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The Skinny on Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are always a source of contention.  Especially since the American Heart Association denounced saturated fats last year.  Oh, man did the coconut oil lovers speak up loud!  I don’t feel that saturated fat is going to cause heart attacks.  Research tells us it won’t.  But there are other issues I have with saturated fat.  A big one being genetics.

I’ve talked about saturated fats and Alzheimer’s in the past.  You can view that blog here.  The blog discusses a genetic mutation called APOE4.  If someone is a carrier, they need to limit all fat intake.  But saturated fat is a big one.

Let’s talk other ways that saturated fat intake can affect the body.

Saturated Fat and Genetic Obesity

Some individuals are naturally lean and others are not.  You don’t need a genetics profile to know how you lean.  If your family is primarily lean, there’s a good chance you’re destined to remain lean.  If you take care of yourself, of course.

And if you look around and see that your family is on the larger side, there’s a good chance you will be too.  Being bigger isn’t a bad thing.  You can be “overweight” and be healthy!

But some will carry a gene coined the fat mass and obesity-associated gene or the FTO gene.  If you have genetic data, the rs is 9939609.  If you are heterozygous (T;A) or homozygous (A;A), you carry the genetic risk for obesity.  If you don’t know what heterozygous or homozygous is, click here for a quick refresher.

For these individuals, saturated fat can turn on a dormant gene.  Or, increase weight if the gene is already active.  The greater the saturated fat intake, the greater the waist circumference.

So, reducing saturated fat intake through the diet is key to keeping the gene dormant and weight low for carriers.

Now, let’s look at saturated fat and cholesterol.

Saturated Fat and LDLs

Cholesterol is always a topic of discussion.  If it’s too high, statins are discussed.  I don’t think anyone talks about cholesterol being too low, but it can be.  Here’s an in-depth blog on cholesterol.

What people don’t think about when it comes to cholesterol is saturated fat.  Just a quick recap on cholesterols:

LDL – low-density lipoproteins (we want this low)

HDL – high-density lipoprotein (we want this high)

Saturated fat can raise your LDLs.  Remember, we’re trying to keep LDLs low.  Why?  Because LDLs are inflammatory in the body.

Any and all saturated fats can raise LDLs…not just animal fat.  Yes…even high-saturated fat plant-oils can increase LDL production in the body.

A big contributor of saturated fat in a plant-based diet is coconut oil and palm oil.  I don’t recommend consuming palm oil due to environmental concerns.  But both have a high saturated fat content.  And saturated fat raises your bad cholesterol.

What can you do?  Keep saturated fat intake low.

Saturated Fat and the Ketogenic Diet

Since we’re talking saturated fats, it’s only fitting I mention the ketogenic diet.  Why?  Because I don’t like it!  Just kidding…sort of.

I’ve written about the downsides of the keto diet in the past.  You can check that out here.  I’m not shy in telling people I’m not a fan.  It can negatively impact your cholesterol levels and your thyroid.  Yes…it works for some.  But when we add genetics into the mix, the keto diet is the LEAST friendly diet for the majority of the population.  Because genes.

Why?  Because it’s high in saturated fat.  The diet promotes a large intake of fats.  These fats come from red meat and whole-fat dairies like milk, cheese, and butter.

Aside from the thyroid and cholesterol level concerns, what about obesity genes and Alzheimer’s?  If someone is an APOE4 carrier and they go on a keto diet, they’re running the risk of turning on their Alzheimer’s gene.

What is someone carries the obesity genes?  Maybe those genes are already active and contributing to weight gain?  And they go on a ketogenic diet to lose weight?  It’ll likely make matters worse.

Individualized nutrition people 😆

Reducing Saturated Fats in the Diet

For overall health, limiting saturated fat intake to 15% of your daily calories would be a great start!  What’s that look like?

2,000 cal/day = 33 g/day

1,500 cal/day = 25 g/day

Here are some common foods and their saturated fat content:

¼ cup heavy cream = 14g

1 slice of ham = 13g

1 tbsp coconut oil = 12g

3 oz ground beef = 9.6g

3 oz lamb = 8g

1 tbsp palm oil = 7g

1 tbsp butter = 7g

1 tbsp beef tallow = 6g

1 slice cheddar cheese = 6g

1 cup milk (Whole) = 4.6g

In the comments, tell me one food you consume that’s high in saturated fat.




Phillips, C, Kesse-Guyot, E, McManus, R, Hercberg, S, Lairon, D, Planells, R, Roche H. (2012). High Dietary Saturated Fat Intake Accentuates Obesity Risk Associated with the Fat Mass and Obesity–Associated Gene in Adults, The Journal of Nutrition, 142(5), 824–31.

Soliman G. A. (2018). Dietary Cholesterol and the Lack of Evidence in Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients10(6), 780. doi:10.3390/nu10060780

Sun, Y, Neelakantan, N, Wu, Y, Lote-Oke, R, Pan, A, & Van Dam, R. (2015) Palm Oil Consumption Increases LDL Cholesterol Compared with Vegetable Oils Low in Saturated Fat in a Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. The Journal of Nutrition, 145(7), 1549-58.

Tall, A. R., & Yvan-Charvet, L. (2015). Cholesterol, inflammation and innate immunity. Nature reviews. Immunology15(2), 104-16.

Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS

I'm Sunny! I'm a board-certified clinical nutritionist with an MS in Clinical Nutrition. I help individuals reduce fatigue, eliminate bloat, and lose weight by healing the digestive tract and balancing hormones. I provide individual and group nutrition consultations nationwide. Grab my metabolism boosting guide!

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