Thursday, August 11, 2011

Epic Saturated Fat Experiment

The Effects of 15 days of 100 Grams of Saturated Fat Per Day on Cholesterol Levels in a healthy adult male.

By: Bryan Stell: BS West Chester University PA Exercise Science/Nutrition

Objective: It is widely believed that saturated fat in the diet increases blood cholesterol levels, promotes poor health as well as the progression of heart disease and atherosclerosis. The goal of this experiment is to compare pre and post bloodwork following 15 days of ~100g/saturated fat consumption per day to determine if there is any merit in this widely held belief.

Introduction: Saturated fat and cholesterol have long been avoided in the diet due to their believed link to heart disease and atherosclerosis. When saturated fat crosses the lips, some ignorant fool may shout " OMG, Yer gonna have a heart attack!" Or, "that bacon is clogging your arteries." For some 50 years food marketers and pharmaceutical companies have perpetuated these ideas, even though science is demonstrating that total cholesterol is an awful predictor of coronary heart disease (CHD) and that total LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol is not much better. Furthermore, the entire case against saturated fat is inextricably linked to the idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease and that saturated fat in the diet increases blood cholesterol levels.

The USDA's 2010 dietary guidelines continue with the vilification of saturated fats by recommending they make up no more than 7% of one's daily caloric intake. This is down from a previously recommended upper limit of 10%. Instead they recommend replacing saturated fats with more mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats as well as carbohydrates. *Even though polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils) lower HDL (good cholesterol), cause inflammation, and perhaps cancer (14). Furthermore, the governments recommendation for replacing saturated fats with a higher carbohydrate intake can exacerbate the atherogenic dyslipidemia associated with insulin resistance and obesity, increased triglycerides, small LDL particles (the "bad-bad" cholesterol) and reduced HDL ((the "good" cholesterol)16), especially if the carbohydrates are the refined variety.

It hasn't always been this way. Saturated fats where once a staple of a healthy diet. Our paleolithic ancestors prized animal fat and would preferentially consume it over leaner animal tissue(1). Our great grandfathers and their grandfathers would enjoy cholesterol rich foods such as eggs and bacon daily without thinking twice about their arteries clogging.

Methods: The 15 day test took place from Monday, June 20th to Tuesday, July 4th, 2011. The subject was a healthy 167 pound, 24 year old male. Bloodwork was drawn at around 11 AM after a full 8-9 hour night of sleep for both pre and post bloodwork.

The subjects previous diet was a seemingly healthy 'paleo' diet high in fruits and vegetables, healthy animals, some nuts and an already higher than average saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Occasional ice-cream and booze would enter the diet. The subject was relatively active most days and engaged in strength training 3-5x per week. Three 12 hour nightshifts (7pm-7am) were completed per week in both the pre and post dietary intervention.

The blood tests compared cholesterol via a VAP cholesterol test. Testosterone and thyroid hormones were also checked pre-and post dietary intervention by Atherotech Incorporated.

The dietary intervention aimed at consuming a maintenance level of calories (estimated at 2800 kcal/day) as to not induce weight gain, while allowing the subject to reach the target goal of 100 grams of SFA (saturated fatty acids) per day. 100 grams of saturated fat per day is 900 calories and 625% more than the American Heart Associations recommended upper limit of 16 grams per day. During the experiment the subject did not track his calories, rather wrote down in detail all the foods consumed and the exact amounts. The goal was just to average 100 grams of saturated fat per day while eating to satiety. Often he reported eating above and beyond satiety in order to achieve the requisite SFA intake.
All food was to be minimally processed 'real' foods. Cholesterol consumption was also encouraged. The foods eaten consisted of the "culprits" in raising cholesterol and thus, according to the traditional medical professionals; causing atherosclerosis and increasing risk of heart disease. Such foods are both high in fats, saturated fats and cholesterol. The main foods consumed were bacon, eggs, ribs, sausage, grassfed ground beef, coconut oil, grassfed butter, coconut milk, 85% dark chocolate and macadamia nuts. The more saturated fat, the better.

