Animal Fat: Good for Your Heart

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Paradigm shifts take a while. It was at least a hundred years before Copernicus's ideas were refined and the heliocentric model of the solar system overthrew the Ptolemaic model. We have been operating under low fat, high carb and the Lipid Theory of heart disease since at least the late 1950s yet despite the accelerating public health problems of Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity and Coronary Artery Disease, medical professionals cling to a theory which just hasn’t panned out. Recent analyses of the studies and personalities that gave us this approach have revealed grievous errors, wanton misrepresentation and intellectual dishonesty among supposedly disinterested professionals. But even in the digital age, and perhaps due in part to it, overthrowing the old order and setting the record straight has been difficult.

Doctors are still trained in the old model and still advise patients to eat low fat despite the major holes in the lipid theory. Dietitians still recommend a largely religious based, not science based, plant based diet. And both groups show no appreciation for recent studies that show the multi-factorial nature of coronary artery disease.

Neither does it help that the principal NY Times health writer has been and continues to be in thrall to conventional wisdom and its practitioners, publishing not too long ago what her coronary by-pass surviving brother now eats, as if any of these changes will actually make any difference to his ongoing prospects: "He is now devoted to a heart-healthy diet that includes no added salt, lots of vegetables, fish and skinless poultry but little or no meat and saturated fat. Gone from his larder are butter, cheese, full-fat ice cream and store-bought pies and cakes."

Vegans maintain that eating animals is the cause of heart disease and that they are thus immune from heart attacks, yet the science does not bear this out, and high profile vegans continue to keel over.

Below is an excerpt from science writer Gary Taubes' groundbreaking book, Good Calories, Bad Calories which explains what goes on exactly when you eat animal fats. Lay off the sugar, lay off the fake soy meat and whole grains and tuck into a nice hunk of beef instead.

Consider a porterhouse steak with a quarter-inch layer of fat. After broiling, this steak will reduce to almost equal parts fat and protein. Fifty-one percent of the fat is monounsaturated, of which 90 percent is oleic acid. Saturated fat constitutes 45 percent of the total fat, but a third of that is stearic acid, which will increase HDL cholesterol while having no effect on LDL. (Stearic acid is metabolized in the body to oleic acid, according to Grundy’s research.) The remaining 4 percent of the fat is polyunsaturated, which lowers LDL cholesterol but has no meaningful effect on HDL. In sum, perhaps as much as 70 percent of the fat content of a porterhouse steak will improve the relative levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, compared with what they would be if carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, or pasta were consumed. The remaining 30 percent will raise LDL cholesterol but will also raise HDL cholesterol and will have an insignificant effect, if any, on the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL. All of this suggests that eating a porterhouse steak in lieu of bread or potatoes would actually reduce heart-disease risk, although virtually no nutritional authority will say so publicly. The same is true for lard and bacon.

Taubes, G. (2007). Good calories, bad calories: Challenging the conventional wisdom on diet, weight control, and disease (location 3550) Kindle ed. Knopf.

Randy Hauer