This article was previously published on July 11, 2020, and has been updated with new information.
In the video above, Dr. Paul Saladino and science journalist and author Nina Techules — who is also the CEO of The Nutrition Coalition — review the evidence against chicken, and why saturated fat is a healthy food.
Teicholz’s book, “The Big Fat Surprise,” challenged conventional wisdom about dietary fats, especially saturated fats. Meanwhile, Saladino released the second edition of his book “The Carnivore Code” in August 2020.
Why traditional chicken may contribute to poor health
As Saladino pointed out, while red meat consumption is declining, thanks to the vilification of red meat and saturated fat, people are eating more and more chicken.
It’s always been considered the healthiest type of meat, mainly because it’s less fat than red meat, and the problem with traditional chicken is that it’s fed corn – genetically modified varieties that are raised with glyphosate.
Increasingly, we’ve found that trans fats and polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils are much worse for your health, and contribute more to chronic disease, than added sugar. And what happens when chickens are fed corn? Meat becomes rich in omega-6 linoleic acid, as corn is rich in this type of fat.1
As Saladino points out, higher consumption of chicken increases your consumption of vegetable oil. While you do need some omega-6, the amounts obtained from a standard American diet rich in processed foods are very high for health. A high intake of omega-6 also skews the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, which would ideally be close to 1 to 1.
As noted by Saladino and Teicholz, 60% of the US population has a chronic disease, and nearly 70% is overweight or obese, recent NHANES data2 It reveals that 87.8% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy, based on five criteria. This data is more than 4 years old now, so the number is clearly greater than 90% of the population today.
This means that nearly everyone is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and all the chronic diseases associated with insulin resistance, spanning from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. Just assuming that you are one of the 12.2% (4 year old characters) who are metabolically healthy would be a risky business.
Will the saturated fat myth soon be changed?
Part of the reason why chronic ill health is so widespread is this persistent notion that saturated animal fats are unhealthy, and should be replaced with industrial vegetable oils.3
On the upside, Teicholz reviews the 2020 paper4 In the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which already acknowledges that long-standing dietary guidelines for limiting saturated fats were incorrect. This is a rather astonishing confession, and a huge step forward. As stated in the summary:
“The recommendation to limit SFA intake has continued despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Recent meta-analyses of randomized trials and observational studies have found no beneficial effects of reducing SFA intake on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and overall mortality. Instead, he found protective effects against stroke.
Although saturated fatty acids increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol, in most individuals this is not due to increased levels of small, dense LDL particles, but rather larger LDL that is not strongly associated with CVD risk.
It is also clear that the health effects of foods cannot be predicted by their content in any nutrient group, without taking into account the general distribution of macronutrients.
Full-fat dairy products, unprocessed meats, eggs, and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The entirety of the available evidence does not support further reduction in intake of such foods.”
How did we go so wrong?
In the podcast, Saladino and Teicholz review the history of the demonization of saturated fat and cholesterol, starting with Ancel Keys’ flawed hypothesis.5 That saturated fat caused heart disease in 1960-1961, and how the introduction of the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 1980 (which recommended limiting saturated fat and cholesterol) coincided with a rapid rise in obesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease.
They also discuss the reasons for allowing this myth to persist, despite the scientific evidence against it. In short, the low-fat and low-cholesterol myths that Keys propagated in the 1960s led to drastic changes in the food and drug industries, and these giants are incredibly reluctant to let go of what had become a highly profitable business.
Recognizing that saturated animal fats are healthy, and that industrially processed vegetable oils and grains are not, would kill the processed food industry, as it relies on vegetable oils and grains. The healthy alternative is real food, and there are no major industrial profits to be reaped from it.
Vegetable oils undermine your health
Both Saladino and Knobbe are equally convinced that the massive excess of linoleic acid (the omega-6 polyunsaturated fat found in industrial vegetable oils) is a major metabolic driver of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. They review many studies6And7And8And9And10And11And12 Which shows the truth of this.
Historically, humans obtained an estimated 2% of polyunsaturated fats from their diet. Today, that percentage ranges between 10% and 20% – and conventional poultry is a hidden source of harmful trans fats, too.