Over the 15 days, average caloric intake was higher than expected at approximately 3112 kcal/day. Average saturated fat intake was 102 grams or 918 kcal/day. Carbohydrates averaged 97 grams per day or 388 kcal/day. The subject went from a morning fasted weight of 167 lbs. to 165.5 lbs. Most of this weight loss was water weight as when more carbohydrates entered back into the diet weight went back to 167 within a couple days. Shift work, exercise and supplementation was the same through the pre and post dietary interventions.

Results: Positive or Anti-atherogenic results:

Total LDL dropped from 111 to 106 mg/dl.

IDL dropped from 17 to 6 mg/dl.

HDL increased from 60 to 76 mg/dl.

HDL2 increased from 17 to 24 mg/dl.

HDL3 increased from 43 to 52 mg/dl.

Total VLDL decreased from 22 to 18 mg/dl.

VLDL3 decreased from 13 to 11 mg/dl mg/dl.

Triglycerides decreased from 100 to 66 mg/dl.

Non-HDL cholesterol decreased from 133 to 124 mg/dl.

Remnant lipoproteins IDL+VLD3 decreased from 30 to 19mg/dl.

Testosterone increased from 586 to 841 ng/dl.

Results: Negative or potentially atherogenic:

Total Cholesterol increased from 192 to 200 mg/dl.

Lipoprotein A increased from 6 to 8 mg/dl.

In summary, the ONLY negative blood marker found could be lipoprotein A, which is one of the "bad-bad" LDL cholesterols increased from 6-8 mg/dl. Total cholesterol did increase by 8 mg/dl but the overall picture of total cholesterol was by all accounts greatly improved. Most significantly, Testosterone increased ~70%, from 586-841 and triglycerides decreased 34%, dropping from 100 to 66. HDL also increased ~27%, from 60 to 76.

Trigylcerides to HDL ("the good cholesterol") ratio has statistically shown to be one of the most potent predictors of heart disease (17, 18), and also all cause mortality (19). A Harvard study found that people with the highest ratio of triglycerides to HDL had 16x the risk of heart attack as those with the lowest ratio. Furthermore, high triglycerides alone increased the risk by 3x. Triglycerides/HDL was found to be a better predictor of heart disease than HDL/LDL and certainly total cholesterol. So in terms of the triglyceride to HDL ratio:

  • 2 or less is considered ideal
  • 2-4 is at risk
  • 4-6 high risk
  • 6+ plan a funeral
Our subjects Triglyceride/HDL ratio pre-bacon rich diet was (100/60) or 1.6 which is considered ideal. Post SFA and cholesterol rich diet intervention his ratio improved to 66/76 or .87 which is better than ideal.

Discussion: Atherosclerosis is a form of arteriosclerosis where the blood vessel hardens from the accumulation of lipid-laden macrophages within the arterial wall. This leads to a formation of a lesion called a plaque. Atherosclerosis is a pathologic process that can affect the vasculature throughout the body resulting in poor blood flow to the affected tissues. It is the leading contributor to coronary artery and cerebrovascular disease (heart attack and stroke).

There remains considerable controversy as to the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis. Traditional medicine sticks with the cholesterol hypothesis which goes like this.

"If you eat too much food containing cholesterol and/or saturated fat, the level of cholesterol in your blood will rise. The excess cholesterol will be deposited in artery walls, causing them to thicken and narrow. In time this will block blood supply to the heart (and other organs) causing a heart attack or stroke."

Thus, cholesterol in the blood is the problem and lowering cholesterol is a desirable treatment to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

The contrarian view is rather that cholesterol is being deposited into the artery wall to repair endothelial damage. Cholesterol is the building blocks of all new cells, thus is necessary to repair the damage. This view would suggest that cholesterol is not the problem; the problem is whatever is causing the endothelial damage.

The most widely accepted theory to date is that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease (2). It begins with injury to the endothelial cells that line artery walls (3). The injury progresses to a fatty streak, then a fibrotic plaque to a complicated lesion. The initial injury can be attributed to risk factors for atherosclerosis such as smoking, hypertension, elevated blood glucose (diabetes), increased LDL, decreased HDL, and inflammatory auto-immune diseases. Other risk factors include elevated CRP, increased serum fibrinogen, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, infection and periodontal disease.

