Saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates

“You catch more flies with honey…”

^^^good policy in general, but especially for debating in the realm of nutritional sciences.


A short while back, Nina Teicholz discussed low carb ketogenic diets and plant-based diets with John Mackey.  Although I disagree with the dichotomy (keto vs. plant-based), it’s well-worth a watch:



Three topics that could not be avoided in such a discussion: saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.



1. Saturated fat

Many animal-based foods are rich in saturated fat and this is frequently cited as a reason why they’re unhealthy.  That’s wrong: neither animal foods nor saturated fats are intrinsically unhealthy.  FACT (P<0.05).

A tricky example?  Most of the fat in coconuts is saturated, and this food isn’t usually lumped into “unhealthy saturated fats.”  In fact, some peoples around the world have consumed huge amounts of coconuts and rarely shown the signs of Neolithic disease that Westerners [wrongly] associate with meat.

Technically speaking, the saturated fats in coconuts are metabolically different from those in animal foods, but this example would surely give pause to the opposition.  AND coconuts are plants, so by advocating them, you’re basically saying at least this plant is healthy… point being, low carb ketogenic diets don’t (and shouldn’t) exclude plant foods… this is a straw man used by opponents of LCHF and ketogenic diets.






2. Cholesterol

Another big difference between animal and plant foods is cholesterol (which is only found in the former).  Of note, cholesterol is highest in organ meats, and including organ meats into the diet undoubtedly healthifies it.  If cholesterol is ever discussed in a future debate, I suggest this example be promptly cited because literally NO EDUCATED PERSON would say: “eat less liver BECAUSE CHOLESTEROL.”



so much #fail

so much #fail




3. Carbohydrates


3a. “Eco-Atkins” is a plant-based low carb diet and studies have clearly demonstrated it’s efficacy.

3b. A ketogenic diet is easier & more ketogenic if it’s based on plants.



“You catch more flies with honey…”

I just like the idea of starting the discussion by looking at what the diets have in common (a lot of healthy whole foods), not where they differ (carbz)… and focusing on the bigger picture: circadian rhythms, stress levels, and environment all influence our response to ANY given diet.


Bacon. Your argument is invalid.


calories proper


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  • Dan Ordoins

    “and focusing on the bigger picture: circadian rhythms, stress levels, and environment all influence our response to ANY given diet.”

    I agree……

  • Thumbdriver

    Your last sentence is the latest excuse of why Jimmy Moore can’t lose weight. It’s important, but in the end it’s just an excuse for when LCHF fails because it’s just a diet that stops working when you think it is somehow mythically superior to ELMM.

    • Jack Kruse

      You assume that…….you don’t know it. I believe JM has a karyotype issue he is refusing to test for because he believes it might hurt him. I believe it could liberate him………but he has demons to deal with called LCHF fans.

      • This Old Housewife

        Not to mention sponsors, ad revenue, and tax write-off generation to maintain.

      • Thumbdriver

        No Jack Kruse, that’s stupid. It’s simple. He eats too much and doesn’t exercise. It’s not some completely made-up quantum, karyotype, or light bullshit either.

        • Jack Kruse

          Thumbdriver = An ignorant man’s report of what a wise man says can never be fully accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.

          • Thumbdriver

            I’d rather be ignorant than fraudulent.

          • Jack Kruse

            I accept that type of reply from a critic. One shouldn’t criticize what you can’t fully grasp or understand. Being a skeptic and critic doesn’t involve fraud, It IS the definition of fraud. Critics seek to stop ideas that push the dogma of the critic aside. It is my job to offend you. I take pleasure in it. The truth is my ideas will hurt critics. The key is you have to find the ideas worth suffering for and a critic is incapable of this task, making themselves a fraud to their own being. Kaizen means the art of continuous improvement. If that makes me fraudulent in a critics eyes, I can accept it. It is a great compliment.

          • Morgan Pfiffner

            It can be difficult to know where to begin. How should you navigate this astral totality? Although you may not realize it, you are self-aware.

            If you have never experienced this quantum shift of the creative act, it can be difficult to live. Prophet, look within and enlighten yourself. The biosphere is calling to you via bio-feedback. Can you hear it?

    • This Old Housewife

      He was practicing zero carb (5 eggs and a stick of butter once daily), and couldn’t keep it up wile being on the road. Of course he regained the weight. Now, testing has revealed a folate and iron deficiency, which he will resolve by what? Eating more veggies. More weight regained unless he gets to the root of his problem.

  • John Lushefski

    The funny thing about coconut fat is that it contains roughly the same amount of lcsfa (>12C) as many animal fats; the major change from animal to coconut is mufa to mcfa, not lcsfa to mcfa. The Tokelaun fat analysis reflects this as well. …Just goes to show how strong the anti-animal bias can be.

    I’ve noticed a popular mainstream trend: it’s okay to acknowledge the science of saturated fat (whether dairy, coconut, etc), but it’s still wrong/politically incorrect to recommend eating it [in Women’s Health or something], “It’s still fat! It is calorically dense!”

  • This Old Housewife

    As for saturated fat, what about macadamias–why aren’t THEY being demonized? I believe it’s more a case of underlying religious food purity more than anything else. “Eat closer to God, and all will be well” and all that. My own halo is covered with fur and fat.

    • Maca’s are relatively low in SFA, ~17% of the total fats. Mostly MUFA. Brazils come in a little higher, ~25%, but most nuts are lower.

  • rs711

    As for the bigger picture of circadian rhythms, an easy e.g. of how it’s even more influential than food on a day to day basis is how it affects how one feels & massively how one performs sports-wise. Sleep (pattern/length/quality) is just a more immediate factor than food, as far as I can tell.

    I agree with everything you said, basically, and enjoy the simplicity with which it’s pretend.

    So to not turn this into an echo chamber, I have a (minor) disagreement on point “3b: A ketogenic diet is easier & more ketogenic if it’s based on plants.”

    – You’re right, it’s easier at a population level. Is it “more” ketogenic? Not really, or technically – it depends.

    Woo’s argument is convincing but I don’t think it automatically implies meat-only diet is inherently ‘less ketogenic’. The same biology still applies. You just need to be more selective in your meats/fish/offal/shellfish & prioritise things like brains, marrow & quasi exclude lean cuts (assuming you’re not supplementing with added fats – which you easily could nowadays). So it’s probably harder to be ketogenic logistics wise on meat-only diet considering entire populations where lots of people have many hormonal/metabolic issues. But ultimately, as long as protein is controlled (& carbs) and fats are high enough, I don’t see it as ‘less ketogenic’. I think the “more keto” is valid if we’re considering logistics, so my point applies to the biology really.

    I’ll watch that talk – hopefully Mackey isn’t too painful to listen to for 2hrs!

    Good one Bill 🙂

    • I agree with your disagreement lol

      As I see it, “meat-only” diets are frequently restricted to steak & ground beef, and not particularly fatty portions… nowhere near the Uber-Paleo-Keto Raphi Diet™ 🙂

      P.S. wrt the video: 1) there are a lot of straw men; and 2) Mackey is a very experienced public speaker.

      • rs711

        #UBPKRD™! haha

        I listened to it yesterday. Mackey is a DICK

        • hahaha
          I didn’t think he was rude or anything, just hit all the anti-LC talking points (and straw men) in very eloquent fashion

  • Thomas Hemming Larsen

    Very good points Bill. I recently saw a documentary where they investigated the diets of the most healthy populations in the world. The common denominator was that they all lived of fresh, non-processed food most of which they grew locally. It didn’t matter if it was animals, plants, pasta, dairy or olive oil – they all lived according to their environment. Their macros varied greatly.

    • This.
      “They all lived according to their environment…
      their macros varied greatly.”

      • Thomas Hemming Larsen

        Yep, macros are overrated 🙂

    • You get away with more carbs when you live in an area of the world with (1) more volcanic soil and (2) more total hours of sunshine annually.

      There’s an interplay between sulfur in the diet (volcanic soil = more sulfur in foods grown in that soil), exposure to sunlight, and better use of carbohydrates in a way that doesn’t encourage chronic disease. Dr. Stephanie Seneff has written about this.

      (The insulin molecule contains sulfur. I had gotten curious about any possible relationship between keratosis pilaris, which seems to be sulfur-related, and insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia since I have KP and it got worse as I got fatter. That’s how I found Dr. Seneff in the first place.)

      Problem is you have too many dietary gooroos pretending that how you eat vs. where you live in the world doesn’t matter. People who live closer to the poles need to eat like they won’t have carbs available to them all year, and going out in the sun for longer does not make up the difference because at those latitudes you interact with solar light differently, especially in winter.

  • Kenny

    I also once heard that you can catch more honeys being fly.

  • Colin P. Müller

    I’d respect vegans more if they weren’t so fat-phobic. I got banned from a vegan website once for simply (and politely) suggesting maybe adding some avocados and some nuts to the meal plan. NOPE. Banhammer. What a bunch of freaks.

    • probably not fair to include ALL vegans here, but banhammer for suggesting ‘cados & nuts seems extreme :/

    • Suzanne Garrett

      I was able to attend AHS in 2014, where Denise Minger spoke on shared values of Veganism and Paleo. Most fascinating to me was the portion where she spoke about “where the magic happens” (optimal health benefits). When eating vegan, keeping fat percentage of daily total calories consumed to less than 10% was most beneficial to metabolically unhealthy individuals.

      • thanks, that’s a good video.
        One thing with the claim about <10% fat is that those interventions are usually very comprehensive: quitting smoking, exercising more, sleeping better, meditation, etc., etc… so it's hard to attribute the benefits to dietary fat per se.

      • We know that if you elevate your insulin with a carb-heavy meal, any fat you eat along with that meal will be stored. If you also have hyperinsulinemia, that means the fat you just ate will stay stored. So it makes sense that if you’re vegan, which is NECESSARILY carb-heavy, going low-fat will minimize any resulting weight gain.

        But you won’t be healthy though. A lot of people who go vegan seem to have come from a background of good nourishment, probably because well-off people have more time to obsess about perfect diets. So they have a bank account of nutritional stores and prior good health to draw from. But eventually it’s going to run out–and that’s the ones who started with a full health account. People who start out unhealthy and then go vegan will get a bit of a reprieve from ditching junk food but they’ll crash and burn faster.

  • TechnoTriticale

    re: … real mice eat fruits and seeds; laboratory mice eat pelleted rodent chow; cartoon mice eat cheese.

    2015-07-02: Laboratory mice (on the “control” diet) eat what may be toxic levels of lead, cadmium, PCDD/Fs, PCBs and, no surprise, generous portions of glyphosate and AMPA:

    Mice on the “keto” diet you already know about (in any lab but D’Agostino’s, perhaps).

    It’s a wonder we can learn anything at all from recruited rodents dining differently.

    • yeah, gotta critically the methods of rodent “keto” studies to know exactly what they’re being fed. Usually (but not always), it’s pretty crappy.