noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.
0 cart-active Created with Sketch. noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.

Podcast: Facing the Facts on Fat

By The Paleo Diet Team
February 27, 2014
Podcast: Facing the Facts on Fat image

Dr. Loren Cordain: I'm Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo movement.

Shelley Schlender: I'm Shelley Schlender. This is The Paleo Diet Podcast for April 2014.

Loren Cordain, how would you like to hear The American Heart Association's latest public health campaign little piece?

Dr. Loren Cordain: I'd love to. Let's see what advice they have to 300 million of us in this country.

Audio Clip: Hi, it's Practical Polly's radio show. I've switched to cooking with healthier oils so now what do I do with all these tubs of lard?

Skinny jeans feeling too tight? A bit of lard on your hips and thighs and those pants slide on like a dream. There's no need for that lard to go to waste. Get your best heart-healthy trade up with heart-healthier oils, like Canola, olive, or other vegetable oils, which can actually lower your chances for heart disease.

Learn more at Canola Info is the national supporter of The American Heart Association's Face The Fats campaign.

Shelley Schlender: There you go, The American Heart Association's Face The Fats campaign.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Was that actually American Heart? When I was listening to the last part of it, it was the group that supports Canola oil.

Shelley Schlender: It's an industry funded ad.

Dr. Loren Cordain: It's funded by the Canola oil industry.

Shelley Schlender: Yeah, let's see what The American Heart Association, how much they're entwined in this. Let's listen to that again.

Audio Clip: Learn more at heart. Org/facethefats. Canola Info is the national supporter of The American Heart Association's Face The Fats campaign.

Dr. Loren Cordain: American Heart Association Face The Facts campaign.

Shelley Schlender: Or Face The Fats.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Face The Fats, yeah.

Shelley Schlender: What do you think? How are they facing the fats? Does this match in with science?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, you know there's been a recent resurgence in the notion that linolenic acid is a healthful fatty acid.

Shelley Schlender: Is that Omega 3, Omega 6?


Dr. Loren Cordain: It's Omega 6. It's an 18 carbon fatty acid that is the parent compound for all Omega 6 fatty acids. We call it linolenic acid. It's very high in many vegetable oils, like corn oil, sesame seed oil.

Shelley Schlender: Soy oil.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Soy oil actually is one of the lower concentrations. Soy actually has a little bit of alpha-linolenic acid but not much, 7% or so. It still has quite a bit of linolenic acid. That's really the problem with the US diet. We get too much linolenic acid.

Shelley Schlender: The Omega 6 acid.

Dr. Loren Cordain: The Omega 6, yeah.

Shelley Schlender: Which is so common in the most commonly used vegetable oils.

Dr. Loren Cordain: That's right. It's put in virtually all processed foods. It's very cheap to produce and manufacture.

Shelley Schlender: The cheap stuff is full of Omega 6's. This ad really focuses on making fun of lard.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Audio Clip: Skinny jeans feeling too tight? A bit of lard on your hips and thighs and those pants slide on like a dream.

Dr. Loren Cordain: They've tried to, no pun intended, boil it down to this versus that.

Shelley Schlender: No pun intended, but they even render it down quite a bit there too.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, they did. Animal fat, per se, probably isn't the boogeyman that we once thought that it was. We now have some pretty good meta-analyses in which we look at all kinds of studies put together. The meta-analyses are not showing that saturated fat was the evil that we, at one time, thought it would be.

Shelley Schlender: Lard is part saturated fat.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Right.

Shelley Schlender: It's also part monounsaturated.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Monounsaturated, exactly. When we talk about lard, lard is a complex mixture of fatty acids. All saturated fatty acids affect the body differently. Work from our laboratory, at Bruce Watkins at Purdue, we actually analyzed the quote, unquote lard, or the adipose tissue of wild animals.

What we found is that it contains high amounts of stearic acid. Stearic acid is a saturated fat.


