Saturated fats can assist with weight loss and a healthy cholesterol profile.
Many dieters reach for a low-carbohydrate diet or a ketogenic diet to assist with their weight loss. Many experts warn that going on either of these diets will raise your risk of heart disease because they often contain foods that are higher in saturated fat. Because of this, experts often recommend that people on either diet focus on mostly eating foods that are higher in unsaturated fats. Replacement of carbohydrates with unsaturated fats may satisfy their concerns but the fact is that there is little research exists on the impacts of saturated fat intake on the lipid profile in the context of whole-food-based low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets.
In a 2019 weight-loss trial, researchers looked at this very question. This study was a secondary analysis of the Diet Intervention Examining The Factors Interacting with Treatment Success (DIETFITS) weight-loss trial. In it, researchers evaluated the associations between changes in the percentage of dietary saturated fatty acid intake and changes in low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins, and triglyceride concentrations for those following a healthy low-carbohydrate diet. The researchers looked also examined these associations specifically for dieters who had the highest 12-month increases in saturated fats.
In the DIETFITS trial, 609 generally healthy adults with an elevated body mass indices were randomly assigned to a healthy low-fat or a healthy low-carb diet for 12 months. The healthy low- carb participants consumed an average of 12–18% of calories from saturated fatty acids. This increase of saturated fats did not result in an increased LDL cholesterol but did result in a statistically significant decrease in triglycerides and weight-loss. Both diets resulted in clinically significant weight loss.
The bottom line: A reduction in calories will result in weight loss. Those on a low-carbohydrate weight-loss diet who increase their percentage intake of dietary saturated fat may improve their overall lipid profile provided they focus on a high-quality diet and lower their intake of both calories and refined carbohydrates. This study indicates that if higher fat diets help with weight loss, dieters do not need to worry about them increasing their triglycerides and LDL cholesterol as much as experts used to think. This makes sense because insulin is the signal for cholesterol production. If higher fat helps you stick to the diet, I suggest you enjoy and lose weight.
- C. W. Shih, M. E. Hauser, L. Aronica, J. Rigdon, and C. D. Gardner, “Changes in blood lipid concentrations associated with changes in intake of dietary saturated fat in the context of a healthy low-carbohydrate weight-loss diet: a secondary analysis of the Diet Intervention Examining The Factors Interacting with Treatment Success (DIETFITS) trial,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, pp. 433–441, Jan. 2019 [Online]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy305