scratch-mark

Saturated Fat and Heart Disease Deaths

Ricardo Carvalho, whose great database work I highlighted yesterday, just emailed me another graph. The latest saturated fat data he could find was from 1998, but see if you can find any correlation.

Picture 3

It's all over the map. If you had to draw a trend, however, how would it look? I'd probably start it from the left at the 120 and finish off to the right at about 80, i.e., more saturated fat associated with less CHD mortality.

Update 3/30/2009: Physicist Robert McLeod took the tabular data I provided and did a fit in MATLAB. The punchline is that there's only a 1% chance of the slope being positive (more saturated fat correlated with more CHD deaths) and a 99% chance the slope is negative (more saturated fat correlated with fewer CHD deaths).

Interesting how, once again, the French thumb their noses at the rest of the world. Red wine? Gimmeabreak. I lived there, and most people have no idea how much animal fat most of them eat. From their fat-heavy sauses to their fatty charcuterie and pâté, to their sweet butter and many fine cheeses. I've remarked before about the difference between how Americans eat cheese and how the French do it. In America, I see people taking a whole slice of bread (or a cracker) and thinly spreading cheese on it. In France, you take a small bit of crust and pile a huge mound of cheese on it. And that's often not all. Many French first put a big pat of sweet butted on, and then the cheese. Like this; tiny piece of cracker, big butter, and big cheese:

Cheese and cracker

Yea, I ate it. It was in the interest of science. Frankly, I think the "French Paradox" has a lot more to do with getting a healthy dose of K2 in their diets from all the organ meats they frequently eat (tripe, kidney, liver), as well as the butter and cheese.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

26 Comments

  1. Mark Sisson on March 22, 2009 at 12:57

    Richard,

    Always loved these kinds of "graphs". I remember being in sophomore science class and thinking "how the hell can anyone in his/her right mind draw a trend line through that minefield, find the slope and then infer ANYTHING?" Yet, every budding scientist is required to connect these dots with a straight line (and a straight face). Cheers.

  2. Chris Kanakaris on March 22, 2009 at 14:28

    Richard,
    just wanted to say thank you for a great site. Found you through Art. Chris.

  3. Richard Nikoley on March 22, 2009 at 16:16

    Welcome, Chris. And thanks.

  4. David at Animal-Kingdom-Workouts.com on March 23, 2009 at 07:34

    Have you heard about the movie 'Fathead'? It's a documentary that goes after a lot of eating myths, including the high fat, high heart disease myth. There's some great video's on youtube that highlight this. Check it out here:

    https://youtu.be/v8WA5wcaHp4

    – Dave

  5. Joe Matasic on March 23, 2009 at 06:07

    That's why I didn't feel too bad last night about the carbs I had at dinnner. Tiny pieces of cracker and bread heaped with butter. Appetizer was fresh mozz wrapped in proscuito (sp) over a cold heirloom tomatoes with balsamic and olive oil. It came with two long slices of croutons. I swear this bread was half parmesan. I had to break it with my hands, knife wouldn't work. Really good. Ate my whole piece like bruschetta. Followed that by a seasonal veggies and a 22oz rare ribeye and ate the big chucks of fat. My wife's sirloin came with carmelized shallot butter and I ate the rest of her butter also. All that with a bottle of Chianti Classico cost me a pretty penny but it was part of her Christmas present, so I have an excuse. Didn't feel to guilty about dessert either. Flourless chocolate espresso cake with some fresh raspberries and whipped cream. I'm sure it had some sugar but not much and carbs for the dark chocolate. But in reality for a "special" meal we did well. I'm fasting today and eat well the other 95%+ of the time.

    Whenever I eat like this I try to make sure I load up on the fat. Not sure whether that's a good idea or not? Anyone have an opinion on that? Goodness of the fat/extra calories with the carbs/slowing the absorption of the carbs? Of course, we had no intention of getting a dessert.

  6. Jaroslav Cmunt on March 23, 2009 at 06:25

    This database is great, Ricardo deserves our thanks for such hard work.

