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by Sol Orwell posted in Food & Nutrition, Guest Blogs, Health
For anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with all the posts here at Burn the Fat Blog, the team at Examine.com wrote our “most liked’ post ever a few months ago, in which they talked about the actual science behind 10 popular fat burners. They did a great job taking complex science and making it accessible to you, and so for an encore, I asked them to give us the straight skinny on saturated fats. Here’s what they have to say:
Dietary fats (aka fats) are a large group of similar-molecules, and are one of the three major macronutrients (carbs and proteins being the other two). Just like proteins are made up of amino acids, fats are made up of fatty acids. Fatty acids are characterized with long chains of carbon molecules string together; when three of them come together, you get a triglyceride (you may have heard of that word before).
We’re about to make sense of a lot of fat terms you may have heard of, so read through this carefully.
Just like carbs and proteins can differ, so too can fats and their fatty acids. You have the much loved fish oil fatty acids – EPA and DHA. You have the overrated fat-burning fatty acid – CLA. You have olive oil and its magical Mediterranean oleic acid. You even have fatty acids that can literally give you heart lesions (erucic acid, which was genetically out of rapeseed oil). There is of course the universally reviled trans fat. Heck, even some of the up and coming supplements have fatty acids as their primary ingredient (such as
This is called an epidemiological survey. This is where we get trans fats from. Saturated fats have no double bounds. medium. When people in that group are found to have some cardiovascular issue. For unsaturated fats only. aka PUFAs). or long). if you replace carbs with fats and note a change. Because there are so many variations. we need a way of classifying them. So even when we talk about just saturated fats. we try to analyze the data to figure out what could have caused the issue. For example. and they .royal jelly). the length of the carbon chain can vary. There are 10 saturated fatty acids common in our diet. was it due to the introduction of fats. and thus it’s not easy to just “talk” about saturated fats – we are talking about different molecules that can have different effects! It’s also hard to test out the effects. whereas unsaturated fats either have one (monounsaturated) or multiple (polyunsaturated. You may have heard of coconut oil and its healthy MCT fat. how the bonds are positioned. There are many meta-analyses on these surveys already conducted. aka medium chain triglycerides If the carbon chain has double bonds. or due to the exclusion of carbs? Cardiovascular Health Studies on saturated fat intake and cardiovascular health tend to follow groups of people over time and survey what they eat. There are three primary parameters: How long the carbon chain is (short.
and from that. When you tell people to avoid saturated fats. When saturated fats are actually compared with PUFAs (plant based) or other monounsaturated fats. Saturated fats do increase LDL cholesterol. the satiety is equivalent6. but saturated fats have no additional suppressing-benefits than other fatty acids. This is without analyzing any other details.8. Fats tend to suppress appetite. the fatty acids are blamed. saturated fats do not associate with CVD1. When we analyze the rest of people’s diets. but that increase does not correlate with an increase in CVD3. they also tend to reduce refined carb intake. or some kind of negative interaction between the burger’s fatty acids and the bun/fries’ processed carbs. The actual culprit is either the buns and fries (with the burger). This reduction of processed carbs could be the reason why CVD risk decreases4. As the burger is the main component. While these studies did not measure weight over time. To simplify. a particular subset of ‘saturated fatty acids’ includes the medium chain . it gets blamed. there were controlled interventions and suggest no significant effect of saturated fats here. Body Fat We know that fat is more satiating (makes you feel more full) than carbohydrates5. you have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) if you do eat saturated fats.7. we know that constantly eating fast food will likely give you heart disease.generally state: Just looking at people who eat saturated fats vs those who don’t. Now.2.
