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The Obesity Epidemic, the Truth about Cholesterol and Saturated Fat

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Obesity and Type 2 diabetes have become terrifyingly common and the number of people suffering from them has risen significantly over the last few years. They are linked to the  metabolic syndrome, an inflammatory condition which includes at least 3 of 5 criteria: large weight size, elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, elevated fasting blood glucose, and hypertension.

Shorter Life Span, Increased Cost of Healthcare

According to OECD: "Mortality increases steeply once individuals cross the overweight threshold. The lifespan of an obese person is up to 8-10 years shorter (for a BMI of 40-45) than that of a normal-weight person, mirroring the loss of life expectancy suffered by smokers. An overweight person of average height will increase their risk of death by approximately 30% for every 15 additional kilograms of weight."

The obesity epidemic has been linked to the introduction of HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) and has accelerated since the 1980's as a result of inappropriate dietary guidelines: Cut down on saturated fat, eat more carbohydrates.

Additionally, we were told to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) without any further clarification. The advice has lead to an increased intake of omega 6 fatty acids such as vegetable oils and margarines, because these are the dominating PUFA-containing foods on the market. Unfortunately, a high ratio omega 6/omega 3 PUFA in the diet is associated with many serious health problems. The advice should rather have been to increase the intake of omega 3s, monounsaturated fat and not to be afraid of eating saturated fat.

Apart from increased mortality, this has lead to increased cost of healthcare. According to

"In an economic context, the burden of obesity to the U.S. health care system and U.S. taxpayers is at crisis levels and will only increase. Extra medical care for obesity comprises from 5 to 10% of total U.S. health care costs, half of which Medicare and Medicaid finances."

The Truth about Saturated Fat and Cholesterol: Not All Cholesterol is Created Equal

How come many health professionals are still convinced fat is bad for our health? As is often the case, it's a combination of many factors such as:

  • strong financial interests that want us to keep eating low-fat, high-carb products, using statins, etc.
  • unwillingness to admit that the advice given was wrong

So, why are the dietary guidelines still giving us the wrong message? Because they want to give food and pharmaceutical industries time to adapt. Unfortunately, these industries are driven largely by profit. To understand how financial interests affect the general advice, I suggest you watch these recent Australian documentaries: Heart of the Matter Part 1 - Dietary Villains and Heart of the Matter Part 2 - Cholesterol Drug War.

Contrary to what we have been advised over the last 50 years, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by eating saturated and monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids (mostly from animal sources). This way you can raise your HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol), lower your triglycerides and reduce levels of small particle LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol). Not all LDL is bad, it's the small, dense LDL cholesterol that is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

Time magazine 30 years ago and now

Dr. Tara Dall also explains which type of cholesterol is actually harmful in this short video: Specialty Health - Dr. Tara Dall - It's not the passengers, it's the cars.

In the following video presentation of a lecture from 24th January 2013 (The cholesterol campaign and its misleading dietary advices), a Danish doctor and researcher Uffe Ravnskov explained the problem with the cholesterol campaign and its negative effects on our health over the last few decades. Dr Ravnskov reveals the most shocking truth about cholesterol, fat and the obesity epidemic. According to recent studies:

There is NO evidence that:

  • too much saturated fat raises cholesterol
  • saturated fat causes heart disease
  • high cholesterol causes heart disease
  • lowering cholesterol reduces heart disease
  • there is a correlation between obesity rates and the amount of fat consumption
  • there is a correlation between obesity rates and the amount of protein consumption

And there IS evidence that:

  • there is a correlation between obesity rates and the amount of carbohydrate consumption
  • the obesity and diabetes epidemics are a direct result of the misleading cholesterol campaign.

Studies show that:

  • Replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates, which has been recommended by medical authorities all over the world for the last 50 years,  increases the risk of coronary heart disease (lowers HDL, increases small particle LDL). In other words, it's not saturated fat or cholesterol that increases the amount "bad" cholesterol (small, dense LDL). It's the overconsumption of carbohydrates.
  • Dietary cholesterol has  very little impact on total blood LDL cholesterol levels
  • In fact, dietary cholesterol  is beneficial for our health (it lowers small particle LDL cholesterol)

Inflammation is the Real Cause of Heart Disease

It's not only what Dr Ravnskov is claiming, there are many other scientists and health professionals warning against the real cause of heart disease and obesity.

Dr. Dwight Lundell, a cardiologist, has discussed the real cause of heart disease here: Heart surgeon speaks out on what really causes heart disease.

Aseem Malhotra, also a cardiologist, published his vindication of saturated fat in the BMJ, a highly respected medical journal: Saturated fat is not the major issue.

There are several ways you can naturally reduce inflammation in your body. In general, you should cut down on sugar and processed carbs and include healthy fats in your diet (omega 3 fatty acids, monounsaturated and saturated fat), avoid processed foods high in additives — eat REAL food, make sure you get enough sleep and include some moderate exercise. Although low-moderate intensity cardio is not effective for fat loss, it has been shown to have  great health benefits, especially for your brain and heart.

