What are the benefits of eating saturated fat?
Here’s a list, with scientific sourcing provided of course:
- Improved cardiovascular health.
You read that correctly. Yes, there are many studies that show eating saturated fat can raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (and there are several older studies that actually demonstrate no link, but these have been systematically ignored over the last 50 years), but saturated fat also has a role in converting LDL from small densely packed particles to large looser particles., This is important because people with small LDL particles have three times the risk of getting heart disease than people with larger LDL particles. What this means is that including saturated fat in your diet can actually convert “bad” cholesterol into benign cholesterol, which would support heart health.
Additionally, scientists have realized that it’s not just about the size of the LDL particles or the density, but also about the number of LDL particles (LDL-p) floating in the bloodstream. Studies have demonstrated that low carb diets, which are normally higher in saturated fat, are associated with lower LDL-p, while low-fat diets actually raise LDL-p.,,,
Here’s the take away, saturated fats help to convert bad cholesterol into good cholesterol, and saturated fats do not effect blood lipid profiles as previously thought. Anyone who does not mention this important research when vilifying saturated fat as a cause of heart disease is not giving you the whole story and is probably promoting an agenda.
- Increasing Liver Health
Two of the nastiest liver diseases you can get from overeating or alcohol abuse are alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. With each these types of disease, fat builds up in the liver, causing inflammation, which leads to cirrhosis and a long, drawn out death.
Some may think that eating fat increases fat deposits in the liver, but research demonstrates that the opposite is true. Scientists have found that including saturated fat in the diet appears to have a detoxifying effect on the liver by triggering it to release fat. , Researchers even suggested including more saturated fat in the diets of those withdrawing from alcohol to detoxify the liver. This was specifically saturated fats, and not unsaturated fats, which appeared to have no effect.
So if fat doesn’t cause fatty liver disease, what does? Well overconsumption of alcohol definitely can, and being pregnant may also lead to this condition, but in non-alcoholics and non-pregnancy cases there has to be another culprit. Researchers have actually found that high carbohydrate intake contributes to fatty liver disease because, under these conditions, the liver works to convert glucose into fat. Hence, another benefit to lowering the carbs and increasing intake of saturated fat for most populations.
- Increases Positive Hormone Production
Saturated fat is also known to increase free testosterone levels, which helps to repair tissue, preserve muscle, and improve sexual function. In fact, one recent study demonstrated that subjects on a very low carb high fat diet not only improved their testosterone levels, but also improved their health by increasing insulin sensitivity. Additionally, high fat low carbohydrate diets have been demonstrated to lead to increased lean muscle mass than the traditional higher carbohydrate diet while positively effecting leanness.
So saturated fat intake, with low carbohydrate intake, helps positive hormonal balance allowing for increased sexual drive, muscle gain, fat loss, and improved health markers.
- Saturated Fat Can Improve Brain Function
Many who promote low fat diets point out that research has demonstrated that saturated fat intake was correlated with impaired cognition and brain function later in life. The problem: most of these studies did not control for carbohydrate intake. In studies of fat intake on memory and cognitive impairment, where carbohydrate intake was used as a control variable, those subjects on ketogenic diets demonstrated improved memory performance. Given that most of your brain is largely made up of saturated fat, this should not be a huge surprise. Including saturated fat in your diet can help cognition and brain function.
- Other Benefits
I am purposely leaving out some other proposed benefits here as well because they are, in my opinion anecdotal and without scientific evidence. That does not mean that these benefits do not exist, but I am purposely including only scientifically referenced material in this article. If you would like to learn about some of the other anecdotal benefits of saturated fat, check out Mary Enig’s book, Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol.
Does this Mean that I can Load Up on Meat and Protein?
While saturated fat is not as dangerous as the mainstream media and other certain people would claim, this certainly does not mean that you should use this as a license to eat more than a moderate/moderately high amount of animal protein or protein in general. Extensive research demonstrates that overconsumption of protein can contribute to cancer via increased levels of insulin like growth factor, increased risk of heart disease, and overconsumption of meat may be associated with increased risk of chronic liver disease and cancer.  The mTOR (mammanlian target of rapamycin) pathway can get overstimulated in the face of chronic excess food, particularly protein.
