Friday, January 1, 2010

Saturated fat intake not associated with heart disease – Dr. Cordain’s article

I would like to comment on a recent article co-authored by Dr. Loren Cordain, and published in the journal Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine, in 2009. Dr. Cordain is probably the leading expert today on the diet of our Stone Age ancestors.

The importance of this article comes from the fact that in the past Dr. Cordain has argued that our Stone Age ancestors have not consumed large amounts of saturated fat, because of the relatively low percentage of fat in the flesh of wild animals. This led, according to Dr. Cordain, to an evolved body design that is not well adapted to the consumption of significant amounts of saturated fat.

Yet, many other researchers have argued that saturated fats are beneficial to our health, with ample empirical evidence to back up their statements. The researchers at the Weston A. Price Foundation have been particularly prominent voices in favor of saturate fats.

Now, this acknowledgement that saturated fats (or saturated fatty acids) are not detrimental to health, particularly heart health, was made with qualifications. And, Dr. Cordain is not the first author of the article. Page 293 of the article states that:
Replacement of SFAs, especially palmitate, with MUFAs may provide moderate cardiometabolic benefits, and is unlikely to do harm. However, SFA reduction does not appear to be the most important dietary modification for CHD risk reduction.
(Notes: SFA=saturated fatty acids=saturated fat, think greasy steak and egg yolk; MUFAs=monounsaturated fatty acids, think olive oil and lard; CHD=coronary heart disease.)

Palmitate refers to palmitic acid, of which meat, butter, eggs, and dark chocolate are all good sources. Even salmon is a good source of palmitic acid, although it is also an excellent source of DHA and EPA omega-3 fat acids. EPA is eicosapentaenoic acid, and DHA is docosahexaenoic acid; both of which are found in fish.

So, the caution in the statement above does not make much sense given the mounting evidence that palmitic acid (especially when consumed with a low carb. diet, in my view), may have cardio-protective effects.

Nevertheless, this is a major shift from Dr. Cordain’s previous position that saturated fats cannot be part of a healthy diet because they do not fit well with what we currently know about the diet of our Stone Age ancestors.

Maybe those ancestors ate a lot of saturated fat after all, and that consumption led to adaptations that make saturated fat consumption healthy; again, in my view, as long as it is not accompanied by high consumption of refined carbs. and sugars.

Saturated fat was probably the most readily available type of fat to those ancestors, a rich source of calories, and virtually impossible to avoid given the main component of those ancestors’ diet – meat.


lard said...

what do u think about lard? where is a good place to buy it? i hear the stuff u buy in the supermarket is highly processed and full of trans fats.

Ned Kock said...

Lard is mostly MUFA (about 50%), which are also found in olive oil. Definitely would be one of my main choices of cooking oil, IF I could find the non-hydrogenated versions. In supermarkets you typically find the hydrogenated versions, which I would not recommend.

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