Once the injury has occurred in the endothelium...
  1. The inflamed cells cannot make normal amounts of anti-thrombotic and vasodilating cytokines.
  2. Numerous inflammatory cytokines are released.
  3. Macrophages adhere to injured endothelium.
  4. These macrophages then release enzymes and toxic oxygen radicals (that oxidize LDL) and further damage the injured vessel.
  5. Growth factors are released which stimulate smooth muscle cell proliferation in the affected vessel. (4)

So according to the latest science in pathophysiology, the problem is not cholesterol, it is endothelial damage stemming from inflammation. So without inflammation, blood cholesterol is a rather benign substance, even LDL. The problem is that our environment and our diets present many pro-inflammatory opportunities.

Our standard American diet (SAD) promotes inflammation in three main ways.
  1. Our ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is skewed in a pro-inflammatory way. Evolution prescribed a 1:1 to 3:1 ratio of these fatty acids while our SAD diets typically are in the range of 15:1 to 16.7:1 (5). Negative effects of this ratio include inflammation (which progresses a plethora of disease states), oxidization of LDL and inhibition of the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega 3 fatty acids.
  2. Our highly refined carbohydrate diets lead to inflammation via elevated blood glucose and insulin resistance(6).
  3. Food allergies and intolerances often from relatively novel such foods as dairy (lactose) and wheat (gluten) can elevate inflammation in various tissues in the body. (7,8).
Our SAD diet promotes inflammation and denounces a molecularly stable fat, saturated fat. Saturated fat which is stable in the body and during cooking resists oxidization better than other fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats (omega 3,6,9. This means less free radical damage in your body. Recall that LDL is not a problem until it is oxidized. Furthermore, there are various types of LDL cholesterol. The smaller denser LDL are more prone to oxidization. These are the "bad-bad" cholesterol. The larger bouyant LDL are less prone to oxidization. These are the "good-bad" cholesterol.

Since elevated blood glucose is toxic, our bodies in their infinite wisdom are smart enough to turn it into a more benign substance, fat. Excess carbohydrate is thus turned into fat (Trigycerides) in the liver. Furthermore, high carbohydrate diets are known to produce the "bad-bad' LDL cholesterol. (9)

Low carb high fat (LCHF) diets are shown to promote more large bouyant "good-bad" LDL cholesterol (10). High fat diets also increase HDL, a negative risk factor for heart disease (11). While high fat low carb diets significantly reduce triglycerides better than any drug on the market (12).

The results of this N=1 study may surprise the layperson, but are not surprising in light of the available science. High fat diets are known to raise both HDL, LDL and thus total cholesterol. With such epic proportions of fat, and saturated fat in this study, it was not surprising that HDL rose, but LDL dropping is surprising. Total cholesterol rose from 192 to 200 mainly because HDL jumped 16 ng/dl (from 60 t0 76) while LDL dropped from 111 to 106 ng/dl. Overall, the post-dietary intervention cholesterol level of 200 ng/dl had a much better lipid profile than the lower cholesterol at 192 ng/dl. This stands for further proof that total cholesterol is a rather meaningless risk factor for heart disease.

Further, all subfractions of HDL and LDL improved except for lipoprotein A (LPA) which went from 6 ng/dl to 8 ng/dl. This also was unexpected as lipoprotein A is one of the small dense more easily oxidizable forms of LDL that usually decrease with HFLC diets. Perhaps the carbohydrate intake ~97g/day was too high to benefit the LPA.

Most notably, the EPIC saturated fat consumption intervention resulted in a ~70% increase in testosterone (586 pre to 841 post). If the prior results of this study were not enough to exonerate saturated fat from its suggested implications with heart disease then we must add the fact that high testosterone is protective of the heart. Lower testosterone levels in men are associated with increased heart comorbidities (15). (Higher fat diets and specifically higher saturated fat diets have shown to correlate with increased testosterone (13). 15 days of EPIC saturated fat consumption may result in increased growth of muscle and hardness of the male organ as well as other benefits.