Importantly, they also review the misconception that a high LDL level is a risk factor for heart disease, and that by lowering your LDL you reduce your risk of heart attack. Science simply does not support this, and the reason for this is that not all LDL particles are the same.
By reducing red meat and saturated fats and eating more vegetable oils and chicken for example (which again will count in the amount of vegetable fat or polyunsaturated fat), your LDL may decrease, but those LDLs will now be oxidized, and Nobody tests for oxidation. Saladino explains that oxidized LDL will in turn lead to insulin resistance and related problems, including heart disease.
On the other hand, eating saturated fats may increase LDL, but these LDL particles will be large and “soft” and do no harm to the arteries. Several studies have shown that a high level of LDL has nothing to do with heart disease. A high level of low-density lipoprotein does not increase the risk of heart disease per se, but oxidized low-density lipoprotein does increase the risk of heart disease.
Teicholz also makes another important point, which is that the saturated fat myth has been one of the most comprehensive and comprehensive hypotheses in the history of nutrition science, and it has failed miserably.
It also details how avoiding saturated animal fats can cause you to have nutritional deficiencies, because animal foods and fats are also rich in micronutrients. Industrially processed vegetable oils are not. As Teicholz noted, “Foods high in saturated fat are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.” These nutrients are highly bioavailable.
Meanwhile, the diet recommended by our Dietary Guidelines for Americans doesn’t actually meet the nutritional goals. As a result, the most disadvantaged among us — poor schoolchildren who depend on school meals, hospital patients and the elderly staying in long-term care facilities, for example — are disproportionately harmed, because they have few, if any, options. Healthy food options.
In addition to the saturated fats, vitamins and minerals they contain, red meat is also an important source of carnosine, a dipeptide (two amino acids together) made up of beta-alanine and histidine. Carnosine is only found in animal products. It serves as a scavenger or sink for reactive carbonyl groups – intermediates that go on to form advanced lipid oxidation end products.
If you can get that carbonyl before the proteins and fats attack, you can basically stop the vicious cycle that leads to catastrophic peroxidation. Diets that exclude animal products and meat will lower your carnosine level, and carnosine is a really important nutrient for reducing damage from oxidation products. It is also important for mitochondrial function.
Summary of why saturated fats are so critical
Towards the end of his podcast, about 1 hour and 44 minutes, Saladino gives a comprehensive summary of the entire discussion. Here is a quick review of his main points:
- The insulin sensitivity of fat cells affects the rest of the body. In other words, you want your fat cells to be insulin resistant, because this makes the rest of your body insulin sensitive (i.e. not insulin resistant). If your fat cells are sensitive to insulin, the rest of your body will be insulin resistant. The factor that determines the insulin sensitivity of adipocytes is the fat you eat.
- Linoleic acid “breaks down insulin sensitivity at the level of fat cells” — making them more sensitive to insulin — and since fat cells control insulin sensitivity for the rest of the body by releasing free fatty acids, you end up with insulin resistance.
- Conversely, when you eat saturated fat, because of the way beta is oxidized in mitochondria, fat cells become insulin resistant. As a result, they neither grow nor secrete free fatty acids. Thus, insulin sensitivity improves in the rest of the body, and insulin resistance decreases.
Vegetable oils are toxic
As discussed in an interview with Dr. Chris Knopp, the polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils, seed oils, and trans fats are mostly stored in fat cells (as opposed to using them as fuel), and have a half-life of 600 to 680 days.13
It is also incorporated into tissues, including the heart and brain. Who in their right mind would want a highly oxidizing oil that saturates their organs for years? One result of this may be poor memory and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, which is exactly what they found with canola oil.14 As stated in one 2017 study:15
“Our findings do not support a beneficial effect of chronic canola oil consumption on two important aspects of the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease which include memory impairment as well as synaptic integrity. While more studies are needed, our data do not justify the current trend toward replacing the olives with canola oil.
In the interview, Knobbe explained the harms of vegetable oils and reviewed, like Saladino and Teicholz, why they are a root cause behind nearly all chronic diseases.