Don't be fooled, don't trust "low-fat", "low-calorie" or even "low-carb" labels on food - avoid processed foods at all cost. Not only will these products make you feel more hungry, they are often loaded with unwanted carbs, artificial additives or preservatives. Learn to eat REAL food!

For up-to date articles about cholesterol, saturated fats, and their role in our diet, please visit:
Understanding LDL-Cholesterol Through Analogies
High Cholesterol on a Keto Diet: Should You Be Concerned?
If You’re Keto, Your Lipids May be Misleading - New Report Suggests

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Martina Slajerova
Creator of

Martina Slajerova

I changed the way I ate in 2011, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. I had no energy, and I found it more and more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

That’s when I decided to quit sugar, grains, and processed foods, and to start following a whole-foods-based ketogenic approach to food.

About the Reviewer

This article has been reviewed by Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE who is a qualified expert. At KetoDiet we work with a team of health professionals to ensure accurate and up-to-date information. You can find out more on the About us page.

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Comments (22)

I think you should make a small adjustment to your claim that "[i]There is NO evidence that
too much saturated fat raises cholesterol[/i]"
In humans, saturated fat intake has been shown to increases LDL cholesterol, however because it also increases HDL cholesterol, the total cholesterol (TC)/HDL ratio (a marker for CVD risk) remains unchanged. Furthermore, while saturated fat intake increases total LDL, it has only been associatedwith changes in concentrations of larger, more buoyant LDL particles and not the smaller and denser LDL particles that are strongly associated with atherosclerotic CVD.
So while your point is valid that there is no evidence that saturated fat increases CVD risk, it requires a bit more nuance than saying there is no evidence that SFAs increase cholesterol.

Thank you Miranda! This is a very old post and that part does need clarification so I will link to the latest ones below and add them to the article:
High Cholesterol on a Keto Diet - Should You Be Concerned?
Understanding LDL-Cholesterol Through Analogies: Boats in Your Bloodstream and Star Wars
If You’re Keto, Your Lipids May be Misleading - New Report Suggests (April 2020)

Amazing thank you! I appreciate your dedication to providing the best info out there...keep up the great work. 😊

Have known this for years since becoming keto.

There’s a typo at the end of the first paragraph. Should say fasting blood glucose not blood pressure?

Thank you Darlene, fixed!

One can never stop learning follow this great advise and turn your life around it's never to late. Thank you for a wonderful article I always look forward to learning more about healthy ways to transform my health with I let go and resently found Keto which changed every thing. Steve

Thank you Steve!

Great article!  

Which studies are you referencing? I really want to believe this article but I need some "proof".

Hi Ellie, please, check out the links - all studies are included. Also, here's a recent article: High Cholesterol on a Keto Diet - Should You Be Concerned?

After reading dozens of research articles I am persuaded that obesity is not an epidemic, because obesity is not a disease. It's a symptom of a disordered metabolism--the same disordered metabolism that we call heart disease when it produces cardiovascular symptoms.  It's not surprising that obesity and morbidity are correlated, just like fever and rash are correlated in measles, but neither one is the cause.  Take the metabolism that has been deranged by overconsumption of carbohydrates, get it back on track, and you will resolve the symptom of obesity and prevent the cardiac symptoms.  

I agree Mike, I would use the word "epidemic" metaphorically, as it well describes the extent of this problem.

the videos you list are marked private

Thank for letting me know - they must have changed the privacy settings. I'll update it now.

I am soooo glad I found your blog!! I am 1 week into ketosis and cannot stop researching and talking about it! Being Chinese no one in my family takes me seriously when I say white rice can be bad for u and holds no nutritional value...and no one believes me when I say fats are good. This article is def going on fb!! Thanks for a great read

Thank you Kimberly! Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Where I come from, everyone eats bread and everything high in carbs. There is hope though - most people know margarines & sugar are bad for us!

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when I kept seeing articles like "butter is good for you" or "saturated fat is healthy"... But the evidence is there and people need to stop buying low-fat dairy and they have to stop using unhealthy margarines. I don't follow a very low carb diet but I did when I needed to shed a few pounds. I'm now eating 60-100 g carbs, eating paleo and maintaining a healthy weight. This is not a diet for me, it's a life-style!

Reminds me of how I felt when I first learnt about the saturated fat myth. I used to buy margarines too, avoiding fat at any cost and now I have to deal with hormone issues. I wouldn't be surprised if my low-calorie, low-fat experiments have contributed to my health issues. It does, in fact, have an effect on hormone balance.

Same here! My (Chinese) parents are going to roll their eyeballs at me when I tell them I've cut out white rice! Haha!!

I always get upset when my GP tells me how bad cholesterol is and that I should eat no more than 3 eggs a week. It's time for the fat myth to be busted and for the food pyramid to change. There is enough evidence but the also strong financial interests. The pharmaceutical and food industries pay crazy money just to make sure we buy their low-fat products and statins. The two Australian documentaries (Heart of the Matter) were banned because of their strong and persistent lobby!

I know about the ban Becky and it doesn't surprise me. Unfortunately, it will take some time for the food guidelines to change, there is always inertia.