Advertising campaign like this wants to tell us that all saturated fats affect our body in the identical manner and that's not the truth at all. Stearic acid seems to actually have a cholesterol lowering affect about equivalent to monounsaturated fats.

Shelley Schlender: Meaning olive oil and the fat from a wild animal, the lard, if you will, from a wild animal, will be about equivalent in terms of being able to lower cholesterol.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Again, it's a complex issue and they're trying to boil it down to a very simplistic issue. Trying to say that cholesterol is equivalent to saturated fat is not. Cholesterol's another entity completely in itself. Dietary cholesterol has very minimal effect on blood cholesterol.

We have these negative feedback pathways and, if we don't make enough of it, because we do make cholesterol in our body, then the liver turns on enzymes that build more cholesterol.

Shelley Schlender: The membranes of our cells depend on having cholesterol in them.

Dr. Loren Cordain: That's right. Every cell in body requires cholesterol to some degree. It's a tightly regulated pathway and it's been known for 30 years that dietary cholesterol has a minimal effect on blood cholesterol. A perfect example of that is shrimp. Shrimp are a food that we all like yet the advice 30 years ago to cardiac patients was, if you've had a heart attack, stay away from shrimp because it's a high cholesterol food.

Shrimp is high cholesterol but it's a very low fat food as well. Recent studies have shown, in randomized controlled trials, is that it's a heart healthy food because it helps to normalize these particles. We can't just measure total blood cholesterol. That's a very misleading measurement. We now realize that we need to measure other particles. We need to measure HDL. We need to fractionate LDL particles into small dense LDL.


There are other particles, triglyceride particularly, that seem to have a huge effect on cardiovascular risk.

Shelley Schlender: Loren Cordain, triglycerides generally come from somebody eating carbohydrates, like sugars and starches, that their body has trouble metabolizing so it changes it into this fatty acid called triglycerides. That's a warning sign for health, to have high triglycerides.

Dr. Loren Cordain: You know the problem for the average person is that it's like, "I don't want to hear all those complexes." It's kind of like learning “computer-ese”. Just tell me what I should or should not eat.

Shelley Schlender: Then let's go back to that. Here is this American Heart Association public service announcement where they're saying, basically, let's make fun of lard so you never want to eat it again and trust your vegetable oils. Now you've said that wild animal fat has got some health benefits to it. How about pig fat from a pig that's raised in a farm factory?

Dr. Loren Cordain: All you have to do is go out here to Greeley to see that you've got on your hands a pretty sick animal. These animals tend to be insulin resistant. When humans become insulin resistant one of the things that they do is they store fat within the muscle itself.

Shelley Schlender: These animals, pigs for instance, are being raised on a lot of corn.

Dr. Loren Cordain: That's right.

Shelley Schlender: And foods that tend to make them have the same kind of health problems that humans have.
Dr. Loren Cordain: That's right, animals that are raised in feedlots are force fed grains. The two major grains are corn and sorghum. Animals tend to store the types of fat that are found in their feed. We've done studies contrasting the fatty acid profile of wild animals, grass produced animals, and grain produced animals.

The further you get away from wild animals, the less healthful is the fatty acid profile for humans. The simple answer is, if you can afford it, you're best off getting grass produced meats. Not just hogs but chicken and cow and what have you. The animal is a lot healthier.


That's really, in this country, how we used to produce meats. It's only been in the last 50 years that these enormous feedlots have been put together. When I say enormous we're talking hundreds of thousands of animals. Feedlots have been around since about the 1850s, maybe 1860s, with the advent of steam locomotives so that you could bring cows and grain together. Also with the reaping machine, to harvest huge amounts of corn and wheat.

That whole idea, again, is less than 200 years old. Before 200 years ago people ate meat that was allowed to live in a pasture. We didn't slaughter cows until they were about five years of age 200 years ago. Now they're slaughtered at 14 months. The idea here is to produce the fattest, heaviest cow with the least amount of food possible.

We can certainly do that but does it produce a healthy meat and a healthy animal? No, we can do a lot better.

