Happy Heart Health Month – Part One

OMGoodness there are so many mixed messages about heart health. Read on tho make sense of sugar and saturated fat as it pertains to our heart health. Lets prevent Cardiovascular Disease (aka CVD).

Q) There are experts who are now saying that the evidence between saturated fat and CVD may have been biased because research didn’t take into account the sugar content of the diet.  Is sugar the real culprit?

Added sugar is associated with increased TG levels and increased LDL cholesterol (hyperlipidemia being a risk factor for CVD). However, there is an inverse relationship with increased intake of healthier carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, meaning the more you eat these foods, the less likely you are to increase your risk for CVD.  Saturated fat remains a part of the picture. Now the question is which type of SFA may be more closely associated with the increased cholesterol-raising effect of cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors. More research is needed to clarify. Most importantly focus on including fruits, veggies and whole grains and limit added sugars.


Q) What is the role of saturated fat in CVD risk?

Saturated fat is associated with CVD. Studies show an increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol after eating a meal high in saturated fat. However, recent studies are examining the different roles of the specific types of saturated fats: Short chain, medium chain and long chain SFA.  This means continue to minimize your intake of saturated fat like the visual lard on a steak until more research is available. A simple guide: choose products with < 2 grams/ saturated fat per serving. Rather focus on including monounsaturated fats like olives and avocado. 


Q)  There are studies that show total blood cholesterol is not a reliable indicator of CVD. If it’s not, what are the indicators then?

Total Cholesterol is not a biomarker of CVD rather one’s ratio of Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio.  HDL also known as high density lipoprotein is the good cholesterol (h for helper) and LDL, low density lipoprotein (l for want less of) the bad cholesterol. The greater your HDL and the lower your LDL, the more favorable your cholesterol profile will be and the decreased chance of cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate a Low HDL, High LDL and High TG are associated with risk for CVD. You must ask the doctor for your cholesterol breakdown and the ratio with a goal < 5.  Always ask for a copy of your blood work.


Q)  If a higher sugar intake may be dangerous, why aren’t  triglycerides (blood levels) more important when assessing the risk of CVD, since this marker has a good correlation with simple carbohydrates intake?

TG’s are a good indicator of risk for CVD and it should be included in the lipid profile to assess for CVD risk. However, the ATP III report issued by the NIH, encourages using TG’s as a marker for other lipid and nonlipid risk factors that ultimately raise the risk for CVD. Ask Your medical doctor for your TG level and aim for < 150 mg/dl. 


Check back for Happy Heart Health Month Part 2 or like Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services on Facebook to get weekly nutrition updates.

Picture compliments of <p><a href=”http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=905″>Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>


  1. Hi Laura,

    The idea that saturated fats clog arteries has been around since about 1953 when University of Minnesota physiologist Ancel Keys proposed the connection. The idea was vigorously debated up until 1977 when the United States Government declared saturated fats a health hazard(1). Since the matter was considered settled, over the next 25 years there was pretty much no money for saturated fat research. More recently, the saturated fat debate has been revived(2) and scientists are realizing that a mistake was made(3). Unfortunately, the Harvard School of Public Health(4) continues to fight against the truth about the benefits of saturated fats(5) and the hazards associated with excessive omega-6 consumption(6,7,8). I hope this information is helpful.

    Dave Brown

    1. http://freepressonline.net/content/what-has-government-done-our-health
    2. http://www.cassandraforsythe.com/blog/The+Great+Saturated+Fat+Debate/
    3. http://www.prweb.com/releases/david_brown/omega-6/prweb8933501.htm
    4. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-full-story/
    5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRe9z32NZHY
    6. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201103/your-brain-omega-3
    7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgU3cNppzO0
    8. http://www.susanallport.com/newsletter728511.htm

    1. Hi David,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I do agree with you about the omega 6 overconsumption and the need for omega 3′s. That is part II of the Healthy Heart piece. In doing my research I have found that the specific chain of a saturated fat that is beneficial is not yet clear (based on double blind placebo studies). Do you have such studies available from the original source that say otherwise? If so, send them my way. I would be happy to read them.

  2. Hi Laura,

    Dave Evans has a “Healthy Diets and Science” blog that you might find helpful(1).

    Palmitic acid is considered the worst offender as far as cholesterol is concerned. Experiments with cell cultures suggest that high serum palmitic acid may have detrimental effects(2). However, cell cultures are not human digestive systems(3).

    The problem is, for many decades saturated fat research was systematically misinterpreted to yield conclusions that fit the cholesterol model of heart disease(4). But, the idea that high levels of LDL circulating in the bloodstream cause clogged arteries is overly simplistic. In truth, low levels of LDL appear to be problematic when all cause mortality is taken into consideration(5).

    The idea that saturated fats cause arteries to clog has always been controversial(6). And that controversy probably would have been resolved years ago if the government had not terminated debate by declaring saturated fats a health hazard(7). Although there’s growing realization that it was a mistake to link saturated fat intake to clogged arteries, the dogma is still firmly entrenched in academia, government, and the food manufacturing industry(8). It may take an act of congress to correct the problem.

    1. http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/small-ldl-cholesterol-size-caused-by.html
    2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16046706
    3. http://rdfeinman.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/saturated-fat-on-your-plate-or-in-your-blood/
    4. http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007%2811%2900314-5/abstract
    5. http://perfecthealthdiet.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/O-Primitivo-Cholesterol.jpg
    6. http://www.omen.com/corr.html
    7. http://freepressonline.net/content/what-has-government-done-our-health
    8. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/research-markets-reducing-saturated-fats-130000862.html

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion as always!! :) This is def. food for thought and def. needs further studies. I would expect in the near future we will find which fatty acids from saturated fat are the beneficial ones.