Unsaturated Fat is Good, Saturated Fat is Bad?

Health Blog Nutrition

In high school, we were taught saturated fat is bad, mono-unsaturated fat is better, and polyunsaturated fat is the best for the heart.  Based on my experience when teaching high school biology under the Cambridge curriculum last year, this was still the case.  All the food shown on the featured image is considered unhealthy mainly because of their high saturated fat content.  How true is this?  After all, we were once taught that margarine is healthier than butter, fructose is healthier than sugar, non-dairy creamer is better than milk, and artificial sweeteners are good for you.  All of this was later proven to be false.

Every 100 gr of soybean oil contains 16 gr of saturated fat, 23 gr of mono-unsaturated fat, and 58 gr of polyunsaturated fat. Every 100 gr of coconut oil on the other hand contains a whooping 87 gr of saturated fat, 6 gr of mono-unsaturated fat, and a miniscule 1.8 gr of polyunsaturated fat. Hence if your high school biology text book is correct, then soybean oil is health food and coconut oil is junk food, right?

The Research

Researchers from University of California, Riverside recently conducted an experiment that split mice into four different groups. The first group was fed with only coconut oil (CO), the second group was fed a mix of coconut oil and soybean oil (CO-SO), the third group was fed with fructose and coconut oil (F-CO) and the last group was fed with a mix of fructose, coconut oil and soybean oil (F-CO-SO).  The total diet percentage of soybean oil and fructose was made to mimic the modern American diet.  The purpose of this mix is to investigate the effect of saturated vs unsaturated along with fructose on health.  The total fat consumption is 40% which is is quite large but not unnatural unlike what some researchers in Australia did by forcing rats to consume 80% fat.

The rats are monitored for significant increases in weight gain, adiposity, diabetes, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance among other things to see the effects of different diet mix on health.

The Result

The second group of mice (CO-SO) experienced weight gain, increased fat tissue, diabetes, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance compared to the first group of mice (CO). They also experienced fatty livers with hepatocyte ballooning and very large lipid droplets as well as shorter colonic crypt length.  The third group of mice (F-CO) did not experience as much obesity or diabetes as the second group, but experienced rectal prolapse and very fatty livers. Genetic markers for diabetes, obesity, inflammation and cancer all increased activity on the second group (SO-CO).  The healthiest group is the first (CO) while the worst off is the last group (F-SO-CO).

Conclusion

1. The Cake is a Lie

Basically all those theories taught at school was based on cherry picking data done to support certain industry agenda.  If the data doesn’t suit them, they would simply throw away the “bad” data.  In the past, reproducibility of a published research was simply not important, allowing these bad researchers to thrive.  There’s also the case like the Harvard researchers that was bribed by the sugar industry to promote more carbohydrate consumption.  Just because something is high in saturated fats, it doesn’t mean that it’s not healthy.  I’m talking about traditional foods such as eggs and cheese that has been misaligned for decades over their saturated fat content.  Of course I personally think cakes are still junk food due to their high content of highly refined carbohydrate.

2. This Is Strictly for Soybean and Coconut Oil

The scope of this research compares soybean oil and coconut oil (regular type, not extra organic virgin harvested from the mouth of an active volcano). It does not encourage you to consume 40% of your diet from oil as there is no study comparison on humans (not rats) with differing level of oil consumptions. It also does not say that saturated fat is better than unsaturated fat. 100 gr of olive oil contains 14 gr of saturated fat, 73 gr of monounsaturated fat 11 gr of polyunsaturated fat, and is still considered as health food despite its high smoke point (unsuitable for frying).  Simply said, food cannot be classified as healthy or not due only to their saturated fat content.

3. Natural Foods Are Better

The problem with highly refined foods is that it separates ingredients that are naturally meant to be consumed together. Just like how fruits are healthy but fruit juice are not.  Soybean oil can only be extracted from an industrial chemical process while coconut oil has been traditionally used societies across South and Southeast Asia for generations.  This is why the main ingredients of Magnus Breakfast Mix are whey protein that is a natural by-product of cheese processing and whole grain rolled oats.

 

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