The Truth about Saturated Fats and Weight Loss (Part 1)
For years we have all been told that saturated fat is public enemy Number 1 in the battle against obesity, heart disease, and for weight loss. It turns out that saturated fat may actually be good for you.
Good Fats versus Bad Fats
With the threat of high cholesterol, limiting saturated fat was the smart thing to do especially for weight loss. It has been discovered in a recent study that people eating foods rich in saturated fat still had their total cholesterol down by 10 points. What’s more, some even had weight loss.
What We Are Told
Since the epic fail of the fat-free craze of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the hope was that by cutting fat from our diets, we would trim inches from our figures. Instead, the exact opposite happened; because fat-free cookies, cheese, chips, and crackers were missing the critical fat that makes us feel full, we ate double, sometimes triple, the usual portion. Manufacturers dumped extra sugar into these foods to make them taste better so we took in just as many calories and often many more.
According to a study conducted by the Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, this led to a proliferation of products that were loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories. Because of this, fats are now labeled good and bad. The good guys are unsaturated fats or monounsaturated found in foods like olive oil and avocados, and polyunsaturated found in sunflower and corn oils, and in omega 3 in salmon and walnuts.
The bad guy has been marked ever since as saturated fat. The conventional wisdom dating back to the 1950’s is that saturated fat increases our total cholesterol and chance for heart disease and stroke. Trans fat, a relative newcomer that dominated packaged goods and fast food, is another bad guy.
Saturated Fat Is Wrongfully Accused
After decades of bashing saturated fat, the above study discovered that there wasn’t enough proof to link saturated fat to heart disease, stroke, or even weight loss. Everyone had just assumed that the evidence against saturated fat was strong. Researchers say there were even earlier clues that saturated fat didn’t deserve its reputation as top dietary villain. The decades-old “diet-heart” idea that saturated fat is bad for the heart was mostly based on animal studies and short-term trials that looked only at people’s cholesterol levels, not at whether they actually had heart attacks.
What researchers discovered was that cutting out saturated fat didn’t make much difference, until you considered what people ate in place of it. Swapping animal fats for vegetable oils, for instance, using soybean oil instead of butter, appeared to lower LDL cholesterol levels and disease risk, but that’s about it. When you replace saturated fats with refined carbs, your triglycerides can go up and your good HDL cholesterol can go down. High triglycerides are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Eating less saturated fat will not help with weight loss, either.
The Different Kinds of Fat
So why, despite the explosion of positive study findings, is saturated fat still considered evil? One major factor is that it’s not a single fat. There are more than two dozen kinds, and they’re not created equal.