The Fat on Cholesterol

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I eat organic grass-fed fatty meat, organic chicken thigh and chicken skin, organic egg yolks, full-fat organic yoghurt/cream, organic coconut oil and loads of butter! Did I always eat like this? Definitely not. I used to fall subject to the common fear that high-fat and high-cholesterol will make you fat. I used to eat Low-Fat-Everything and would check the fat content on every label. Outcome: depressed, loss of menses, low sex-drive, dry skin, brittle hair and nails, weight fluctuations and fatigue.

The belief that cholesterol is bad and leads to cardiovascular problems is predicated on the Lipid Hypothesis. Based on personal and other available evidence, I among many others tend to strongly disagree.

The Lipid Hypothesis, proposed in the 1950’s, assumes a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of Coronary Heart Disease. Numerous subsequent researchers have pointed out flaws in these results and conclusions. Nevertheless, the vegetable oil and food processing industries worked behind the scenes to promote further research to support the hypothesis.

There has shown to be no direct correlation of blood cholesterol levels with the use of red meat, animal fats, fried foods (in saturated fat), butter, eggs, whole raw milk and cheeses. During the 60-year period from 1910 to 1970, the proportion of animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption declined from eighteen pounds per person per year to four (or 8.2kg to 1.8kg). During the same period, the percentage of vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening and refined oils has increased about 400%, while the consumption of sugar and processed foods has increased about 60%. Today degenerative and lifestyles diseases are the most rampant.

Mother’s milk contains over 50% of calories as fat, most of which is saturated. Both cholesterol and saturated fat are essential for growth in babies and children, especially in the development of the brain. Babies who drink mother’s milk have lower cholesterol levels than infants fed formulas resembling cow’s milk, researchers reported from the University of Illinois way back in 1990 (Los Angeles Times).

Saturated fat and cholesterol are nutritional powerhouses in the body. Some of their many key functions include strengthening the immune system, providing energy for the heart, production of bile salts and maintaining health of the intestinal wall. Cholesterol is also required for cell wall integrity for every cell in the body. If this doesn’t highlight how important it is then nothing will!

Recently I had a blood lab test done and my biochemistry showed healthy parameters of analysed minerals, total sodium (although I add stacks of natural sea salt to my food), kidney function, iron, proteins, immune function, inflammatory markers and blood glucose. The only finding that produced a computer-generated “star of warning” next to the result was total cholesterol at 5.8mmol/L (normal range 3.9-5.5mmol/L). Apparently I was in the high-risk range for cholesterol and years ago would have taken the advice to go on cholesterol-lowering drugs. However my total triglycerides, HDL’s and LDL’s were optimal. My inflammatory markers were also low.

Cholesterol is good. Cholesterol is anti-inflammatory and actually travels round the body to reduce cell damage. Since the body cannot always keep up with the damage in our abusive modern day lifestyle, it has been falsely concluded that the inflammation is caused by the cholesterol, rather than just noticing that the inflammation is correlated with the cholesterol, not caused by it.

I’m not saying a high fat, high protein diet is good for everyone because it isn’t. It is good for some, not-so-good for others. The quality of animal foods and fats also counts, since toxins are stored in fat. So if going for a higher-fat diet, choose organic, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free, pesticide free and don’t shop at the supermarket. Indigenous man went to great lengths to obtain foods high in fat-soluble vitamins; shellfish, fish, fish eggs, organ meats, dark purine meats, sea animal blubber and insects. The fat-soluble vitamins are essential for the absorption of water-soluble vitamins. Studies (Weston A Price) of North American Indians, Eskimos and other tribes suggest as much as 80% of their daily caloric intake was from fat, most of which was saturated. Of course other tribes observed had a much lower percentage of their total energy derived from fat – the tropic regions generally ate more fruits / vegetables / lighter meats and fish, the colder regions generally ate heavier/purine meats, more fat and few carbohydrates. Due to ancestry and genetics there is great variation in the proportion of fat, carbohydrate and protein that is optimal for each individual.

Where fat was eaten, saturated fats were the primary energy source for most of our ancestors prior to the development of large corporation oil industries.

Timothy Ferris, author of the internationally acclaimed “The 4-Hour Workweek” and “4-Hour Body” ate meat and nuts for 21 days, meat fat and all. Expecting the worst in terms of cholesterol and lipid profiles after the fat-fest, the results were as follows;

Total cholesterol lowered

Total HDL stayed the same

Total LDL lowered

Total triglycerides increased

The 21 day marathon of red meat and fats actually improved Ferris’ cholesterol/HDL ratio, lowered total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.  Total triglycerides increased which is not surprising since his total fat intake had increased dramatically. During the 21 days, even while eating all those calories from fat, Ferris lost substantial body fat, which naturally elevates total circulating triglycerides since fat is liberated from body storage. Ferris bumped up his testosterone (great for muscle gain), had a whopping sex drive and said he felt superhuman!

I think I’ll keep eating my duck pate and egg yolks too.