March 27, 2014

For decades we have been told to limit all sources of saturated fats like eggs, red meat and butter. But a new comprehensive study has questioned whether we need to avoid these foods at all.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge and Medical Research Council, University of Bristol, University of Oxford, Imperial College London, Erasmus University Medical Centre and Harvard School of Public Health. The British Heart Foundation partly funded the study as well. It has been one of the largest ever studies to look at the specific heart risks of eating specific fats.

We already knew that eating eggs does not pose a risk. We now know that eating red meat and butter doesn’t increase risk either. It basically suggests that the advice we have been given by the world’s health authorities since the 1960’s has been wrong.

This advice was initially based upon a study by researcher Ancel Keys, an epidemiologist whose hypothesis was that saturated fat caused heart disease. Keys studied the diets of 16 countries and, although the study showed no relationship, he found that if he rejected (hid) the data from 10 countries, he could ‘prove’ his hypothesis based on the remaining six.

This led to a world-wide belief that “eating foods high in saturated fat caused heart disease”.  The latest study for the University of Cambridge suggests that Ancel Keys was wrong and led us all up the dietary garden path.

Did avoiding saturated fat make us fat?

Think about this…

  1. If we swallowed the simplistic maths that weight is all about calories in and out, then restricting fats would make sense as they supply 9 calories per gram versus 4 each for protein and carbohydrate. Weight loss is not just about eating less and moving more, but about whether your body’s hormones are in fat storage mode or fat releasing mode. Excess blood sugar, not dietary fat, stimulates fat storage hormones. Increased blood sugar is a result of excess carbohydrate from any source, including fruit, fruit juice, bread, pasta, cereal and potatoes. When we avoided fat, we ate more carbs which stimulated our fat-storage hormones.
  2. If we avoid eating eggs, butter and full cream milk for breakfast, we still want to eat something. For the last 40 years we’ve been having fruit juice, low-fat cereal and skim milk, as well as toast and spreads. For many it caused a carbohydrate catastrophe and we’ve had an obesity pandemic over the same 40 years. Think about when you last had a fat-free carb-laden breakfast. How long until you felt hungry again? 3 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour or 30 minutes! Compare that to when you have had eggs and bacon (try it with spinach and not toast). You probably lasted a lot longer until you felt hungry again.
  3. We tend to believe simple messages like “eating fat makes you fat”.

It’s not the butter that’s the problem but what we put the butter on. If we eat butter with bread, bread rolls, pasta, rice or potatoes we’re loading up on carbohydrates. If we put butter on our greens, it actually helps us absorb nutrients.

So fat is OK and excess carbs are not. What about protein?

Protein is essential, but we are not saying to eat a diet high in protein. The good news is that when we do eat protein foods, we tend to self-regulate to stop ourselves eating too much. Women are better at this than men. Here are some protein tips:

  1. As protein keeps you satisfied, have a little protein in every meal and snack.
  2. Eat the best quality protein sources that you can afford: Grass fed meat instead of grain fed meat, free range eggs instead of cage eggs, wild salmon rather than farmed salmon, gluten-free nitrate-free bacon and whey protein over soy protein.
  3. Don’t overcook your protein foods. Minimise cooking on an open flame.
  4. Don’t sandwich your protein with excess carbs: meat in a roll, meat in a sandwich, meat in a pastry pie, curry on a big bed of rice, meat  on pasta.
  5. Eat organ meats.
  6. Eat fish regularly.


You can now eat like your great great grand parents used to eat. They ate eggs, butter, meat and LOCAL fruits and vegetable IN SEASON. They ate organ meats and never wasted any part of the animal. They would have been lean, fit and healthy.