Saturated fat has gotten a bad rap in recent years because eating too much of it is known to cause health problems, including heart disease and stroke. The highest amount of saturated fat is in animal fats, including dairy products like ice cream, cheese, butter, and whole-fat milk; high-fat portions of meat; and plant oils, such as coconut and palm oils.
While removing these fats from your diet has traditionally been considered critical for your health, researchers have found that it may actually be an important part of anti-aging nutrition and shouldn’t be eliminated completely, as saturated fat can help combat age-related physical decline.
Researchers discovered the link between saturated fat and anti-aging nutrition when they examined the fatty acids within T-cells, a type of white blood cell, obtained from old and young donors.
The results showed that there was a connection between having less saturated fatty acids in the lymphocytes (cells) and a decrease in white blood cell function—white blood cells are responsible for charging the immune system so it can defend against foreign material and infectious diseases. Researchers resolved that by responsibly incorporating these fatty acids into an individual’s anti-aging nutrition plan, they could fix deficiencies of a particular fatty acid, myristic acid, in the body.
Myristic acid is an important part of anti-aging nutrition—it’s a vital fatty acid used to stabilize various proteins, including those used in your immune system and to combat tumors. However, myristic acid is contained in dairy fats and coconut oil, two generally unhealthy foods that we are cautioned to stay away from, so most people have too little of it.
Researchers recently discovered another medium-chain fatty acid that has anti-aging nutrition benefits: lauric acid, found mostly in coconut oil. When lauric acid is consumed, your body naturally turns it into a compound called monolaurin, which has been shown to help treat certain infections and viruses. Lauric acid should be part of anti-aging nutrition to some degree because without enough of it, the body isn’t able to produce enough monolaurin.
The amount of saturated fat the body needs for anti-aging nutrition was determined by studies in the 1970s. Researchers found that animals developed heart lesions after consuming canola oil and rapeseed oil, which are very low in saturated fat. However, the problem was corrected after the animals’ diets were changed to include more saturated fat. Through a combination of their own studies and those of others, the researchers determined that at least 25% of the fat in our diet should be saturated fat in order for it work as part of anti-aging nutrition.
Obviously, we know today that there is still a strong connection between saturated fat and high cholesterol—a growing concern for anti-aging nutrition. That’s why the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 advises that the recommended amount of saturated fat in a person’s diet should be no more than 10%.
While you may be tempted to just cut saturated fat out of your anti-aging nutrition plan, keep in mind that that’s not necessarily going to be as good for you as you might think—some saturated fat is important for anti-aging nutrition. We’re not saying to ignore what you’ve been told about saturated fat and go crazy with the fatty meats, but when eaten responsibly, there are several connections between anti-aging nutrition and saturated fats.
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“Know Your Fats,” American Heart Association web site; https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Know-Your-Fats_UCM_305628_Article.jsp, last accessed June 17, 2013.
Walling, E., “Learn About the Many Benefits of Lauric Acid in Coconut Oil,” Natural News web site; https://www.naturalnews.com/026819_lauric_acid_coconut_oil.html, last accessed July 8, 2013.
“Saturated Fat,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site; https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/fat/saturatedfat.html, last accessed June 17, 2013.