© naotakem (Flickr) A porterhouse steak has 16 grams of saturated fat. Should you care?
Recently the Harvard School of Public Health issued its criticism of the new USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, complaining that among other things, the new guidelines were too soft on red meat. It points out that a porterhouse steak has 44 grams of fat, 16 of which are saturated fats, and that should mean eating red meat sparingly.

Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, disagrees and faults the guidelines for continuing to demonize saturated fats based on unsound science.

"The proposed 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines perpetuate the mistakes of previous guidelines in demonizing saturated fats and animal foods rich in saturated fatty acids such as egg yolks, butter, whole milk, cheese, fatty meats like bacon and animal fats for cooking. The current obesity epidemic emerged as vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates replaced these healthy, nutrient-dense traditional fats. Animal fats supply many essential nutrients that are difficult to obtain from other sources," explained Ms. Morell.

Speaking at a press conference this month in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Healthy Nation Coalition and the Weston A. Price Foundation, Ms. Morell said that for the past 60 or 70 years, saturated fats have been blamed for clogging arteries, and for causing heart disease, diabetes and even multiple sclerosis. Ms. Morell says that none of these accusations is based on sound science. On the other hand, she points out the critical roles that saturated fats play in the body.

In particular, she cites the benefits of saturated fats:
  • Make up 50% of cell membranes.
  • Help the body put calcium in the bones.
  • Lower Lp(a), a marker for heart disease.
  • Are the preferred food for the heart.
  • Protect the liver from alcohol and other poisons.
  • Are required for lung and kidney function.
  • Enhance the immune system.
  • Work together with essential fatty acids.
  • Support the body's detoxification mechanisms
Ms. Morell points out the rationale for promoting a low-fat diet is the belief that fat makes us fat. She cites, however, the famous Framingham Heart Study which demonstrated that those eating more saturated fat, more cholesterol and more calories actually had lower blood serum cholesterol levels, weighed less and were more physically active.

In addition, a 1965 British heart study showed that heart attack survivors eating a saturated fat diet lived longer than those eating a diet of polyunsaturated or mono-unsaturated vegetable oils. Finally, she cites a study of European countries which found that countries in which the population ate a diet high in saturated fats had lower rates of heart disease and those eating a low saturated fat diet had higher rates of heart disease.

The government and nutrition experts often lump saturated fats in with trans fats. Even worse, the fear of saturated fats have led many to replace the butter in their diets with trans fat laden margarines. Since 1926, Ms. Morell points out, use of butter in the U.S. has plummeted and at the same time rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease have skyrocketed.

How can saturated fat be convicted on evidence like that?