Is Saturated Fat Bad?
Last week one of our gym members asked my opinion about a recent statement by the American Heart Association (AHA) that coconut oil is bad for you and should not be consumed due to being a saturated fat. Of course, the answer is more complicated than just “yes that is true” or “no that is not true.”
Good and Bad Cholesterol
For starters, here is the article on USA Today.
We should address the statement that LDL cholesterol is “bad.” Our bodies have systems in place that we are still constantly learning about, and LDL cholesterol not only has a purpose, but it isn’t as simple as just being good or bad.
LDL (low density lipoproteins) are responsible for delivering cholesterol and triglycerides to our cells and using them to build cell membranes and create hormones, among other tasks. Cholesterol is necessary and important for cellular function. We need LDL!
But know that there are two types of LDL: the large “buoyant” type, which is considered “good,” and delivers cholesterol and fatty acids to tissues. The other type, small “dense” LDL is the “bad” or at least more dangerous type, because it can’t be properly utilized by the cells and so spends more type in our system and results in plaque buildup.
Small dense LDL results from the combination of high fat AND high sugar – something the link above mentions only briefly!
What does this mean? If you have a diet full of processed foods and sugar, plus you are eating saturated fat, you will see inflammation and health issues. But saturated fat alone is not the issue. Of course, there is always an “unless”….and for me, it turns out that I’m one of the “unless” variants.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Researching more into this led me to use my 23andme results to look more deeply into my own genetic polymorphism. What I learned is that I am the proud owner of the FTO variant, also known as the obesity gene. What that means is that my body does not process saturated fat (such as butter, meats, cheese, dairy) as well, and that I should be eating more polyunsaturated fats (found in fish and nuts).
The reason I’m telling you my results is so you can see that with any nutrition question, the answer is that one size does not fit all. The AHA would have you believe that it’s better to consume vegetable oil than coconut oil… please don’t do that!
Palm oil and canola oil, for example, are much worse for you than a tablespoon or two of coconut oil a week used in cooking.
Even for me, with my FTO variant, a little bit of coconut oil here and there is not an issue. I just need to focus more on fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil.
The nutrition advice I CAN give you, though, is that refined sugar is not good for you and eating whole foods is. Across the board, the best thing you can do for yourself is stop drinking soda, stop eating refined sugar, and up the amount of leafy greens and nutrient dense food in your diet. In fact, a diet high in fiber helps regulate a proper balance of cholesterol in the body – vegetables and fruits are an excellent source.
If you have the ability, do some basic genetic testing and see what gene variants you have (I like 23andme, because it gave me some fascinating ancestry information as well, and you can then use your raw data to plug into many free or cheap websites who will give you more information: Found My Fitness and Promethease are two very good ones). If you would like a referral link to 23andme, just email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll shoot one over.
For a great article on the health benefits of coconut oil check out this ebook on Found My Fitness.
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