This article was previously published on July 11, 2020 and has been updated with new information.
In the video podcast above, Dr. Paul Saladino and science journalist and author Nina Teicholz – who is also the CEO of The Nutrition Coalition – review the evidence against chicken and why saturated fats really qualify as healthy foods.
Teicholz’s book, “The Big Fat Surprise,” challenged conventional wisdom about dietary fats, especially saturated fats. Saladino, meanwhile, published the second edition of his book “The Carnivore Code” in August 2020.
Why Conventional Chicken Can Contribute To Poor Health
As Saladino noted, while red meat consumption is declining, thanks to the slander of red meat and saturated fats, people are eating more and more chicken.
It has long been considered a healthier type of meat, primarily because it is leaner than red meat, the problem with conventional chicken is that it feeds on corn – typically GMO varieties grown with glyphosate.
We are increasingly discovering that trans fats and polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils are far worse for your health and contribute more to chronic diseases than added sugar. And what happens when chicken is fed corn? Meat becomes rich in omega-6 linoleic acid, because corn has a lot of this type of fat.1
As Saladino points out, high consumption of chicken actually increases the consumption of vegetable oil. Although you need a little omega-6, the amounts obtained from the standard American diet with a high proportion of processed foods are too great for health. High omega-6 intake also distorts your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, which would ideally be close to 1 to 1.
As noted by Saladino and Teicholz, 60% of the U.S. population has chronic diseases, nearly 70% are overweight or obese, and recent NHANES data2 find that 87.8% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy, based on five parameters. These figures are now more than 4 years old, so the figure is clearly higher than 90% of today’s population.
This means that almost everyone is at risk for type 2 diabetes and all chronic diseases associated with insulin resistance, ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. Assuming you are one of the 12.2% (of 4-year-olds) who are metabolically healthy, it would be a risky business.
Will the myth of saturated fats soon be dispelled?
Part of the reason why chronic diseases are so prevalent is this persistent idea that saturated animal fats are unhealthy and should be replaced with industrial vegetable oils.3
On the other hand, Teicholz is reviewing the 2020 paper4 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which actually acknowledges that long-standing nutritional guidelines for limiting saturated fats have been inaccurate. This is a pretty stunning recognition and a big step forward. As stated in the summary:
“The recommendation to limit saturated fatty acid intake (SFA) in the diet has remained despite growing evidence to the contrary. Recent meta-analyzes of randomized trials and observational studies have found no beneficial effects of reducing saturated fatty acid intake (SFA) on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and overall mortality, and instead found protective effects against stroke.
Although SFAs increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, in most individuals this is not due to increased levels of small, dense LDL particles, but due to higher LDLs that are much less associated with CVD risk.
It is also obvious that the health effects of food cannot be predicted according to their content in any group of nutrients, without considering the overall distribution of macronutrients.
Whole milk products, unprocessed meat, eggs and dark chocolate foods are rich in SFA with a complex matrix that is not associated with an increased risk of CVD. The overall evidence available does not support further restrictions on the intake of such foods. “
How did we make such a mistake?
In the podcast, Saladino and Teicholz review the history of demonizing saturated fats and cholesterol, starting with Ancel Keys ’misconception5 that saturated fats cause heart disease 1960-1961. and how the introduction of the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 1980 (which recommended limiting saturated fats and cholesterol) coincided with a rapid rise in obesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease.
They also discuss the reasons why this myth is allowed to survive, despite scientific evidence against it. In short, the low-fat, low-cholesterol myths published by Keys in the 1960s quickly led to dramatic changes in the food and drug industry, and these savages are incredibly reluctant to give up what has become a very profitable business.
Recognizing that saturated animal fats are healthy, and processed industrial vegetable oils and grains are not, would decimate the processed food industry because it relies on vegetable oils and grains. A healthy alternative is real food, and it is not possible to make a big profit in the industry.
Vegetable oils undermine your health
Saladino and Knobbe are equally convinced that a huge increase in linoleic acid (omega-6 polyunsaturated fats found in industrial vegetable oils) is a key metabolic driver of obesity, heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. They are reviewing several studies6,7,8,9,10,11,12 showing the truth of this.
