Researchers have discovered something that goes against popular opinion these days in the health and wellness community. They have found out that saturated fats may play a role in fighting age-related decline. Saturated fats have been given a lot of bad press of late due to their contribution to serious health problems, such as heart disease.
The research team involved in the discovery first looked at the fatty acid composition of T-cells (white blood cells), from both young and old donors. They noticed that a loss of saturated fatty acids in the lymphocytes was responsible for age-related declines in white blood cell function. They found that they could correct deficiencies in palmitic acid and myristic acid by adding these saturated fatty acids.
Most Americans get very little myristic acid because it is provided by coconut oil and dairy fats, both of which we have been told to avoid. But myristic acid is a very important fatty acid. Your body uses this fatty acid to stabilize many different proteins, including proteins used in the immune system and to fight tumors.
Lauric acid has several functions. It is an antimicrobial fatty acid on its own and it also helps to stabilize functions when it is attached to certain proteins.
Stearic acid is another saturated fatty acid. Two main sources of stearic acid are animal tallows (a form of fat), which contain about 20%-25% of stearic acid, and chocolate, which contains about 35% stearic acid. In other foods, it occurs only on levels of one percent to two percent.
So how much total saturated fat do you need? During the 1970s, researchers from Canada found that animals fed rapeseed oil and canola oil developed heart lesions. They were able to correct this problem, however, when they added saturated fat to the animals’ diets. On the basis of this and other research, the research team determined that the diet should contain at least 25% of fat as saturated fat. Among the food fats that they tested, the one found to have the best proportion of saturated fat was lard, which is the very fat you are told to avoid at all costs!
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends that your diet not include more than 10% saturated fats. Clearly there is a link between saturated fat and high cholesterol. But saturated fat need not be completely removed from your diet. You’ll have to decide what’s best for you and your particular circumstances. Remember that other risk factors for heart disease, like being overweight and a lack of exercise, are just as important when it comes to lowering cholesterol. You might not have to avoid coconut oil or butter as long as you use these saturated fats in small amounts. In fact, you may actually give your health a boost.