I say it all the time — you can eat bacon and still lose weight. But preachy dieticians insist you must replace saturated fats (found in bacon, red meat and butter), with unsaturated fats (found in olive oil, nuts and seeds).
As it turns out, this advice is baseless. (I’ll tell you about some shocking, new research on preachy dieticians themselves next month.)
Replacing supposedly “bad” fats with supposedly “good” fats doesn’t significantly improve overall health. Nor does it help you lose weight.
In fact, in a new meta-analysis, researchers with the University of Illinois looked at fat consumption in eight randomized, controlled, clinical trials. The studies included 660 metabolically healthy but overweight and obese individuals.
First, the researchers set about classifying the participants into two groups. The first group had a diet “high” in saturated fats. (Researchers considered a diet “high” in saturated fats if 14 to 24 percent of total caloric or energy intake came from these supposedly “bad” fats.) The second group had a diet higher in unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil.
Next, the researchers compared the two groups’ cholesterol levels, triglyceride (blood fats) levels, and body composition.
Turns out, participants who ate greater amounts of unsaturated fats had “insignificant” reductions in “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. They also had lower “good” cholesterol.
In my view, these results are essentially meaningless. As I told you again last week, cholesterol just isn’t the culprit mainstream medicine has made it out to be. In fact, most heart attacks happen in men and women with healthy cholesterol levels. And the U.S. Dietary Guidelines don’t even place a daily limit on cholesterol consumption anymore.
But the next part of the analysis is what really caught my attention…
Cutting out saturated fat doesn’t help weight loss
When it came to weight loss, it made absolutely no difference whether people consumed more saturated fat or unsaturated fat. Only those who followed calorie-restricted diets lost weight, regardless of the fats they consumed.
So — that timeless arithmetic holds true… the only way to lose weight is to cut calories.
In their report, the researchers didn’t seem to believe their own results. They stated that “bad” saturated fats have been “linked” to weight gain and heart disease. But they cited no evidence to back it up. Even their own results don’t back up the claim.
Nevertheless, they persisted in recommending men and women limit consumption of saturated fats. Why did they bother to do their research if they want to ignore their own results? Why can’t they just give up on their wrong-headed recommendation that favors unsaturated fats over saturated fats?
Oh, that’s right — it’s just another “legend of the Fall.”
The researchers did make a few sensible recommendations, such as substituting olive oil for other oils while cooking. (Although they approve of processed canola oil, which I’d never recommend.)
They also recommended people increase their consumption of fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. All good advice.
But there’s simply no evidence to recommend cutting out butter, full-fat dairy, and red meat as part of a balanced diet. And their own research doesn’t even support doing that — whether they want to admit it or not.
Just be mindful, as always, to limit your total caloric consumption.
Of course, the researchers called for more research. (Why bother, since they don’t believe their own results.) They want to identify the specific properties, fatty acids, or food sources that provide the “ideal” ratio of saturated-to-unsaturated fats, as if there really is such a thing.
I have an idea — how about we skip the unnecessary, extra research? Keep it simple.
You can support heart health with these five basic recommendations:
1. Eat a balanced diet that includes meat, fish, dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
2. Cut out sugars and restrict carbs.
3. Limit calorie intake.
4. Take a daily fish oil supplement that contains 2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Get some moderate exercise a few times a week.
And next time you’re in the mood for a hearty, delicious breakfast, feel free to fry up some bacon and drizzle olive oil and/or butter in your pan for sunny-side up eggs (one of Nature’s perfect foods).
“Clinical Outcomes of Dietary Replacement of Saturated Fatty Acids with Unsaturated Fat Sources in Adults with Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Control Trials,” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2017; 71:107-117