Of all the confusing, contradictory, and flat out bad advice out there about nutrition, far and away the one the issue that can work me up into a lather faster than you can say Krispy Kreme is what the “dietary dictocrats” tell us about fat and cholesterol.
I’m going to put it bluntly: 99% of what you’ve read about or heard on the nightly news about the dangers of fat and cholesterol is flat our wrong.
And the real irony is that the so-called experts are actually telling us to avoid the right kind of fats and eat the wrong kind of fats instead.
Talk about insane…
So today, I’m going to blow the cover off this controversial topic, and tell you the real truth about fat and cholesterol—the stuff you aren’t hearing about on the nightly news.
What you’re about to learn is going to shock you.
Mistake #1: A low-fat diet is key to losing weight.
The Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial was very expensive, costing several hundreds of millions of dollars. The study included around 49,000 respondents and spanned 8 years.
Fat was thought to cause heart disease, certain types of cancer, and obesity. It seemed obvious then that cutting out fat should result in lower risks for heart disease and cancer and should lead to weight loss.
But it didn’t.
Instead, the study showed that a low-fat diet had no advantages over the usual diet. Participants who lessened their fat consumption weighed the same, on average, as the participants who didn’t alter their diet. And they had pretty much the same risk for cancer and heart disease.[i]
Low-fat diets offer no health advantage whatsoever.[ii]
Mistake #2: Foods rich in cholesterol are bad for you.
First, let’s clear up the misconception that cholesterol is bad for you. Cholesterol is essential for human health. We need it to make sex hormones, cell membranes, vitamin D (yes, our bodies can produce vitamin D using cholesterol), and digestive enzymes that help in breaking up fats.
Dr. Ron Rosedale, one of the leading experts in the science of aging, sums it up best: “There’s no good and bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is cholesterol.” [iii]
According to the Harvard School of Public Health:
“Although it is still important to limit the amount of cholesterol you eat, especially if you have diabetes, for most people dietary cholesterol isn’t nearly the villain it’s been portrayed to be. The biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the mix of fats and carbohydrates in your diet—not the amount of cholesterol you eat from food.”[iv]
It’s okay to eat cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs.[v] For the overwhelming majority of people, dietary cholesterol has virtually no significant effect on blood cholesterol.
Mistake #3: LDL cholesterol levels can predict heart attacks
It’s been drummed into our consciousness that “bad” LDL cholesterol levels in the blood can predict a person’s risk of heart attack. At the same time, we were made to believe that higher levels of HDL cholesterol help in lowering heart attack risks.
However, in 2008, a study showed that lowering LDL levels doesn’t always decrease the likelihood of heart attacks. Another study, released in 2011, showed that increasing HDL cholesterol levels doesn’t always lower the risk for heart attacks. And a number of studies have shown that over half the people hospitalized with coronary artery disease have perfectly normal cholesterol levels. [vi] [vii] [viii]
Cholesterol, according to cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, co-author of “The Great Cholesterol Myth” is like a firefighter on the scene of a fire. “It’s found at the scene of the crime”, says Dr. Sinatra, “but it’s not the perpetrator.”
Cholesterol per se doesn’t cause heart disease.
Mistake #4: Processed seed and vegetable oils are healthy.
They’re not. At least not in the amounts we consume them in.
Joe Mercola, D.O. says, “Of all the destructive foods available to us, those made with heated vegetable oils are some of the worst. Make no mistake about it – vegetable oil is not the health food that you were lead to believe it was.”[x]
This doesn’t mean that all vegetable oils are bad. The problem is that we’re consuming too much of them. Omega-6 oils must be balanced with omega-3 oils in a 1:1 up to 3:1 ratio.[xi] The western diet typically contains a 16:1 ratio.[xii] Since omega-6s are pro-inflammatory and omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, this pattern of consumption sets us up for all kinds of health problems.
To fix this, we have two options: 1) reduce our omega-6 intake and 2) add more omega-3s in our diet. You can help correct this pro-inflammatory imbalance by substituting coconut oil, Malaysian palm oil, butter, ghee, or other healthy fats for some of your vegetable oils, and by eating omega-3 rich foods and supplementing with high quality fish oil.
