• Mercedes Benstock

Public Enemy

Contrary to what we were all taught, emerging evidence suggests that not all saturated fat should be tarred with the same brush.

One type of saturated fat known as stearic acid, which can be found in beef, fork, chicken, olive oil, chocolate, cheese and milk, may actually help protect the heart against disease.

Other types of Saturated fat include myristic, lauric and palmitic acids (I guess my one semester studying pre med came in handy after all!) but repeated studies have shown that stearic acid has no adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The amount of stearic acid varies from food to food, as do calories, but for those who are big on steak, both red meat and chocolate have among the highest amount, and are not the heart-health disaster zones we assume that they are.

One study published inside a recent edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that eating lean beef on a daily basis, improved cholesterol levels (which the stearic acid was responsible for). After five whole weeks on a diet of lean beef, participants in the study experienced a shocking 5% drop in total cholesterol and around a 4% drop in the “bad” cholesterol known as LDL. These numbers are almost the same as those on a diet high in vegetable protein and fish. Interestingly enough, both groups also kept their weight steady. Dr Michael Roussell who was one of the study authors from Pennsylvania State University said that unlike processed meats such as sausages and ham, the unadulterated red meat happens to “bring a unique, heart-healthy blend of fats to the table”. Many nutrition scientists agree that myths and misconceptions have led to us thinking that all saturated fat is bad, when in fact we can all benefit from a moderate amount of food rich in stearic acid, without fearing for the well being of our heart.

A nutritionist at the medical research councils human research department (In Cambridge), known as Glenye Jones stated that “There are different forms of saturated fat, and stearic acid isn’t linked to heart disease. Other forms of saturated fat, such as the fat in butter, have a much stronger association and, of course, too much of any fat will result in obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease itself.”

The flabbergasting twist in the science of saturated fatty acids was recognized as early as 1957, when it was shown that coco butter (the fat obtained from the coca bean in order to make most chocolate) did not raise blood cholesterol levels as much as butter fat did.

Of course these new findings are no excuse to gorge on bacon sandwiches, and chocolate bars all day long, but it is an excuse to let yourself indulge once in a while, without knowing its harming your heart!

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