Saturday, November 13, 2021

What Are Sources Of Saturated Fat And How Much Should I Be Eating?

Saturated fats are fats that contain no double bonds, all of their carbons are saturated with hydrogen. They are mostly found in animal products like steak, hamburger, bacon, butter, ice cream and cheese. There are just a few vegetable sources of saturated fat, such as coconut oil and palm oil. 

Several fad diets are promoting saturated fats such as butter and coconut oil as health promoting and even as weight loss aids. This recommendation is not based on solid evidence. The research shows that saturated fats increase risk of heart disease and diabetes. I have my clients shoot for no more than 7% of calories as saturated fat. Instead of saturated fats, focus on the health promoting unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and nut butters.

Why Are Some Of Us Resistant To Weight Loss?

The Study

In this interesting study, 39 subjects completed a 28 day low calorie diet. By the end of follow up, 23 of the subjects lost the expected amount of weight, while 16 did not, despite following the diet well. These subjects were compared:

-Subjects who did not hit their goal weight had a significantly lower drop in metabolic rate. The successful losers dropped an average of 80 calories a day in metabolic rate. The less successful subjects had a 175 calorie drop.

-There was a dysregulation in fat oxidation metabolites in the unsuccessful subjects. This lead the researchers to believe that they were not as efficient at oxidizing fat as the successful subjects. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2021; 114:267-80

Take Home Message

This is a fascinating study to me. It looks like our genes may influence our ability to lose weight. Some people will do better following a weight loss program than others. Lifting weights during the weight lost process can spare lean body mass, which will blunt the reduction in metabolic rate that comes with weight loss.

The inefficient fat oxidation is very interesting. We need more research in order to understand this better and to come up with a potential fix. Perhaps a medication could be developed to help here.

Processed Red Meat And Risk Of Dementia

The Study

Over 490,000 subjects from the British UK Biobank cohort study had their processed red meat consumption measured and were followed for the development of dementia.  By the end of the 8-year follow up, subjects consuming processed red meat 5 or more times per week had a 67% higher risk of dementia when compared to subjects who rarely consumed processed red meat. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2021 114: 175-84.

Take Home Message

The authors believed that the nitrates used in processed red meats could cause oxidative stress that contributes to the development of dementia. Other possible mechanisms include the high sodium and saturated fat content of processed red meat. Strictly limit bacon, sausage, pepperoni and other processed red meats. Focus on lean meats like chicken and turkey, seafood, nuts and legumes for your protein choices.


Book Review: Sugar Proof

Next up for review is Sugar Proof, by Dr. Michael Goran and Dr. Emily Ventura. Dr. Goran is a pediatric professor at USC Medical School and Dr. Ventura is a nutrition educator and cook.


As the name suggests, this book is all about sugar. It describes all of the dangers of feeding sugar to our children and has several programs designed to reduce sugar intake. The book contains 368 pages. It is well written and I really enjoyed reading it.

5 Things I Really Liked About Sugar Proof

1) I think the authors did a good job detailing all of the potential harms of consuming sugar. The mood swings, fatigue and difficulty concentrating associated with high sugar consumption can make our kid’s lives much more difficult. There is also a significant long-term increase in risk of chronic disease associated with sugar consumption.

2) I like the chart that has all of the different names that manufacturers use on food ingredient lists for sugar. This makes it much easier for the reader to identify the sources of sugar in a product.

3) Similarly, there is a very useful chart that has the amounts of sugar in everyday foods. Many readers will be surprised at how much sugar is added to commonly consumed foods.

4) I like the section where the authors detail the addictive aspects of sugar. The research is beginning to show that sugar addiction is real.

5) I also like that the authors mention that sugar changes kid’s palates. When a lot of sugar is consumed, kids don’t want to eat healthy foods like proteins, fruits and vegetables. I have seen this with my client’s kids for years.

5 Things I Didn’t Agree With in Sugar Proof

1) I did not understand how the authors handled references in this book. There were no reference markers in the text whatsoever. In other words, the authors would describe a study, but there was no way to find out what study they were talking about.

2) Similar to point #1, there were no citations at the end of the chapter or the back of the book. There was a link to a separate website that had the references. This is very unusual for a research-based book and highly inconvenient.

3) There were some very curious claims in this book, particularly about non-nutritive sweeteners:

For example, on page 11, the authors are talking about non-nutritive sweeteners and mention: “These compounds can cause symptoms ranging from acute gastrointestinal distress to long term effects on the brain, contributing to cognitive decline later in life”. 

There is no reference given for this claim in the text, at the back of the book or even when I searched on their website under Chapter 1 references. Saying that artificial sweeteners cause cognitive decline is quite a serious claim. Not providing a reference to support this claim really undermines the validity of the book in general.

Another example is on page 19: “Dramatic new research shows that their developing bodies are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of too much sugar. In fact, sugar can disrupt the normal growth of the heart, brain, liver, gut and more.”  Again, no references are given anywhere to support this claim. 

Now I am no advocate for sugar consumption. But to say that it stops the development of a growing heart, brain and liver without providing references is just surprising from a research based book.

4) The authors go to great lengths to mention that sugar is extremely addictive. I couldn’t agree more and increasingly, the research literature backs this idea up. However, the author permits up to 24 grams of sugar per day for older children. For the vast majority of my clients, having sugar at all doesn’t work. It is so addictive that if you have it even a few times a week, you want it all the time. It sounds ironic, but giving up sugar 100% is far easier than giving it up 75%. After a few weeks of withdrawal, my clients don’t really miss it at all. Would you tell an alcoholic that 1 or 2 drinks a day are OK? Would you tell a smoker that 3 or 4 cigarettes a day are fine? With addictive substances, the answer is to give it up. I know it is not easy at first, but it is really the only way.

5) Some of the substitutions the authors recommend for sugar will cause as many problems as sugar itself. Replacing sugar with rice crackers, popcorn, dried fruits, fruit smoothies and pita bread will cause a very similar spike in blood sugar and insulin. The real key is to eliminate sugar and replace it with low glycemic load carbs like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Is Sugar Proof Worth Reading?

Absolutely! The main message of this book is to reduce sugar in our children’s diet, which is very important. I do not think that many people realize the damage it does to their quality of life today and their risk of long-term disease tomorrow. 

Having said that, the book’s handling of the research literature could be a little more organized. My only other complaint is when you eliminate the sugar from your child’s diet, don’t replace it with other high glycemic load carbohydrates.