Testosterone can be either reduced by putting men on a low fat diet10 or increased with a high fat diet11. and caprylic/capric acid. having an intake of dietary fat appears to be better for steroid hormone production than a low intake of fatty acids. it should be explicitly noted that the weight loss benefits were minimal. but it was pretty small. Similar to appetite suppression. In short. The effect is too small to overcome the caloric content of the fatty acids themselves Testosterone A major claim for saturated fats for athletes and people looking to lose weight is that they can stimulate the production of androgens and other steroid hormones. There may be positive effects on weight loss associated with coconut oil/MCT fats. This term refers to the saturated fatty acids between 8 and 10 carbons in length and tends to refer to lauric acid. not just adding more calories to the diet. To compare. In fact. which may sound impressive. When looking at studies on coconut oil or MCTs in particular. a good article and summary on this topic to read on this topic would be Bryan Chung’s “The lime in the coconut is purely optional” where he conducted a personal and small meta-analysis on studies and did find a weight loss effect. but the overall effect is pretty small and would likely only benefit weight loss if these fatty acids replace other fatty acids while calories are kept constant. myristic acid. . steroid cycles are likely much higher. these are the fats that have made coconut oil very popular. which then promote beneficial changes in body composition. there does appear to be slight weight loss effect when compared to other fatty acids. the magnitude of change is roughly 12-13%. Cohorts with lower fat intake have less androgen levels9. It should be noted that this happened when you replaced existing fat consumption with MCT fats. but is quite a small amount.triglycerides (aka MCTs). Still. Still. testosterone injections usually give you 100%+ more testosterone12 although some studies have noted up to 400% at peak levels with testosterone itself13 We should note that this is for medically supervised therapy.
Their role in testosterone production is overrated.com Sol Orwell is the co-founder of Examine. If there is a promising correlation. but they don’t appear to give significant benefits either. there is no evidence to suggest that they are somehow better than other fatty acids. but the change in testosterone is actually pretty small. there is actually no well controlled interventions assessing the saturated fatty acids versus other fatty acids.500 citations) on supplementation and nutrition. you need a guide that is based on scientific evidence. When we look at survey research there doesn’t appear to be any promising correlations14.Despite the above evidence. recommend the . and if there are any fatty acids you should keep an eye on. Parting Thoughts Overall. some can harm you and the claims for the few that are safe and effective are usually exaggerated. About Sol Orwell and Examine. That’s why you see all the professionals. The worry that saturated fats will cause cardiovascular harm is mostly unfounded. NOTE FROM TOM: Finding accurate supplement information today – especially online – is like walking through a mine-field. they would be the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. I don’t sell or recommend supplements. Fatty acids themselves increase testosterone when in surplus in the diet (when compared to a low fat diet). it seems to be with monounsaturated fatty acids15. Sol is also the creator of the Supplement Goals Reference Guide. where he and his team collate scientific research (over 22.com. but if you take supplements now or you have any interest in finding the few that actually work. including myself. we can confidently state that saturated fats are not much better or worse than other kinds of fats. Most supplements are scams. When looking at saturated fats in particular.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. carbohydrates and cardiovascular disease. Cooper JA. (2009) Cooper JA. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Chang H. The great fat debate: taking the focus off of saturated fat. et al. (1980) Snyder PJ. protein. et al. et al. et al. Am J Clin Nutr. Neth J Med. Low-fat high-fiber diet decreased serum and urine androgens in men. Am J Clin Nutr. (2011) Lomenick JP. The questionable role of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiovascular disease. (2011) Maljaars J. (2013) Hill P. (1996) Snyder PJ. Cancer Res. Treatment of male hypogonadism with testosterone enanthate. (2011) Kuipers RS. (1979) Wang C. Am J Clin Nutr. et al. Effects of meals high in carbohydrate. et al. Effects of dietary fatty acid composition from a high fat meal on satiety. Impact of exercise and dietary fatty acid composition from a high-fat diet on markers of hunger and satiety. Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. et al. (1998) Mozaffarian D. Appetite.com/store/reference/ References Siri-Tarino PW. (2009) Kozimor A. and food intake. (2005) Dorgan JF. Diet and urinary steroids in black and white North American men and black South African men. and fat on ghrelin and peptide YY secretion in prepubertal children. et al. Lawrence DA. Check it out at: http://examine. hormone release. Saturated fat. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Effects of testosterone replacement in hypogonadal men. Appetite. et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. (2010) Ravnskov U. Effect of fat saturation on satiety.Supplement Goals Reference guide. J . J Clin Epidemiol. J Am Diet Assoc.
(2000) Volek JS. Nutr Cancer. et al. J Appl Physiol. Relationships between types of fat consumed and serum estrogen and androgen concentrations in Japanese men.Clin Endocrinol Metab. (2000) Nagata C. et al. (1997) . Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise.
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