (still a problem) over recent years. Would it be wise then to limit n-6s or claim exoneration of saturated fats? Sounds like it’s still up to debate.


    Interesting stuff, but I think the main driver of the decline in heart disease was the 50% decrease in rates of smoking.

  11. JStheguy

    You think that anything remotely related to government get this BEFORE the year 1 million AD? Maybe if you roll a 20 against government corruption and ANOTHER 20 against pointless debating. (I really hate playing Bills and Bull$*#!.)


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