Shelley Schlender: Okay, so it isn't the greatest kind of fat on a hog that's been raised in a feedlot. That's not the greatest kind of fat but how does it compare with eating vegetable oils? By the way, this promo, this public service announcement, talks about olive oil and Canola oil and then, very breezily, says, "And other vegetable oils."

Audio Clip: ... trade up with healthier oils like Canola, olive or other vegetable oils.

Shelley Schlender: What do you think of olive oil and Canola oil?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Olive oil is a traditional oil that has been used in the Mediterranean and people have been consuming olive oil for 5,000 years or so. It's a component of the Mediterranean diet. Most randomized control trials suggest that in humans olive oil is a healthy type of fat that we should try to get back into our diet because it contains high amounts of monounsaturated fats.
What people don't realize is it also has saturated fats.


Oils are combinations of various fats. We talked a little bit earlier about animal fats containing stearic acid, which is a very healthful fat. People should try to consume that. That, in wild animals, represents about half of the storage fat of wild animals.
If you're a hunter in Colorado and you kill an elk in the fall and you've got a big, thick layer of fat on its back, that I wouldn't discard. I would say I would enjoy it because it's probably pretty good for you.

Canola oil is a very recent oil. It is made from a plant called rapeseed.

Shelley Schlender: From the mustard family.

Dr. Loren Cordain: It is. It's from Brassica. It's kind of like cabbage or mustard seed. It contains an oil, or a fatty acid, called erucic acid, which is toxic to humans and animals. Traditionally people could not eat the oil of rapeseed. The name rapeseed wasn't very pleasant as well.

A bunch of Canadian plant breeders, about 30 years ago, got together and produced a breed of rapeseed. Rapeseed normally contains about 40 to 50% erucic acid in it. Erucic acid is the toxic monounsaturated fats. Again, not all monounsaturated fats are good, some are toxic so it's kind of a complicated deal.

We couldn't have consumed rapeseed in any degree whatsoever. These breeders got together and they were able to produce a breed of rapeseed and they changed the name, because they were Canadian guys, to Canola oil.

Shelley Schlender: That's how it got the C A N, from Canada, to get away from that rapeseed name.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Right, to get away from the rapeseed name. The experiments that were done in the late 70s, when these new breeds of rapeseed were produced, unfortunately, even at the very low concentrations we find about one to two percent of Canola oil still has erucic acid in it.

Shelley Schlender: Can we have just a little bit of erucic acid in our diet without it causing any harm for us, or is this always a somewhat harmful oil?

Dr. Loren Cordain: We can have just a little bit of anything.

Shelley Schlender: We could have a little cyanide.


Dr. Loren Cordain: You could have, actually, a tiny amount of cyanide but the toxic dose is not much beyond the lethally toxic, but what you can get. We can also get too much water, water can kill us as well. We need nutrients in the appropriate degree at which our bodies have evolved.

Shelley Schlender: How about this erucic, am I saying it right, erucic acid?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah.

Shelley Schlender: If there's just a little bit in what I can buy at the grocery store, is that a big deal or not?

Dr. Loren Cordain: It turns out that at one to two percent, which is the concentrations that we now find in Canola oil, it still actually seems to have adverse cardiovascular effects in laboratory models. There's a specific type of rat that is prone to hypertension and high blood pressure. When those rats are given, even at one to two percent, it can lead to elevations in blood pressure.

Shelley Schlender: Does that mean if you have high blood pressure you might go, "Hmm" maybe try to eat foods without Canola oil for a while and see what happens?

Dr. Loren Cordain: There are more healthful oils. My point is why consume an oil that potentially has adverse health effects.

Shelley Schlender: This American Heart Association promo says Canola oil is one of the best.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Actually, there are other problems because there's so many things in our environment, particularly a high salt diet, that are way more important in promoting hypertension, and high glycemic load carbohydrates.

Shelley Schlender: Things like sugar, apple juice and potatoes.