Conclusion: This N=1 pilot study concludes that this one healthy young male can consume inordinate amounts of saturated fatty acids while precipitating positive health outcomes. Further, males interested in increasing testosterone and reducing their risk of CHD and CVD may want to implement a similar dietary strategy of HFLC, particularly of the saturated variety. (of course check with your physician and monitor your health yada yada).

1.) Cordain L. Saturated fat consumption in ancestral human diets: implications for contemporary intakes. In: Phytochemicals, Nutrient-Gene Interactions, Meskin MS, Bidlack WR, Randolph RK (Eds.), CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group), 2006, pp. 115-126.

2.) Hansson GK: Inflammation, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease, New England Journal of Medicine. 352: 1685-1695, 2005.

3. Packard RR, Libby P: Inflammation in atherosclerosis: from vascular biology to biomarker discovery and risk prediction, Clinical Chemisry. 54 (1): 24-38 2008.

4.) McCance, Kathryn L., and Sue E. Huether. Pathophysiology: the biologic basis for disease in adults and children. 6th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Mosby, 2009. Print.

Pre-Dietary Intervention Bloodwork
Post Dietary Intervention Bloodwork

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Epic Saturated Fat Consumption Diet Log

Epic N=1 Saturated Fat Consumption Experiment

Day One Monday (6-20)

-8oz. Bacon (466kcal,16.65g SFA, 14g pro)

-4 egg omelette (280kcal, 6gSFA, 28g pro)

veggies cooked in ½ tbsp coconut oil (90kcal, 6gfat, 6gSFA, 8gCHO)

-1/2 can coconut milk with 1/2cup of mangos and strawberry (35gSFA,500kcal)

-Epic Brazilian Steakhouse chowdown -squash,zucchini, asparagus (non-photographed). < 3 lbs. Of fatty meat. Lamb, Ribs, Steak, Fish, Parmesan crusted pork tenderloin, 3 fried banannas etc… (50g Satfat)

Saturated Fat:113g


Total Calories: ~3600

Day 2: Tuesday (6-21)

-Red Delicious apple 70kcal

-6oz coconut fruit smoothie-15g (180c) (annas left over)

-Tbsp coconut oil 13g (110c)

-1 lb grassfed beef over lettuce (28g) (920c)

-16 oz bone marrow liver vegetable soup (1g, 400kcal, 35g cho)

-Rack of ribs (washed)(800kcal, 21g sfa, 7g Carb)

-1 dark choc(6gsfa, 6gCHO,130kcal)

-1/4c pecans (210 kcal, 190fat cal, 2gSFA, 4g cho)

Saturated Fat:86g


Total Calories: 2820

Day 3: Wednesday (6-22)

-4cups soup plus (700kcal, 2g SFA, 45g CHO)

-avocado(4g sfa 250kcal, 15g CHO)

-8oz Smoked bacon (8g SFA, 280kcal)

-Banana (100kcal, 25g CHO)

-sweet potato (100 KCAL, 24gCHO)

-1/2 cup mango (40kcal, 10gCHO)

-Full can Cocomilk (70g SFA, 770kcal, 21g CHO)

-1 lb grassfed beef + veggies.

-Tbsp butter (35g SFA(28+7)) 1000kcal, 20gCHO)

Saturated Fat:119g

Carbohydrate: 150g

Total Calories: 3240

Day 4: Thursday (6-23)

-2 cans Sardines (3g SFA, 340 KCAL)

-4oz bacon, 4 egg omm (10g SFA, 420KCAL)

-8oz coconut milk, 80cal mango, 80 cal bananna, 40 cal sweet potato, 2 eggs raw (790 total kcal, 44g SFA, 60g CHO)

-8oz salmon +TBSP coconut oil-14g (400 KCAL (15g SatFAT)

-1 lb grassfed beef, 12oz peppers, 1/2 bag of mixed greens (1050 kCal,25G carbs (28g SAT FAT)

-1 dark chocolate bar & 1/4 c pecans (340 kcal,(8g satfat) 10g carb

Saturated Fat:108g


Total Calories:~2920

Day 5: Friday (6-24)

