Heart disease is a common word today and claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in America each year. At one time, in fact, not so long ago, heart disease was not given much thought. In the 1950’s, the lipid hypothesis theory changed the way most of our country viewed saturated fat. Afraid that saturated fat elevated cholesterol and prompted heart disease, people began consuming hydrogenated fats instead. Unfortunately, as more and more Americans turned towards fake fat, the incidence of heart disease began to skyrocket. The lipid hypothesis is thought to be one of the biggest health myths of all time.
What is the Lipid Hypothesis?
Ancel Keys developed the lipid hypothesis in the 1950’s. This theory states that there is a direct relationship between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease. The theory was based on questionable evidence at best; however, Keys promoted his hypothesis throughout the medical world. As time passed, hundreds of studies and testing revealed a different conclusion than the one that Ancel found. The vegetable oil and food processing industries supported Ancel because they had much to gain.
Almost 90% of well conducted studies investigating the fat and cholesterol connection have found that supposed artery clogging saturated fats and dietary cholesterol do not cause heart disease. When clogged arteries are examined, scientists have found that only about 26% of the fat in the plaque is saturated. Over half is polyunsaturated.
Why Saturated Fat is Necessary
According to Dr. Mary Enig. PhD, the body needs saturated fats and cholesterol for a number reasons including:
- Saturated fat is necessary for calcium to be assimilated into the bone. At least 50% of the diet should be saturated fats for this to happen.
- Half of cell membranes are made up of cholesterol and saturated fats. If cells did not have saturated fat, they would have very little integrity.
- Cholesterol is a precursor to stress, energy and sex hormones as well as vitamin D.
- Immune system function is dependent on saturated fats, which also act as an anti-depressant due to the fact that they enhance serotonin receptor function.
- Low cholesterol has been linked to aggressive and suicidal behavior.
- The heart needs saturated fat, which it stores as 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid. When the body is stressed, it draws from this fat store.
- Both short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids protect the digestive tract from dangerous microorganisms. Cholesterol also helps repair and maintain the intestinal wall keeping a number of digestive problems at bay such as leaky gut syndrome and ulcerative colitis.
- Babies and children require cholesterol for brain and nervous system development. A mother’s milk contains one of the richest sources of cholesterol along with an enzyme that helps babies metabolize and use the cholesterol.
Dangers of Processed Fats
The dangers of processed or trans fats are now well documented and include a wide range of health problems. The food industry likes trans fats because of their extended shelf life and flavor stability. However scientific evidence reports that these dangerous fats raise levels of bad cholesterol in the blood and lower good cholesterol, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Good Sources of Healthy Saturated Fat
Including some healthy saturated fat in the diet is necessary for optimal health. Choose foods like butter from grass fed cows, organic coconut oil, organic cheese, nuts and seeds.
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