Historically, people have been getting about 2% of polyunsaturated fats from their diet. Today, that percentage is between 10% and 20% – and conventional poultry is also a hidden source of harmful polyunsaturated fats.
It is important that they also question the misconception that high LDL is a risk factor for heart disease, and that lowering LDL reduces the risk of heart attack. Science simply does not confirm 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 oil and chicken, for example (which will again count towards your intake of vegetable oil or polyunsaturated fats), your LDL may be reduced, but these LDLs will now oxidize and no one will tests oxidation. Oxidized LDL, Saladino explains, will in turn trigger insulin resistance and related problems, including heart disease.
Consuming saturated fats, on the other hand, can increase your LDL, but these LDL particles will be large and “fluffy” and will not cause any arterial damage. Many studies have shown that high LDL has nothing to do with heart disease. High LDL does not increase the risk of heart disease per se, but oxidized LDL increases it.
Teicholz also points out another important point, because the myth of saturated fats was one of the most thorough and comprehensive hypotheses in the history of nutrition science, and that it has failed miserably.
She also describes in detail how avoiding saturated animal fats causes you to end up with nutritional deficiencies, as animal foods and fats are also rich in micronutrients. Industrially processed vegetable oils are not. As Teicholz noted, “saturated fat foods are the foods that have the most nutrients on the planet.” These nutrients are also very bioavailable.
Meanwhile, the diet recommended by our Nutrition Guidelines for Americans does not actually meet dietary goals. As a result, the most vulnerable among us – impoverished school children who rely on school meals, hospital patients and the elderly in long-term care facilities, for example – are disproportionately affected because they have few or no opportunities for healthier food choices.
Benefits of carnosine
In addition to the saturated fats and vitamins and minerals it contains, red meat is also an important source of carnosine, a dipeptide (two amino acids together) consisting of beta-alanine and histidine. Carnosine is found only in animal products. It serves as a scavenger or drain for reactive carbonyl groups – mediators that further form advanced end products of lipoxidation.
If you can grab these carbonyls before they attack proteins and fats, you can essentially stop the vicious circle that results in catastrophic peroxidation. A diet that excludes animal products and meat will lower your carnosine levels, and carnosine is indeed an important nutrient for limiting damage from oxidation products. It is also important for mitochondrial function.
Summary of why saturated fats are so crucial
Towards the end of his podcast, about an hour and 44 minutes, Saladino offers a comprehensive summary of the entire discussion. Here is a brief overview of its key points:
- The insulin sensitivity of your fat cells is inverse to the rest of your body. In other words, you want your fat cells to be insulin resistant because it makes the rest of your body sensitive to insulin (i.e. not insulin resistant). If your fat cells are insulin sensitive, the rest of your body will be insulin resistant. The factors that determine the insulin sensitivity of your adipocytes are the fats you eat.
- Linoleic acid “breaks down insulin sensitivity at the level of your fat cells” – making them more sensitive to insulin – and because your fat cells control the insulin sensitivity of the rest of your body by releasing free fatty acids, you will eventually gain insulin resistance.
- On the other hand, when you eat saturated fats, due to the way beta-oxidizes in your mitochondria, your fat cells become resistant to insulin. Therefore, they do not grow and do not release free fatty acids. This improves insulin sensitivity in the rest of your body and decreases insulin resistance.
Vegetable oils are poisonous
As stated in an interview with Dr. Chris Knobbe, polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils, seed oils and trans fats are mostly stored in your fat cells (as opposed to being used for fuel) and have a half-life of 600 to 680 days.13
They are also incorporated into tissues, including your heart and brain. Who in their right mind would want an oxidizable oil to saturate their organs for years? One result of this could be memory impairment and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, which is exactly what they discovered with canola oil.14 As published in a 2017 study:15
“Our findings do not support the beneficial effect of chronic rapeseed oil consumption on two important aspects of AD pathophysiology involving memory impairment as well as synaptic integrity. Although more studies are needed, our data do not justify the current trend toward replacing olive oil with canola oil.”
In an interview, Knobbe explained the harm of vegetable oils and, like Saladin and Teicholz, commented on why they are the root cause of almost all chronic diseases.