-12oz bacon (420kcal, 12g sat fat)

-3 eggs cooked in bacon grease (210kcal, 5g sat fat)

-10oz black coffee

-5.5 oz coconut milk, whole raw egg, 1c mango (80), 1 c strawberry (500kcal, 32g sat fat, 30g carb)

-Sweet potato (120kcal, 30g carb)

-8oz salmon +TBSP coconut oil-14g (400 KCAL (15g SatFAT)

-100kcal carrots (23 g cho)

-Rack of Ribs (washed off sauce)(800kcal, 21g sfa, 7g Carb)

--1 dark chocolate bar & 1/4 c pecans (340 kcal,(8g SFA) 10g carb

Saturated Fat:93g


Total Calories:2580

Day 6: Saturday (6-25)

-6 eggs in TBSP butter + 1 oz crabmeat & 3oz. olives & apple (15g SFA, 700Kcal, 18g Carbs)

-12oz bacon 25g (700kcal)

-8oz COcomilk, strawberry, mango, banana (40g SFA, 560 kcal 20g Carb)

-1 lb grassfed beef 28g SFA, 920 kcal

-2 fish oil caps (30 kcal)

-2 whisky on rocks (3 oz whisky? 200kcal)

Saturated Fat:108g


Total Calories:3100

Day 7: Sunday (6-26)

-12 oz bacon (25g SFA, 700Kcals)

-1/3 cup berries (35Kcal, 8g carb)

-Preworkout 1/4 cup raisins (130kcal, 30g carb

-Post workout- whole massive squash (5c.) cooked in olive oil (1/2 oz.)(225kcal, 20g carb, 2g SFA)

-1 lb grassfed beef (28gSFA, 920Kcal)

-full can coconut milk 1 cup strawberry, 1 cup pineapple. (900kcal, 70gSFA, 50g Carb)

Saturated Fat:123g


Total Calories:2910

Day 8: Monday (6-27)

-12 oz bacon, whole red pepper, 5 eggs, hot sauce. 1090kcal, 10g carb, 32g SFA)

-2 1/8 rack ribs, washed (1680kcal, 44g SFA, 15g Carb)

-2 crabs (170kcal)

-2 muscles (30kcal)

-Whole pineapple (400 Kcal, 95gCarb)

-7 shots 3 olives orange (805kcal, 35g carb)

-2 Miller Lights (200kcal, 10g carb)

-1 bar dark chocolate (130kcal, 6gSFA, 6g carb)

Saturated Fat:82g


Total Calories:4500

Day 9: Tuesday (6-28)

-12 oz bacon (700kcal, 25g SFA)

-Apple, 7oz bacon, 4 eggs, red pepper, salad greens (22g SFA, 800kcal, 30g carb)

-8 oz chicken curry in coco oil (440kcal, 3gcarb, 10g SFA)

-8 oz salmon silver-brite wild caught in coco oil + veggies (squash and peppers) baked in coconut oil (460 kcal, 15g carb, 11g SFA)

Chugged 6/10 can of coconut milk (460kcal, 46gSFA, 12g carb)

Saturated Fat: 89g

Carbohydrate: 60g

Total Calories:2860

Day 10: Wednesday (6-29)

-4oz cacao goji goodies (190kCal, 6g SFA, 30g Carbs)

-1 lb grassfed beef over greens with tomato & avocado (1250 kCal, 29g carb, 33g SFA)

-Coconut milk shake with 2 cups fruit (1c. Strawberry&pineapple)

(560Kcal, 35g carbs, 40g SFA)

-Rack of ribs (washed)(800kcal, 21g sfa, 7g Carb)

Saturated Fat:100g


Total Calories:2800

Day 11: Thursday (6-30)

-3 cups Broccoli, coconut curry with avocado(rest of can if coco milk) (720Kcal, 35g SFA, 50g Carbs)

-Rack of ribs (washed)(800kcal, 21g sfa, 7g Carb)

-4oz cacao goji goodies (190kCal, 6g SFA, 30g Carbs)

