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Diabetes Developments - A blog on latest developments in diabetes by David Mendosa

What’s Wrong with Saturated Fat?

March 24th, 2007 · 4 Comments

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Update: Back in 2007 I believed the standard recommendations to minimize the amount of saturated fat we eat. I subsequently changed my position and now gladly seek out full-fat products. Many researchers have now debunked the belief that saturated fat is bad for us, and I have reviewed those findings in other articles on this blog.

Who doesn’t like a juicy hamburger, a tender steak or yummy beef ribs? What about cheese and cream? Unless you are a vegetarian, the chances are that these are some of your life’s joys.

But these foods are high in saturated fat, which is the worst culprit in raising total and LDL cholesterol levels. It’s saturated fat, not cholesterol in our diet, that is the problem with high cholesterol levels. “Dietary cholesterol has relatively little effect on blood cholesterol,” according to a review article in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging.

“There appears to be a consistent positive association of cholesterol, saturated fat, and possibly trans-fatty acid intake and atherosclerotic disease,” according to a review article in Cardiology Clinics journal. “Saturated fat reduction is a primary goal for decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” according to a recent review in Nutrition Reviews. “Epidemiological studies have confirmed a strong association between fat intake, especially saturated and trans fatty acids, plasma cholesterol levels and rate of coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality,” a review of “Dietary fatty acids and coronary heart disease” concluded.


Saturated fat gives rise to cholesterol. That means the more saturated fat we eat the higher our serum cholesterol levels, especially our low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level. The higher our cholesterol levels the more likely we will have a heart attack or stroke. People with diabetes already have one of the risk factors for heart disease, and we don’t need to collect any more of them.

Fat occurs naturally in most of the foods we eat. This fat varies in its proportion of saturated and unsaturated fat. Foods that contain a high proportion of saturated fat include meat, butter and other dairy products, especially cream, ice cream, and cheese, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, and palm kernel oil, meat, and many prepared foods.

Dr. Atkins would rather have you drink cream than milk, because cream has almost no carbohydrates. But cream has more saturated fat than anything else. Only some cheeses come close.

Ever hear about “pork, the other white meat”? That’s what pork producers call it. It might be lean by some standards, but pork – especially bacon and pork ribs – after cream and cheese are some of the foods highest in saturated fat. Even beef ribs don’t have as much saturated fat as bacon and pork spareribs.

If we all became vegetarians we wouldn’t have any problem with saturated fat that we eat. I’m not yet advocating that we go that far.

But I have eliminated beef, pork, butter, cheese, milk, and cream from my diet. I continue to enjoy yogurt, but only when I can get it plain and non-fat.

Bison, sometimes known as buffalo, is much lower in saturated fat than beef and just as tasty, if you don’t cook it too long. Chicken and fish also provide lots of protein and little saturated fat.

I now completely avoid both butter and margarine. Instead I use Spectrum Spread, which has no trans fat and only one-half gram of saturated fat per tablespoon.

The hardest thing for me to find was anything that can substitute for cheese. Nutritional yeast, however, reminds me of it.

These dietary changes have brought all my cholesterol levels within the normal range for the first time in my life. It was worth it for me, and feels more like a triumph than a sacrifice. It’s been years since I had a Big Mac attack.

This is a mirror of one of my articles that Health Central published. You can navigate to that site to find my most recent articles.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 AdrianaG // Aug 9, 2011 at 2:05 am

    This advice is completely negated by the book Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes . A shorter version is Why We Get Fat.

  • 2 HK // Jan 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Yes, I think this is bad advice. After reading Nourishing Traditions, Deep Nutrition, and Primal Body – Primal Mind, I’m beginning to believe that saturated fat is not the evil it’s made to be. It’s all the hydrogenated oils, rancid oils, and the refined carbs and sugar that is the real problem. Drink milk and eat yogurt and cheese but just make sure it hasn’t been damaged with pasturization and homogenization. Also make sure they didn’t pull all the fat out and add sugar.

  • 3 elizabeth // May 31, 2013 at 1:14 am

    I agree with the above posters. Its so sad that these lies are being told as “truths” there are many studies that negate this hypothesis. There is lots of money to be made from statins ! :)
    Please Dr Mendosa can you please read some of these books/ articles and review the updated scholarly articles? I think that you are wonderful person for making this website to help others- its just that the information you are telling them is outdated /inaccurate. Especially when it comes to diabetes. Its because of the lipid hypothesis that they tell diabetics to eat more carbohydrates because they feel that they can tell them to eat more fat ! sure fire way to make their diabetes worse since Type 2diabetes is primarily involved with carbohydrate metabolism !
    Also have a look at GAPS diet (gut and psychology syndrome) Dr Natasha McBride (Psychiatrist and Nuritionist) and I would agree that Nourishing traditions is great, also Nutritional Degeneration – Weston A price.

  • 4 David Mendosa // May 31, 2013 at 6:31 am

    Dear Elizabeth,

    Thanks for bringing this old article of mine to my attention. You are absolutely right, and I have learned a lot more since writing it. I have added an update to the beginning of this article to inform readers about my changed position on saturated fat.

    Namaste,

    David