The Saturated Fat Myth and Heart Disease

By Helen Sanders

For many decades now mainstream medical advice has been that saturated fat is bad and should be lowered at all costs to prevent heart disease. Surely then there must be strong evidence that saturated fat is a primary cause of cardiovascular problems? Actually there isn’t.

Let’s look at the saturated fat myth, how it relates to heart disease and why low-fat diets, along with recommendations to replace meals containing saturated fat with more high carbohydrate foods, can lead to obesity and related diseases like diabetes.

Heart Disease and Saturated Fat

Approximately one third of all deaths in the USA are attributed to heart disease and health organizations like the American Heart Association advise that less than 7% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat.

But is there any solid scientific evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease or is it a myth perpetuated by old and long since discredited research?

Saturated fat healthy

While it has been observed, in some short-term studies, that increasing the amount of saturated fat eaten can also increase blood cholesterol levels, longer-term studies do not show a strong association between blood cholesterol and saturated fat intake. There is also ample evidence in recent years that cholesterol is not the dietary villain it’s been made out to be.

We actually produced three quarters of the cholesterol in our bodies ourselves and it is a vital component of a well functioning body.

Only one quarter comes from dietary intake and for most people increasing saturated fat from healthy sources like free range eggs, grass fed meat or coconut oil will not increase blood cholesterol long-term as your body simply lessens the amount it makes.

For a detailed breakdown of why cholesterol and saturated fat are not the cause of heart disease for most people, read Chris Kresser’s excellent four-part serieson the subject.

Studies on Saturated Fat

A 2009 study entitled ‘A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and heart disease’ conducted a detailed examination of all the cardiovascular disease studies on Medline that met their strict criteria of good science and optimal research methodology.

This wide-ranging investigation found “strong evidence… of protective factors” for “an increased intake of vegetables, nuts and a Mediterranean-style diet” but “insufficient evidence” of an association between reducing dietary saturated fat and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

They did however find “associations of harmful factors, including intake of trans fatty acids and foods with a high glycemic index or load.” The pages on What Is Margarine? and Cutting Carbs to Lose Weight have more details on reducing these harmful factors in your diet.

Another large-scale meta-analysis of all the recent studies of the association between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease found “no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) or CVD (cardiovascular disease).”

Heart disease Saturated fats

​How the Saturated Fat Myth Leads to Weight Gain and Disease

While the mainstream medical community slowly comes around to the likelihood that its assumptions about heart disease, cholesterol and saturated fat may well have been a myth based on bad science, many cardiovascular experts are becoming vocal in their criticism of the saturated fat dogma.

Cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra said recently in the British medical Journal that recent studies “have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and risk of CVD.”

He also says that in the USA, the percentage of calories coming from fat has declined from 40% to 30% in the past three decades, yet obesity has rocketed. He believes the reason for this is that food manufacturers “compensated by replacing saturated fat with added sugar.”

Dr Malhotra concludes with, “It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that has contributed to obesity.”

In response to the same article, Professor David Haslam of the UK’s National Obesity Forum said: “It’s extremely naive of the public and the medical profession to imagine that a calorie of bread, a calorie of meat and a calorie of alcohol are all dealt in the same way by the amazingly complex systems of the body. The assumption has been made that increased fat in the bloodstream is caused by increased saturated fat in the diet, whereas modern scientific evidence is proving that refined carbohydrates and sugar in particular are actually the culprits.”

Even more scathing of mainstream medicine’s view of saturated fat is an excellent new investigation by the ABC’s Catalyst program called the Heart of the Matter. I’d highly recommend watching this video to understand just how saturated fat was demonized in the first place and what really causes cardiovascular disease.

Ultimately, the saturated fat myth looks to be an idea based on bad science that has remained dogmatically accepted and strangely persistent, despite a lack of any real evidence.

Large meta-studies in recent years have found no strong correlation between saturated fat intake and heart disease (unlike stress, sugar, smoking, trans fats, lack of exercise and several other factors), and yet this drive to reduce saturated fat in our diets has been damaging.

It has millions of people around the world on statin drugs to reduce their cholesterol (now the most profitable drugs in history), with questionable benefits and many side effects.

It has vilified healthy cooking oils like virgin coconut oil, in favor of highly processed and inflammatory vegetable oils, themselves now been linked to cardiovascular disease.

It’s led to low-fat versions of everything on the supermarket shelves, usually a simple switch from hunger satiating fats to hunger promoting sugar that increases the risk of diabetes.

And, despite the irony, eating less fat has definitely made people in Western countries fatter, as processed, high glycemic carbohydrate foods overtook more traditional meals with their higher saturated fats.

Do you still believe in the saturated fat myth? I be interested to hear different opinions and studies, but I would ask that you look at those listed on this page, and especially the Catalyst Heart of the Matter program above and see what the cardiologists and other cardiovascular specialists have to say about saturated fat and heart disease.

Healthy & Easy Recipes for the New Year

Posted by Teresa Bitler

At times, preparing a stroke-healthy meal can feel like a chore especially on a demanding day. It doesn’t have to be that way. These seven recipes are not only easy to make but delicious, too.

Healthy Recipes

Inside-Out Lasagna: You get all the flavor of lasagna without the assembly or messy clean-up in this recipe featuring whole wheat rotini, spinach, and ricotta cheese. Serve with steamed broccoli and a whole-grain baguette for a complete meal.

Balsamic Chicken with Asparagus and Tomatoes: Colorful veggies combine with sautéed chicken in this one-pan meal that takes only 30 minutes to make. As a bonus, since it’s packed full of fiber, no sides are required.

Winter Lentil Soup: Sweet potatoes, kale, and brown lentils star in this satisfying soup that requires very little effort. Throw the ingredients into a pot and let it simmer for an hour (or longer, if you want). Whole-grain bread is the perfect accompaniment.

Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken: For a lighter meal, try this Greek-inspired salad with a red wine vinegar dressing. You can easily swap the vegetables in the salad for what you have on hand. Pita bread and hummus make a tasty side.

Mediterranean Rub Alaska Salmon: The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s salmon recipe is as simple as it gets. Mix rosemary, garlic, salt (omit if on a salt-restricted diet), pepper, and olive oil. Spread on the salmon and grill or broil it. Serve with steamed vegetables and wild rice.

Tomato-Mozzarella Pizza: Why wait for a delivery pizza when you can make a better-tasting and healthier version at home in less time? This recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, real mozzarella, crispy pancetta, and store-bought dough. Use a packaged, pre-baked crust to save even more time.

Banana Split Berry Yogurt Parfaits: Satisfy your sweet tooth with this take on the American classicthat features fat-free pineapple yogurt, strawberries, banana, and a drizzle of chocolate. Substitute vanilla yogurt and skip the chocolate for a delicious breakfast treat.

Can Cranberries be good for you?

(Photo : Getty Images)

A study has shown that cranberry juice could help protect people against heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tested for benefits of its high levels of polyphenols, which help protect the body.

Cranberry juice is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and salicylic acid. By containing only 45 calories per cup, cranberry juice fits very well within most dietary guidelines.

The latest study reveals that drinking low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail may help lower the risk of chronic diseases that rank among the leading causes of death worldwide, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

“At the start and end of the experiment, the researchers measured things like blood pressure, blood sugar levels, blood lipids, as well as C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation,” said Dr. Khoo.

“These findings suggest that polyphenols help to protect our bodies, and may be adept at keeping a large number of ailments at bay,” he added.

Cranberry juice is best known for beating off urinary tract infections (UTIs), but its healing powers do not stop there.

The tart juice appears to promote cardiovascular health, and compounds in cranberries can even increase the effectiveness of certain ovarian cancer drugs.

Unsweetened cranberry juice tastes slightly sour, but for medicinal purposes, 2 ounces of cranberry juice diluted in 8 ounces of water is recommended.

It is very good for overall health as it is able to strengthen the immune system and help relieve stress. The mixtures also works well for skin conditions like acne.

But cranberry juice also has its down side. The powerful juice, not to be confused with the cranberry juice cocktail, isn’t as sugary as other fruit juices, but its high acidity can sometimes contribute to bladder problems besides UTIs.

I AM important!!!


This appeared on the National Stroke Association site last week.  Check it out!

Gordon V.

I am … A Survivor

I was a family man trying to do things right — work hard, provide for my family, follow Christian values.  Yet on my 51st birthday, I suffered a massive stroke that nearly killed me and left me with serious impairments.  I went from being a healthy, active, no-risk-factor man to being half paralyzed, unable to speak, organize my thoughts, or remember.

The experience has been a true test of faith and perseverance.  My wife Jill, and I have worked together in my recovery, facing each obstacle as a challenge to be overcome.  Nothing has come back quickly or easily, but we continue to work as a team and hope for the best.

We are now 7 years post-stroke and have surpassed all expectations given with the severity of my stroke.  I am certainly not fully recovered so mine is not an “I did it and you can too” story.  My journey of recovery is still in progress and will likely be a lifetime pursuit.

Everyone needs encouragement and perspective from time-to-time. We now speak publicly about our stroke and recovery experience and how it has affected our lives, our marriage, our kids, and our faith. My hope is to inspire people and help them see that good things can happen, even when it doesn’t seem possible.  Even more importantly, I hope people will see how the Good Lord has been faithful to His word, providing for us and carrying us when we were too devastated to carry ourselves.

Jill Viggiano

Being married to an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster ride of extreme highs and lows but my husband Gordon’s stroke was a low I could not have imagined.  Pre-stroke, he had been so sharp and competent.  In a moment, he had become severely disabled, childlike, and disconnected from reality.  He had no idea how bad he was and for him, that was probably a blessing.  His entrepreneurial drive and determination were still intact and he never even considered not recovering fully.

I, on the other hand, understood fully the magnitude of his brain injury and I could imagine what our future might look like.  It was a lonely place to be:  I couldn’t cry and lament in front of Gordon or the kids.  Gordon needed to believe everything was ok—he needed that positive attitude.  The kids needed me to reassure them and to make them feel as safe as possible.  They were dealing with huge changes to their lives too.  I had to be the grown-up.

The sadness and loss stayed with me for probably 4 years.  Gordon tried very hard to go back to work as a consultant but he couldn’t do anything without me, so I became a consultant with him.  For 2 years he tried to be a consultant again and I had to watch him be unable to even form sentences in front of what Gordon believed were potential clients.  His optimism and belief that he could do it all again was essential to ongoing recovery so I couldn’t bring him down.  I had to submit to his needs, even though it was painful.

My turning point came when I embraced my powerlessness and asked God to lead me each day.  Surrendering my desperate attempts to be in control freed me of the stress and worry that weighed on me.  Each day became a gift—still difficult but gratitude began to tip the scale in my favor.

As we continue to fight the good fight for recovery, we speak to audiences about our journey and inspire them to face adversity with hope and faith.  My experiences as caregiver, wife, and mother are chronicled in my book called “Painful Blessing.”

I wrote the book for several reasons:

  1.  There is still hope, love, and joy to be had, even after a life-changing experience.
  2. There have been no shortcuts in recovery.  We are still working on it 7 years later.
  3. We cannot be the only people to go through such a devastating experience, even though it sure felt that way.

Our story is compelling, inspiring, and ongoing–all things I hope will help others in crisis.

Painful Blessing Link: https://www.createspace.com/4735394