-1/4 cup macadamia (240kCal, 4g SFA, 4g carb)

-1 can sardines (1g) (170kCal, 1g SFA)

-½ can coconut milk with 2 cups fruit (1 strawberry, 1/2 mango ½ pineapple) (510Kcal, 35g SFA, 39g carb)

-3/4 lb grassfed beef over 5 oz. Salad greens with large avocado (1040kcal, 26gSFA, 28g carb)

Saturated Fat:128g


Total Calories:3670

Day 12: Friday (6-31)

-6strips/10 bacon 5 egg peppers onion squash (820kcal, 22.5g, SFA, 12g carb)

-½ can Coconut milk with 1cup strawberry, 1 bananna & Raw egg

(600kcal, 36.5g SFA, 35g carb)

-Rack of trader joes ribs (washed)(800kcal, 21g sfa, 7g Carb)

-2 cups green squash, 220 calories of sardine (260 kcal, 3g SFA 8 g carb)

Saturated Fat:83g

Carbohydrate:62g carb

Total Calories:2480

Day 13: Saturday (7-1)

-4/10 strips bacon, 4 eggs cooked in bacon grease, 2 fish oil. (590 kCal, 16g SFA)

-1 1/4 lb grassfed beef over 8 oz salad greens (1200kcal, 35g SFA, 15g carb)

-12 oz. Trader Joe’s bacon. (300kcal, 12g SFA)

-Macadamias 1/2c. (480kcal, 8g SFA, 9g carb)

-1-bar Moser Roth 85/15 dark chocolate (6g SFA, 6gCHO,130kcal)

-8oz Cod lightly breaded even though I asked for non breaded and re-iterated this fact twice (280kcal, 2g SFA, 10g carb

-4 slices trader joes bacon 100kcal, 4g SFA

Saturated Fat:83g

Carbohydrate: 40g

Total Calories:3080kcal

Day 14: Sunday (7-2)

-Mixture of my 3 different bacons, ~(300kcal, 15g SFA)

-6sausage links (200kcal, 9g SFA)

-4 eggs in tbsp butter (280kcal, 10g SFA)

-1/2 cup strawberries (30kcal, 7g carb)

-7 chicken breasts cooked in butter & parmesan crusted

(1200kcal, 35gsfa, 4g carb)

-2 salads with walnuts & dried cranberry, fruity dressing (240kcal, 2g SFA, 30g carb)

25. Oz. Red wine (625kcal, 25gcarb)

-1 cup veggies (30kcal, 7g carb)

-1.5 cup mixed fruits (100kcal, 23g carb)

-1/2 can coconut milk (350kcal, 35g SFA, 10g carb)

Saturated Fat:97g


Total Calories:3355

Day 15: Monday (7-3)

-Pre-breakfast:8oz Mixed bacon (the rest of it (300kcal,15g SFA)

-"fat Greek" omelette 5 egg, gyro meat, feta cheese, peppers onions in butter (640kcal, 20g SFA, 10g carb )

-1/2 can coconut milk to wash down fatgreek (350kcal, 35g SFA, 10g carb)

Apple & cinnamon. (65kcal, 15gcarb)

-1 lb grassfed beef (Martindales, a bit leaner maybe? , green pepper, onion cooked in ½ tbsp. Grassfed butter (920kcal, 28g SFA, 10g carb)

Apple & cinnamon. (65kcal, 15gcarb)

-10 oz Vermont bacon 300kcal, 12g SFA)

-1-bar Moser Roth 85/15 dark chocolate (6g SFA, 6gCHO,130kcal)

Saturated Fat:116g


Total Calories:2770

Day Calories Carbohydrates Saturated Fat % Sat kcal

1 3600 140 113 28

2 2820 80 86 27

3 3240 150 119 33

4 2920 85 108 33

5 2580 93 100 35

6 3100 38 108 31

7 2910 108 123 38

8 4500 171 82 16

9 2860 60 89 28

10 2800 100 100 32

11 3670 158 128 31

12 2480 62 83 30

13 3080 40 83 24

14 3355 106 97 26

15 2770 66 116 38

AVG 3112 97 102 30