Dr. Loren Cordain: That's right. Most of us only think about salt as promoting high blood pressure but we now know that high glycemic load carbs are also very much involved in that whole process. The point I wanted to make about Canola oil is that it is produced from a plant. We mentioned it kind of comes like Brassica, kind of like cabbage and whatever.

People that have food allergies, particularly in the fall when all the pollen is going crazy, there's cross-reactivity with people who consume Canola oil, particularly children. It tends to promote allergies. It cross-reacts with another plant.


Shelley Schlender: What plant does it cross-react with?

Dr. Loren Cordain: A variety of them. I don't have them on the top of my head, but it's in my book. I actually give all the scientific citations and I explain why you shouldn't eat Canola oil.

Shelley Schlender: All right, here we are at your book shelf. Loren, you're going to look in your book, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, for this.

Dr. Loren Cordain: I'm hoping that's where I'm going to find it. Canola oil is extracted from Brassica rapa, or Brassica campestris. That's a member of the, as we mentioned earlier, the cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale family. It was about 20, 50% of erucic acid. This is an isomer of monounsaturated fatty acid called 221V9, which doesn't mean anything unless you're a lipid chemist.

That's what is the toxic part.

Shelley Schlender: You're saying that in commercial Canola oil sometimes there's one to two percent of this more toxic fat.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, and then here's the study on the rapeseed showing that it's a potent allergen in adults and children and causes allergic cross-reaction from other environmental allergens. Let's just get that citation and I can tell you what those are.

Shelley Schlender: That seems to indicate it could be something that accelerates allergies of all kinds, in somebody who's susceptible to that. You're looking at the references here in your book, The Paleo Diet for Athletes.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah. Okay, the oil from Canola oil seems to exacerbate children with atopic dermatitis, a skin disease that is allergy based. We're not really completely sure what causes it. Here's another one, it's 2009, 2006, showing atopic dermatitis. This is an entire group in Finland that have been studying Canola oil as it relates to allergy.

Going back to The American Heart Association, I think that because of its high potential for allergy, it shouldn't be across the board considered to be a healthy food.


Shelley Schlender: Canola oil, now and then, is okay but if you make it a staple of your diet you might cause some inflammation or autoimmune reactions that lead to allergies.

Dr. Loren Cordain: That's right. Allergy and autoimmunity are two flip sides of the coin. This is a non-traditional oil that humans have never consumed. It was only put together by plant breeders in the last 30 or 40 years. Whereas olive oil, the test of time seems to support the idea that that's one of the best oils for your cooking because it's high in monounsaturated. It's got enough saturated fats that it tends to be fairly stable even at moderate temperatures.

Coconut oil would be even better still because it is more stable. Studies of coconut oil in traditional populations show that it does not promote cardiovascular disease.

Shelley Schlender: Those are the kind of oils you'd recommend. We have knocked off two of the oils that they've mentioned.

Audio Clip: It's Practical Polly Radio. I've switched to cooking with healthier oils so now what do I do with all these tubs of lard?

Shelley Schlender: In this public service announcement from The American Heart Association lard is obviously the worst. That may not be true.

Audio Clip: Get your best heart-healthy trade up with heart-healthier oils like Canola.

Shelley Schlender: Canola oil has some suspicious aspects to it. Olive oil is okay. They get some gold stars for mentioning olive oil. This ends with this public service announcement saying better than animal fats are vegetable oils.

Audio Clip: ... olive, or other vegetable oils, which can actually lower your chances for heart disease.

Shelley Schlender: In general, you don't agree with that.

Dr. Loren Cordain: No, and I think that part of the problem is the governing bodies that are trying to make the decisions, they themselves can't agree. The notion that linolenic acid ...

Shelley Schlender: Omega 6 fatty acids.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Omega 6 fatty acids, like what we find in most vegetable oils. The notion that that is a healthy oil and it reduces the risk for heart disease is clearly being fought in the trenches right now. My colleague, Joe at NIH ...