    As an amateur statistics junkie I would say that saturated fats are rather neutral, e.g. if there is any negative correlation between sat fats intake and CHD mortality, it looks rather statistically insignificant to me. Given that 1) countries that have high sat fats intake and low CHD mortality are all rich developed countries and 2) CHD mortality varies greatly at all sat fats consumption levels I would say other confounding factors like GDP (and healthcare quality) bear greater statistical significance than saturated fats consumption.

    That said, I still love my saturated fats 🙂

  7. Patrik on March 23, 2009 at 10:43

    @Mark

    Great point. As someone with a graduate degree in economics and having taken a fair amount stats/econometrics — one should always be skeptical of trendlines ("regression analysis").

    As the joke goes: two economists go hunting. A rabbit pops up and streaks across the field, the first economist fires and misses by a meter in front of the rabbit, the second fires and misses by a meter behind.

    They turn to each other excitedly, "We got 'em!"

  8. Robert M. on March 23, 2009 at 13:27

    If you have that data in tabular format I can fit it, with 95 % confidence interval lines. Might be worth a laugh.

  9. JSYK, tripe is a muscle not an organ. I know , picky picky picky , lol
    ~S

  10. Richard Nikoley on March 23, 2009 at 11:18

    Yep (have blogged about it a few times). Coincidentally, I just watched the DVD for the second time yesterday, this time with the wife and a couple of friends. They were shocked and amazed.

    Those uTube clips don't do justice to the whole movie, which is quite comprehensive.

  11. Richard Nikoley on March 23, 2009 at 11:29

    I tend to think that if such "cheating" excursions are moderate and rare, that indeed it's best to load up on the fat. That really slows down the metabolism of the sugar in the excess carbs. For instance, full fat, traditional ice cream has a pretty low GI number (as I recall) because of the fat.

  12. Richard Nikoley on March 23, 2009 at 13:39

    I believe Ricardo sent that along. Will check when I get back home.

    Richard Nikoley

  13. Nancy R. on March 23, 2009 at 14:26

    Hi Richard –

    Just wanted to give you a heads up on more "Bad Science". Check out this study "Meat Intake and Mortality" http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/169/6/562

    Thought you might like something new and shiny to play with. I also asked Doc Eades about it. I love it when you bloggers eviscerate stuff like this. Mainly because you do a much better job than I ever could! Thanks again.

  14. Richard Nikoley on March 23, 2009 at 14:41

    I'll take a look. Offhand, I'd say control of variables is probably going to be a major issue (what else are they eating, in what quantities). In other words, the study was designed to show the desired result.

  15. Richard Nikoley on March 23, 2009 at 14:44

    Just emailed off the tabular data.

  16. Ricardo Carvalho on March 24, 2009 at 08:24

    Dear Robert M. and Richard N., you can download the 1998 European saturated fat data from Regarding the European CHD death rates, please search http://www.heartstats.org for "death rates from CHD" and you'll find a several Excel tabular data for your own research. According to my own recent research, I believe we already have enough data to "build" an updated saturated fat (actually, full fatty acids data) information and here is my suggestion for someone brave enough to try it (I may also try this if I have enough spare time in the next weeks): based on the detailed nutritional data we already have, for 2003 (latest year), from the FAO-STAT Consumption Database (see http://faostat.fao.org/site/609/DesktopDefault.aspx and , and crossing it with McCance and Widdowson’s Composition of Foods integrated dataset (see , which has detailed fatty acids data for hundreds of food groups, a truly updated and detailed fatty acids world (167 countries) consumption database can be built. These parameters could then be compared/correlated with the health & disease parameters provided by the WHO Global Health Atlas and WHO Statistical Information System (see https://web.archive.org/web/20090405211929/http://www.who.int:80/globalatlas/DataQuery/ and , the same way I did for the nutritional parameters. After this, we could then compare, for example, lauric acid intake with CHD mortality (saturated fat in coconut oil clogs your arteries?), stearic acid intake with cancer death rates (red meat consumption causes cancer?), specific fatty acids effect on mean cholesterol levels, etc. I would say, in theory, that this might work and be a relatively simple task but, as wee know, going from theory into practice sometimes may require significant effort and time. Anyone volunteers for this task?

