Let’s revisit a conversation I had with Dr. Jonny Bowden. Dr. Bowden is a board-certified nutritionist and author of 14 books, including The Great Cholesterol Myth,_ co-authored with cardiologist Stephen Sinatra.I was interested to know if Dr. Bowden supports diets unlimited in saturated fat. Dr. Bowden provided key clarification in his answer.Dr. Bowden believehat the problem isn’t with saturated of fat, but with its toxicity. If you consume fat from feedlot-raised animals, they have received hormones, antibodies, steroids and pesticides. All of this is stored in their fat, which you then consume. This is not healthy fat and is in no way recommended.I want to expand on this issue from another angle to ensure you understand the point Dr. Bowden is making. It is well known that inflammation promotes degenerative diseases – Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, etc. Inflammation is tied to the relationship between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 is inflammatory and omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. You cannot just eliminate all omega 6 fatty acids from your diet; your body needs both. You need an appropriate balance between omega-3 and omega-6. The current ratio, according to published research in the World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics_, Vol 100, is 16:1 for most Americans. The desired, healthy ratio is between 1:1 and 4:1.
Dr. Bowden states that this poor balance is due to the removal of saturated fats from our diets. Saturated fat is neutral. It’s neither inflammatory, nor anti-inflammatory, as long as it is not toxic. A very small percentage of the US population consumes grass-fed beef free of toxins. If you consume the standard feedlot-raised beef, then you should restrict your intake. The saturated fat itself may not lead to heart disease, but the toxins contained in that saturated fat are a big negative for your overall health.
Butter: "Butter was never bad to begin with It was banished from our tables because of our ill-advised fear of saturated fats. Instead, we replaced it with something much worse."
Grass-fed beef: "Grass-fed beef contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and less inflammatory omega-6s. It’s also free of hormones, a very big plus, indeed." I want to emphasize GRASS-FED beef - this is not what you typically find in your grocery store.
Tropical oils: "When we reduced our intake of saturated fat, and replaced it with vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, etc.), the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in our diets became wildly out of balance. Omega-6s are the building blocks of inflammatory chemicals in our bodies, and we are consuming 6-25 times more of them than we are the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. We should substitute Malaysian palm fruit oil, which is environmentally sustainable, for some of that inflammatory omega-6 to help right the balance. Malaysian palm fruit oil won’t cause inflammation. It also won’t break down into toxic substances when you cook with it."
Picture the oils used frequently in restaurants right now. The oil sits in vats where it is heated to high temperatures and then reheated and reheated again, multiple times before it is swapped out for fresh oil. Many oils are not designed to work well under high temperatures, let alone sustain multiple cycles of reheating. This is creating all kinds of carcinogens per Dr. Bowden. Common vegetable oils frequently used do not stand up to frying like coconut, palm oil, and even real lard.
Dr. Bowden also is not a supporter of canola oil, which is frequently recommended as a heart-healthy option along with olive oil. He states canola oil is an example of the triumph of marketing over science. In order to produce canola oil, it has to be degummed and deodorized under high temperatures with solvents. It’s a poor oil choice, with the exception of cold-pressed canola oil from organic sources which could be used as a salad dressing.
Egg yolks: "What a relief that you don’t have to suffer through one more tasteless egg white omelet! The advice to eat egg white omelets is way past its expiration date!"
Dark meat poultry: "The USDA data shows that there are mere milligrams of difference in the nutritional content of white and dark meat. Just be cautious of the skin, which is calorically dense."
Cheese and nuts: "One ounce a day is associated with lower body mass index, so these are absolutely healthy. But they are also easy to overeat and contribute to weight gain, so just be careful about the amount you consume."
When including saturated fat in your diet, keep in mind that saturated fat behaves very differently in the body depending on the foods with which it is consumed. It is not desirable to consume a diet of moderate amounts of saturated fat AND a high level of carbohydrates. Dr. Bowden states there is a reaction between the two resulting in AGES (advanced glycation end products). This leads to exactly what the acronym indicates - aging.
Which has Dr. Bowden found to be more metabolically damaging, saturated fat or added dietary sugar?
For Dr. Bowden, it’s not even close. Sugar is more metabolically damaging without question. He even pointed out how Alzheimer’s disease is now referred to as "type III diabetes," which I hadn’t heard of previously. When the body is overwhelmed with sugar, it becomes insulin resistant. The brain needs insulin to function. If you are insulin resistant, you slide into cognitive decline. I know this is not necessarily connected to our main focus of heart disease, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
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Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.