Shelley Schlender: National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yes. Those groups and others are absolutely at the opposite side of the spectrum. They're writing scientific papers in some of the best journals, in Lancet and GEM and so forth, completely criticizing The American Heart Association, who are saying that we ought to be consuming more linolenic acid, Omega 6's.

Shelley Schlender: In fact, you did a great story about the fact that Joe Hibland's group had studied some past research which was assumed to mean heart-healthy oils from vegetable oils like safflower oil. In fact, if you played it out and you actually dug in and found out who lived and who died eating this way, the people in that study from the 60s or 70s who ate the high vegetable oil diets instead of the butter and animal fats, they died more often.

Dr. Loren Cordain: This is an old-fashioned idea, that cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, or heart attacks results from excessive dietary saturated fats and cholesterol. It clogs up your arteries and you have a heart attack or a stroke. That idea really is not held by most scientists who study cardiovascular disease.

We now realize that cardiovascular disease is a complex disease involving inflammation in the immune system at virtually every step of the way. Without inflammation, and without the mediation of the immune system, you can't have heart disease, you can't have cancer and you can't have autoimmunity.

What we're trying to do is reeducate our medical students now, and our cardiologists, because some of them are still giving the same bad advice. Dietary cholesterol has virtually nothing to do with anything involved in this whole process. I think eating shrimp and seafood is a very good thing.

Shelley Schlender: Eating good quality fats is a good thing.


Dr. Loren Cordain: Eating good quality fats is a good thing. Eating bad quality fats, trans fats and processed meats and those kinds of foods, I wouldn't necessarily agree that you should be eating processed meats every single meal. You should be trying to eating fresh meats and don't worry about how much fat you've got in the meat. Worry about where the meat comes from and how it was produced.

Shelley Schlender: Here we have this ad focusing on making fun of lard. Telling people to eat olive oil. Telling them to eat Canola oil and other vegetable oils.

Audio Clip: Canola Info is the national supporter of The American Heart Association's Face the Fats campaign.

Shelley Schlender: Is this really a heart-healthy message overall?

Dr. Loren Cordain: It really is not. It's confusing the message and it doesn't get the message out to the consumer in a manner that they should know.

Shelley Schlender: This is The American Heart Association that did this.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Right, and within The American Heart Association there's a huge disagreement over what is and is not a healthy vegetable oil.

Shelley Schlender: This is the public relations ad that might go out of radio stations around the nation.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Well you know what, we're in the midst of an entirely new revolution in the way that people get information. Young people don't really listen to the radio very much anymore. People that do have cardiovascular disease, they typically try to take it upon themselves, if they're intelligent, to see what they should and should not do with their health.

We don't rely entirely upon physicians. We now have the ability to get second, third, and fourth opinions on virtually anything in our health. We can get some really bad information, but we can also get some good information.

Shelley Schlender: Thank you for your good information on this topic.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Thanks.

That's all for this edition of The Paleo Diet Podcast. Visit my website, for past episodes and for hot links to the experts and studies that we talked about today.

Shelley Schlender: Our theme music is by Chapman Stick soloist Bob Culbertson.

Dr. Loren Cordain: If you want to send me questions or comments, the place to go is


Shelley Schlender: For The Paleo Diet Podcast, I'm Shelley Schlender.

Dr. Loren Cordain: I'm Loren Cordain.

Even More Articles For You

A Discussion About the Paleo Diet's Impact on IGF-1 and Cancer
Dr Loren Cordain and Ben Balzer discuss with a colleague the potential impact of the Paleo Diet on IGF-1 and cancer
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Healthy Paleo Foods that Satisfy Cravings
Is the only way to curb cravings to just give in and eat that bag of potato chips? Nope! See why you get cravings and how to fight them with The Paleo Diet!
By Megan Patiry
Selenium Supplementation and The Paleo Diet
Selenium is essential to thyroid function and the immune system. Common Paleo Diet foods make it easy to consume the recommended amount of selenium per day.
By Christopher Clark
Paleo Leadership
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark J. Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.