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How And Why To Reduce Saturated Fat To Avoid Heart Disease And Combat Weight Gain

James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP

One of the things that stands out for me from my experience of delivering a countless number of seminars to corporations, special interest groups and to attendees at various consumer health and anti-aging shows, is the under appreciation that most people have for the damaging effects that saturated fat has on the development of heart and vascular diseases. So, I’d like to set the record straight.

After digestion, saturated fat enters the bloodstream and travels to the liver. In response, the liver turns on cholesterol production in order to make the very-low-density-lipoprotein (VLDL) that transports saturated fat through the circulation. Essentially, the saturated fat and cholesterol are put into a shuttle system within the liver, which is known as the VLDL. In turn, the VLDL is secreted into the bloodstream where the saturated fat is extracted from the VLDL and stored in our fat cells, making us fatter. Some of the saturated fat is extracted from the VLDL by our muscles and burned for energy during light and moderate activity, including aerobic exercise. As the saturated fat gets removed from the VLDL in this manner, the VLDL then becomes known as the LDL, which still contains cholesterol (about 50% of the LDL is cholesterol). The LDL particle is then extracted by all the cells of the body and the cholesterol is used to make the outer skin of our cells, and is the building block from which certain tissues make vitamin D, bile acids, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and other steroidal hormones. However, once the cells of the body have an adequate amount of cholesterol they close the door to further uptake of cholesterol from the bloodstream. In this case the extra cholesterol-rich LDL particles circulate through the bloodstream for 3-5 day, on average, and have a propensity to stick to the walls of the artery causing narrowing and obstruction to blood flow. As our arteries becoming more narrowed from the process day after day, it sets us up for a sudden death or non-fatal heart attack, stroke, kidney failure requiring dialysis, peripheral vascular disease that may lead to gangrene and amputation, and cerebrovascular disease contributing to dementia.

The evidence is overwhelming that we should consume no more than 10 gm per day of saturated fat, which is a key strategy to help to maintain a total fasting blood cholesterol below 150 mg per dl (3.9 mmol/L). According to Dr. William Castelli, no one possessing a cholesterol reading that is this low has ever had a heart attack since the inception of the Framingham Heart Study, which began in the 1950’s. The simple truth is that the more saturated fat you eat, the greater is the likelihood that your body will have higher circulating levels of LDL-cholesterol, which will clog your arteries and promote premature death from heart attack, stroke, and other vascular complications. Eating too much saturated fat (and deep fried foods) is also a key factor in weight gain, which carries its own associated risks for heart attack, diabetes and some cancers.

How To Succeed?
Limit your animal products to skinless chicken and turkey breast, Cornish hen, fish, non-fat or 1% milk and yogurt and cheeses that are less than 4% milk fat (there aren’t many). You should also avoid butter and items prepared with palm and coconut oil and minimize your intake foods containing hydrogenated and trans fats as well, as they act much like saturated fat. Don’t consume deep fried or heavy panfried foods and use olive oil in salads, and to sautee or brown foods. And remember, even if you have good genetics and your cholesterol is low, eating saturated fatty foods increase the stickiness of your blood cells, increasing risk of a thromboembolism or deep vein thrombosis, both of which can be life threatening.

In the end, limiting your intake of saturated fat is one the most vital lifestyle choices you can make each day to reduce your risk of premature disease and mortality.

Getting The Protein You Need Without Saturated Fat
When reducing your intake of saturated fat (as well as transfats and deep fried foods), it can be a challenge to still acquire the protein your body needs to support its muscle mass, bone mass, immune system and other functions served by dietary protein. As a rule, most adults require at least one gram of protein for every kilogram they weigh. For example, if you weigh 70 kg, then you need to consume at minimum of 70 grams of protein per day (to find your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2). The more physically active and athletic you are, the more protein you require. Thus, most active people require between 1.25 and 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. To help you achieve this goal by consuming protein foods that contain very little saturated fat and transfats, refer to the table below. Remember that there are also many protein shake mixes in the market place (e.g. whey protein, egg white protein, soy protein) that can help you obtain your protein requirements if you have difficulty reaching your desired protein intake from the foods listed on the following table alone. Most shake mixes provide 20-25 grams of protein per scoop, with virtually no fat and only a few grams (e.g. 5-6 grams of carbohydrate). Okay, you get the idea. Check out the table below and use these foods to acquire the protein your body needs each day. If you still can’t get to the desired number of grams your body needs, then consider adding a protein shake to your daily fare to make up the difference.

Low Fat Protein Foods And Grams Of Available Protein Per Serving Size

Food Portion Gms of Protein Food Portion Gms of Protein
Chicken 3 oz. 27 Oysters 6 medium 15.1
Turkey 3 slices: 3 ½ x2 ¾ x 1 ¼ 28 Egg white -one 7
Chicken ¼ broiled 22.4


Dairy Cottage Cheese 5-6 tbsp. 19.5
Most fish 3 oz. 20 1% Yogurt or 1% milk 8 oz. 8.5
Tuna ½ cup 15.9 Soy milk low-fat 8 oz. 4
Tuna 3 oz. 24 Soy cheese low-fat 1 oz. 7
Kidney Beans ½ cup 7.5 Rice ½ cup cooked 2.0
Corn ½ cup 2.5 Green beans ½ cup 1.0
Green peas ½ cup 4.0 Baked Potato 1 medium 3.0
White bread 1 slice 2.0 Whole Wheat bread 1 slice 3.0
Typical breakfast cereal 1 serving 2 – 4 Saltines 4 crackers 1.0
Tomatoes 1 medium 1.0 Banana 1 medium 1.1
Most fruits 1 serving 0.3 – 0.8 Bagel 1 medium 7
Pasta 1 cup cooked 7


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