Most of the population likely needs to eat more protein, whereas most gym rats and some athletes could stand to eat slightly to significantly less.
As I wrote at the beginning, I am not a vegan, but I am not an advocate for all or excess meat consumption. At a minimum, I believe that people should be experiencing vegan cycles/vegan days-a perfectly fine option if it is done the right way. Even bodybuilders and athletes seeking to build more muscle can eat less meat because they actually need less protein than many of them think they do. The classic 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight protocol is at best misleading, and at worse unhealthy. Studies have demonstrated that subjects can build muscle on 0.55 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. And yes, even I fell prey to the misinformation for years and ate as much as 350 grams of protein per day at 190lbs bodyweight. This is completely off the anecdotal deep end, but I’ve built much more muscle on much less than that while dialing in my food sources and ratio of macros (protein-carb-fat) depending on the day.
Other Things to Consider to Stay Healthy
What you should have gleaned from this article is that a diet that is healthy and high in saturated fat should be moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates if you want that diet to remain healthy. I myself get around 60-70% of my calories from fats (50% of them are saturated), 20-30% of my calories from protein of all sources, and 10% of my calories from carbohydrate sources. You should not count green leafy vegetables as carbohydrates and they should cover most of your plate at every meal. If you eat red meat, I would advise you to source that meat from organic farms that grass feed and grass finish their animals. It’s more expensive, but you should be eating less of it anyways. When possible opt for grassfed beef liver for its nutrient density and fat content. Avoid overloading the protein because protein can convert to glucose through gluconeogenesis
Additionally, seek out fruits that are anti-inflammatory. In particular, dark skinned fruit like blueberries and plums are great for fighting inflammation. Avoid overconsuming nightshade vegetables like eggplant, onions, peppers, and potatoes as they can increase inflammation.
There’s a lot more to consider, but I’m not going to lay out a full diet here. You can check out more of my advice on this blog or on my youtube channel, Warrior Soul Fitness.
Vegans and Saturated Fat
As for the vegans who may be scratching their heads at this point and wondering if they should take any of my advice in regard to fat intake or throw this article out the window: you can be vegan and eat saturated fat by lowering the amount of general carbohydrates and fructose you are eating, avoiding processed vegan foods, avoiding omega 6-laden vegetable oils, and garnering more calories from coconut oil, nuts, avocados, chia, and hemp seeds. That is not to say that you cannot eat fruit, but I would keep my fruit calories to under 200 to 400 calories per day. This is because fructose cannot be stored as muscle glycogen and can only be stored in the liver, which more readily converts to fat and can lead to increased levels of inflammation. If you eat grains or legumes, be sure to soak them or sprout them to avoid gut inflammation and the possibility of insulin resistance.
By now, some of you might be thinking that I’m playing both sides of the fence. I’m not trying to, but science and truth are often more complicated than most people would like them to be. I am not vegan, and I am not ready to become one because there are nutritional positives to consuming meat, butter, and eggs including nutrient and caloric density, which is important for me because I do not like to eat much. On the other hand, I do see the positive side of the vegan argument and the desire for a better world with less meat eating. Nevertheless, while I believe that activism is often a positive form of social progress, I also do not agree with ignoring the facts to present one’s preferred view. Saturated fat is not and should not be considered the main culprit leading to heart disease, diabetes, or cancer as demonstrated by the evidence. Making it part of the vegan/omnivore debate is not helping anyone get closer to the truth or to better nutrition.
If you're interested in getting more education like this, complete with a diet set-up guide, check out our book below:
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 For a fantastic breakdown of this research see this article by Kris Gunnars: http://authoritynutrition.com/saturated-fat-good-or-bad/
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 For a fantastic review of this research see this article: http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/the-myth-of-1glb-optimal-protein-intake-for-bodybuilders/