Use coconut oil for cooking, eat omega-3 rich foods and supplement with fish oil or flaxseed oil.
Mistake #5: Saturated fat is bad for you.
For over four decades, we’ve been led to believe that saturated fats cause heart disease. However, new research suggests otherwise. Here’s what WebMD says about saturated fat:
“A recent review of 72 studies found no link between saturated fat and heart disease. The review also showed that monounsaturated fats like those in olive oil, nuts, and avocados don’t protect against heart disease.”[xiii]
According to Nina Teicholz, “There has never been solid evidence for the idea that these [saturated] fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century . . .”[xiv]
“Still, these studies aren’t the final word. Right now, not everyone agrees that saturated fats are harmless,” Elizabeth Klodas, MD writes for WebMD.
It’s okay to eat butter, cheese, and meat. But because toxins, steroids, and other undesirable compounds are stored in the fat, it’s very important to get your animal products from healthy animals, such as grass-fed beef. The amount of fat matters very little, but the source of the fat matters a great deal.
Mistake #6: Margarine is better than butter.
It’s definitely not!
Margarine and butter serve the same purpose in baking, cooking, and as spreads.
Butter has been demonized because it contains saturated fat (which we now know isn’t really bad) and cholesterol (which the body needs).
Margarine, on the other hand, is a processed food product that contains processed vegetable oils and trans fat, both of which are bad for your health.[xv]
Use butter instead of margarine.
Mistake #7: Low-fat, processed foods are better options.
Fat tastes good. When food manufacturers removed fat from their products, they were faced with a big problem. No one is going to buy food that tastes like cardboard. To make “low-fat” food palatable, food manufacturers had to load them up with sugar. Voila! They had tasty products to sell.
The problem is that sugar is a way bigger risk to our health than fat ever was.
Low-fat doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.
The big takeaways for many people with cardiovascular disease possibilities are to lose weight (if overweight), get daily exercise and watch salt, sugar, refined carbs and excessive alcohol in the diet and work on stress or anger management as they all play a role in the progression of these diseases.
 Dr. Sinatra does recommend testing cholesterol particle size. “Particle size is extraordinarily important, because research shows that small dense LDL cholesterol is inflammatory and toxic to blood vessels.”
[ii] Low-Carb Diets More Effective than Low-Fat Ones For Losing Weight, Fighting Heart Disease, Kukil Bora, International Business Times, Published September 2, 2014, Retrieved December 8, 2014.
[vi] Lipid levels in patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease: An analysis of 136,905 hospitalizations in Get With The Guidelines, Amit Sachdeva, MD, Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Prakash C. Deedwania, MD, Kenneth A. LaBresh, MD, Sidney C. Smith Jr, MD, David Dai, MS, Adrian Hernandez, MD, Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, American Heart Journal, Published May 9, 2008, Retrieved February 2, 2015.
[vii] Lack of Association Between Cholesterol and Coronary Heart Disease Mortality and Morbidity and All-Cause Mortality in Persons Older Than 70 Years, Harlan M. Krumholz, MD; Teresa E. Seeman, PhD; Susan S. Merrill, PhD; Carlos F. Mendes de Leon, PhD; Viola Vaccarino, MD; David I. Silverman, MD; Reiko Tsukahara, MD; Adrian M. Ostfeld, MD; Lisa F. Berkman, PhD, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Published November 2, 1994, Retrieved February 2, 2015.
[viii] Serum Cholesterol Values in Patients Treated Surgically for Atherosclerosis, H. Edward Garrett, MD; Evan C. Horning, PhD; Billy G. Creech, PhD; Michael De Bakey, MD, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Published August 31, 1964, Retrieved February 2, 2015.
[xi] What Is The Omega 3 Omega 6 Ratio And Why Do We Need To Know?, Healthy Omega 3 Fish Oil, Retrieved February 5, 2015.
[xii] The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Artemis Simopoulos, Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, Published October 2002, Retrieved December 11, 2014.
[xiv] The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease, Nina Teicholz, The Wallstreet Journal, Updated May 6, 2014, Retrieved December 15, 2014.
[xv] Butter VS Margarine – Why I Trust Cows More than Chemists, Kris Gunnars, Authority Nutrition, Retrieved December 15, 2014.