  17. Aaron on March 24, 2009 at 10:09

    I've heard the same joke except it was three statisticians going duck hunting. The first aims one meeter too high, the next aims one meeter too low, and the third one yells "We got 'em!"

  18. Richard Nikoley on March 24, 2009 at 10:36

    I figured the one wasn't like the others. But, what the hell. All innards. 🙂

  19. Ricardo on March 25, 2009 at 03:11

    Dear Robert M. and Richard N., you can download the 1998 European saturated fat data from Regarding the European CHD death rates, please search http://www.heartstats.org for "death rates from CHD" and you'll find a several Excel tabular data for your own research. According to my own recent research, I believe we already have enough data to "build" an updated saturated fat (actually, full fatty acids data) information and here is my suggestion for someone brave enough to try it (I may also try this if I have enough spare time in the next weeks): based on the detailed nutritional data we already have, for 2003 (latest year), from the FAO-STAT Consumption Database (see http://faostat.fao.org/site/609/DesktopDefault.aspx and , and crossing it with McCance and Widdowson’s Composition of Foods integrated dataset (see , which has detailed fatty acids data for hundreds of food groups, a truly updated and detailed fatty acids world (167 countries) consumption database can be built. These parameters could then be compared/correlated with the health & disease parameters provided by the WHO Global Health Atlas and WHO Statistical Information System (see https://web.archive.org/web/20090405211929/http://www.who.int:80/globalatlas/DataQuery/ and , the same way I did for the nutritional parameters. After this, we could then compare, for example, lauric acid intake with CHD mortality (saturated fat in coconut oil clogs your arteries?), stearic acid intake with cancer death rates (red meat consumption causes cancer?), specific fatty acids effect on mean cholesterol levels, etc. I would say, in theory, that this might work and be a relatively simple task but, as wee know, going from theory into practice sometimes may require significant effort and time. Anyone volunteers for this task?

  20. ben on March 26, 2009 at 11:40

    Great article. Definitely a lot of useful information. I myself am overweight and I hate how some of the tv shows are exploiting overweight people. For example, the biggest loser. They had them pulling cars! How do you feel about this type of tv? Look at the article below and you will see what I mean. Thanks again!

  21. Richard Nikoley on March 26, 2009 at 12:55

    I don't really have an opinion on it. I don't watch any of those shows.

  22. AndrewS on March 27, 2009 at 06:28

    I've seen some comments that GI is irrelevant. Stephan, at Whole Health Source, has a couple recent posts on it. I'm trying to overcome insulin resistance (and dozens of other things, of course) so I'm going low carb. To that end, I think low GI food is worse than high GI since any sugar I do consume will stick around between meals.

    Which is why fasting is so handy!

    As for sugars and fat together, Bruce (I think it's Bruce)(who comments frequently on Peter's blog) argues that it's a bad combo, and that we should eat one or the other, and not the two together. I'm not convinced, but I don't consider those notions disproven, either.

    • Mike G on June 18, 2010 at 19:44

      Many people who have elevated sugars/ insulin resistance, have restored their health COMPLETELY with the use of potassium iodide – just drops….. powerful. No more progression and avoiding the future potential challenges the body would manifest into. Who would have thought it could be that simple…. Learn to Cleanse, Rebuild/ Restore and Renourish, …… God Bless



  23. Richard Nikoley on March 27, 2009 at 09:25

    Yep. I've never concerned myself with it personally and really have no idea whether it makes a difference one way or the other. The way to ensure optimal health is just to eat real food in combinations and proportions that generally simulate a natural diet.

  24. minneapolis J on March 30, 2009 at 11:54

    Richard, what do you know about Enig and Fallon's idea that monosaturated fat is what is stored as excess fat…Apparently Enig and Fallon encourage animal, saturated fats bc nuts and seeds monosaturated fats can contribute to excess body fat.

    Its a point well noting and I may try to cut back on the monosaturates and go full board with saturates if this is the case.

  25. Richard Nikoley on March 30, 2009 at 12:13

    I don't know anything about it. I eat plenty of nuts and have been losing fat. But, sometimes I also like to go periods without nuts.

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