I grew up with Al Stewart singing "Year of the Cat," but if 2016 had a nutrition song it would have been the "Year of the Fat." We can now buy "fat water," a cardiologist promoted full-fat dairy in the New York Times, public television was flooded with expert recommendations to get thin with fat, and a coffee shop opened in Santa Monica serving coffee blended with Irish butter and oils derived from coconuts. By most accounts it would appear that fat has won over the health and nutrition world. But has it really?
Responsible academic departments of nutrition actually question the accuracy of many of the claims about fat. And new research, combined with older findings, provide interesting insight into what happens to the human body—your body—with even just one fatty meal. So consider the following before becoming infatuated with the most current wellness trend.
1. Insulin resistance
Researchers in Germany recently studied 14 healthy subjects after receiving a meal of palm oil—a tropical oil similar to coconut oil and almost as high in saturated fat. A single meal high in saturated fat reduced insulin sensitivity, which drove fatty lipids to be stored in the liver. The authors concluded that dietary fat ingestion may contribute to the epidemic of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
2. Shortened telomeres
Telomeres are the tips of our chromosomes, and their length may be a marker of longevity—meaning the longer they are the better. In a study of nearly 2,000 Finnish men and women, those consuming the most butter had the shortest telomeres, while those eating the most vegetables had the longest telomeres.
3. Bacterial toxin release
Bacteria contain dangerous endotoxins that, when released in the blood stream, may contribute to obesity and other diseases. In a study of healthy volunteers, a single meal high in saturated fat released endotoxins while meals with vegetables and marine oils did not cause this release.
4. Blood clotting
Blood clotting is an important factor in heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism. After fatty meals rich in saturated fat, measures of the tendency to clot increased in a study of healthy volunteers. In another study of the impact of different types of fatty meals on the body, measures of blood clotting were activated.
5. Diabetic health
For people with type 2 diabetes, studies have shown that measurements of arterial health dropped significantly with consumption of saturated fat.
6. Heart attacks
The potential for a fatty meal to trigger heart attacks has been discussed frequently in medical literature. In a classic study measuring the impact of fat ingestion on patients with serious heart disease, a single meal rich in butter fat resulted in EKG changes and angina chest pain in nearly half of the patients.
7. Reduced testosterone
A group of healthy men were fed a meal high in saturated fat, blood samples were taken, and results showed that after the meal, total and free testosterone levels dropped significantly.
8. Artery health.
In healthy volunteers studied with a single high-fat meal, measures of arterial health and function drop dramatically for four hours. This was not seen after a low-fat meal.
My passion is preventing, and when necessary, unclogging blocked arteries in the heart, brain, and sexual organs using a natural approach and lifestyle changes. And although the enthusiasm for the Year of the Fat has swept across the United States and beyond, the scientific data suggests caution—even for a single fatty meal rich in butter, eggs, coconut or palm oil, full-fat cheeses and milk, and marbled and processed meats.
I don't know of any studies that demonstrate an improvement in health by adding butter, eggs, and other high-saturated-fat foods into our diets, which are already congested with excess salt, oils, and sugar. The wisdom of eating unprocessed foods that are mainly (or completely) plant-based remains the wisest path to health.