O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

"To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church" by Robert Burns
jamon iberico
© CC BY-SA 3.0"Iberian ham", eaten since time immemorial without any ill-effects.
Over the last few years an increasing number of publications have absolved saturated fat from being implicated in cardiovascular disease. I've lost count of how many studies I've read on this subject, but perhaps the most straightforward recent paper was written by Gerhard Spiteller of the University of Bayreuth (Germany) and Mohammad Afzal of the Biological Sciences department of Kuwait University.

Spiteller has a PhD in organic chemistry, a basic science, knowledge of which is a fundamental prerequisite for entering any medical school. In a most fascinating study, Spiteller shows why a basic understanding of organic chemistry explains why the Lipid Hypothesis - where a high intake of saturated fat and elevated LDL ("bad") cholesterol are the most important causes of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease - doesn't make sense from a chemical point of view. In other words, if doctors and nutritionists would only apply their basic training in organic chemistry, they would be embarrassed to support the cholesterol myth.

The title of the study says it all, "The Action of Peroxyl Radicals, Powerful Deleterious Reagents, Explains Why Neither Cholesterol Nor Saturated Fatty Acids Cause Atherogenesis and Age-Related Diseases" (Spiteller & Afzal, 2014). The authors explain in the paper how polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) get oxidized to produce deleterious free radicals that are very inflammatory. In case you are wondering, PUFAs are the types of unstable fats found in vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, flax cottonseed, canola, peanut and sesame oil. When these radicals oxidize cholesterol, there is an apparent reduction of cholesterol levels in the body. This has been exploited by the food industry and the cholesterol myth scientists to justify the consumption of vegetable oils rich in PUFAs to lower cholesterol levels.

They also explain that saturated fat is the least vulnerable to oxidation due to its stable properties. As the authors say,
Moreover, saturated fatty acids belong to the few organic compounds that, under physiological conditions (temperature), can withstand attack by radicals. (Ibid., p. 11)
They also discuss how an increased intake of saturated fats by women with known medical history of coronary heart disease is associated with a lower progression of coronary atherosclerosis, while polyunsaturated fat and carbohydrate intake is associated with a higher progression of the disease. They highlight the fact that PUFAS are not anti-atherogenic but the source of reactive radicals. They point out that officials who have established guidelines for a healthy lifestyle have largely ignored the fact that PUFAs are altered by homogenization and particularly their cholesterol esters are oxidized to toxic cholesterol oxides leading to atherogenesis.

In fact, they say that a major risk factor for atherogenesis seems to be the consumption of overheated fats, particularly in conjunction with increasing age, as shown by an enormous increase in lipid peroxidation markers in the serum of older volunteers compared with younger volunteers. The authors also point out that ischemic heart disease and diabetes were rare diseases in Greenlanders who adopted their ancestral diet and lived on a diet consisting mainly of meat-derived food from seals and fish. Finally, the authors establish that saturated fatty acids withstand oxidative degradation and therefore cannot induce atherogenesis. They conclude that this warrants a correction of health guidelines. I encourage anyone having even the remote inclination towards basic sciences to review Spiteller's research. At least 130 of his studies are indexed in the medical database PubMed.

In short, eating vegetable oils will likely oxidize and inflame your body including your arteries. The older you are, the more inflammatory these PUFAs can be. Never mind that you'll have lower cholesterol levels; it will be inflammatory and it will inflame and age your body and organs including the brain. Those who have higher cholesterol levels derived from eating saturated fats are less inflamed. Not only does the historical record support these conclusions, experience and organic chemistry 101 tells us that it cannot be otherwise. Grandma was right, you should eat your fatty bone broth. Saturated fat is good for you, and vegetable oils, in particular heated oils, are likely a significant contributor to the depositing of fatty substances of plaque on the inner lining of arterial walls, i.e. atherosclerosis.

Let's admit it, the current dietary guidelines and the obsession of lowering cholesterol levels betrays an ignorance in organic chemistry among conventional doctors, nutritionists and health care providers that is shameful. What good are all those years in med school if they produce health professionals who cannot make use of their basic training, think critically, and put the interests of their patients above those of the pharmaceutical corporations.

Speaking of conflicts of interests

Last month the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a new Presidential Advisory in the prestigious journal Circulation with the following conclusions:
"We conclude strongly that lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of CVD [cardiovascular disease]." (Sacks et al., 2017)
The authors of this Presidential Advisory have nutrition related conflicts of interests. However, it is Nina Teicholz, investigative journalist and author of the International bestseller The Big Fat Surprise, who brings to our attention the elephant in the room:

Let's have a closer look at the link she provides:
Bayer and LibertyLink Soybeans Help Protect Hearts in America's Heartland

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. [March 2, 2017] -In an effort to support heart health and improve the wellness of rural Americans nationwide, Bayer is proud to announce its support of the American Heart Association (AHA). The effort, which runs through 2017, supports the AHA's Healthy for Good™ movement to inspire all Americans to live healthier lives and create lasting change by taking small, simple steps today to create a difference for generations to come.

For each bag of LibertyLink® soybean seed sold for the 2017 season, Bayer will contribute 5 cents to the AHA's Healthy for Good movement for a total maximum donation of $500,000. In addition to monetary donations to support the cause, Bayer will help raise heart health awareness across America through educational activities targeted to growers in rural communities.
Oh, how noble of them! As it happens, on September 2016, Bayer and Monsanto announced the signing of a definitive agreement under which Bayer will acquire Monsanto. If you have not heard about Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans, have a look at these articles: As Nina Teicholz documents, a low cholesterol diet was first officially recommended to the public by the American Heart Association in 1961, a time when only 1 in 7 adult Americans were obese. Today, more than 1 in 3 adult Americans are obese. During the 50 years that obesity (and diabetes) have skyrocketed, the major shift in the American diet was from fats to carbohydrates and from saturated fats to vegetable oils.

Now we have BigAgra (Monsanto) joining forces with BigPharma (Bayer) giving money to the American Heart Association under the noble pretense that vegetable oil is good for you. But we know better.

I can fully empathize with Nina Teicholz's frustration when she says,
"To me, the AHA advisory released in June was mystifying. How could its scientists examine the same studies as I had, yet double down on an anti-saturated fat position? With a cardiologist, I went through the nuts and bolts of the AHA paper, and came to this conclusion: It was likely driven less by sound science than by longstanding bias, commercial interests and the AHA's need to reaffirm nearly 70 years of its "heart healthy" advice."
We need to be aware of the cognitive biases and conflicts of interest that make us blind to the obvious facts. As Dr. John Ioannidis, director of Stanford University's Prevention Research Center, states:
"People are being hurt and even dying" because of false medical claims, not quackery, but errors in medical research" (Begley, 2011, para. 3)

Begley, S. (2011, January 24). Why almost everything you hear about medicine is wrong. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/why-almost-everything-you-hear-about-medicine-wrong-66947

Sacks, F. M., Lichtenstein, A. H., Wu, J. H., Appel, L. J., Creager, M. A., Kris-Etherton, P. M., . . . Horn, L. V. (2017). Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 136(3). doi:10.1161/cir.0000000000000510

Spiteller, G., & Afzal, M. (2014). The action of peroxyl radicals, powerful deleterious reagents, explains why neither cholesterol nor saturated fatty acids cause atherogenesis and age-related diseases. Chemistry - A European Journal, 20(46), 14928-14945. doi:10.1002/chem.201404383

Further reading