MYTH #6:

Saturated fats cause heart disease and cancer, and low-fat, low-cholesterol diets are healthier for people.

Despite claims that primitive societies are/were largely vegetarian, diets of native peoples the world over are rich in saturated fats and animal foods (28) and, as noted above, heart disease and cancer are primarily modern diseases. Saturated fat consumption, therefore, cannot logically cause these diseases. As with the poorly done studies of the Inuit, modern-day researchers fail to take into account other dietary factors of people who have heart disease and cancer. As a result, the harmful effects of eating refined sugar, nutrient-poor "foods," trans-fats (found in margarine and hydrogenated oils) and vegetable oils get mixed up with animal fat consumption. It is commonly believed that saturated fats and cholesterol "clog arteries", but such ideas have been shown to be false by such scientists as Linus Pauling, George Mann, John Yudkin, Abram Hoffer, Mary Enig and others (29). On the contrary, studies have shown that arterial plaque is primarily composed of UNsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated ones, and not the saturated fat of animals, palm or coconut (30).

Trans-fatty acids, as opposed to saturated fats, have been shown by researchers such as Enig, Mann and Fred Kummerow to be causative factors in atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, cancer and other assorted diseases (31).

A recent study of thousands of Swedish women showed no correlation between saturated fat consumption and increased risk for breast cancer. However, the study did show a strong link between vegetable oil intake and higher breast cancer rates (32).

The Framingham Heart Study is often cited as proof that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat intake cause heart disease and ill health. Involving about 6,000 people, the study compared two groups over several years at five-year intervals. One group consumed little cholesterol and saturated fat, while the other consumed high amounts. Surprisingly, Dr William Castelli, the study's director, is quoted in the Archives of Internal Medicine (July 1992) as saying:

In Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person's serum cholesterol ... we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.

It is true that the study did show that those who weighed more and had higher serum cholesterol levels were more at risk for heart disease, but weight gain and cholesterol levels had an inverse correlation with dietary fat and cholesterol intake. In other words, there was no correlation at all (33).

In a similar vein, the US Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, sponsored by the National Heart and Lung Institute, compared mortality rates and eating habits of 12,000+ men. Those who ate less saturated fat and cholesterol showed a slightly reduced rate of coronary heart disease (CHD), but had an overall mortality rate much higher than the other men in the study (34).

The few studies that indicate a correlation between saturated fat reduction and a lower CHD rate also clearly document a sizeable increase in deaths from cancer, suicide, violence and brain haemorrhage (34). Like the bone density experiments, such things are not told to the public.

Low-fat/cholesterol diets, therefore, are decidedly not healthier for people. Studies have proven over and over that such diets are associated with depression, cancer, psychological problems, fatigue, violence and suicide (35).

Children on low-fat diets suffer from growth problems, failure to thrive, and learning disabilities (36). Despite this, sources from Dr. Benjamin Spock to the American Heart Association recommend low-fat diets for children! One can only lament the fate of those unfortunate youngsters who will be raised by unknowing parents taken in by such misinformation.

There are many health benefits to saturated fats, depending on the fat in question. Coconut oil, for example, is rich in lauric acid, a potent antifungal and antimicrobial substance. Coconut also contains appreciable amounts of caprylic acid, also an effective antifungal (37). Butter from free-range cows is rich in trace minerals, especially selenium, as well as all of the fat-soluble vitamins and beneficial fatty acids that protect against cancer and fungal infections (38).

In general, however, saturated fats provide a good energy source for the vital organs, protect arteries against damage by the atherogenic lipoprotein (a), are rich in fat-soluble vitamins, help raise HDL levels in the blood, and make possible the utilisation of essential fatty acids. They are excellent for cooking, as they are chemically stable and do not break down under heat, unlike polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Omitting them from one's diet, then, is ill-advised (39).