Wow. This is mindblowing.
Have you heard about the French Paradox? French people traditionally eat a lot of saturated fat, like butter – yet they generally have less heart disease than other populations. A lot of brainpower has been wasted to explain this – do perhaps the red wine protect them?
It’s not a paradox.
Of course, modern science quite clearly shows no connection between saturated fat and heart disease. That’s no secret anymore. But now it gets even more interesting:
I was just shown the diagram above, recently published in the journal Nutrition. It’s based on WHO and FAO statistics over the average intake of saturated fat in 41 European countries in 1998 (the latest available data), and the age-adjusted risk of dying from heart disease. I added some explanations.
More saturated fat, less heart disease
It’s a stunner. The French paradox is actually a French-Swiss-Icelandic-Swedish-German-Austrian-etc.-paradox!
- France eats the most saturated fat and has the lowest rate of heart disease deaths in all of Europe.
- Switzerland eats second-most saturated fat and has the second-lowest mortality.
- The countries eating more saturated fat have less heart disease, period.
Less saturated fat, more heart disease
And the countries eating less saturated fat? Like Georgia, Moldavia, Azerbaijan etc.? Well, they seem to have the highest mortality from heart disease in Europe.
It’s a Pan-European paradox now.
What does it mean?
Correlations between populations, like these, are known as ecological data. It doesn’t really prove anything. In other words, the diagram above does not prove that saturated fat protects you from heart disease. There are obviously many other differences between these populations, not just the intake of saturated fat.
But a diagram like this can more or less disprove a theory. It’s hard to imagine how saturated fat could be a major cause of heart disease, when European populations stuffing themselves with it are so much healthier, without exception.
Can this possibly be a weird coincidence? Can saturated fat still possibly be bad? What do you say?
When I recently interviewed professor Loren Cordain about our hunter-gatherer ancestors, his guess was that they on average got about 15 percent of their calories from saturated fat.
If that’s true it means that our genes should be well adapted to eating about 15 percent saturated fat. That’s more than twice as much as the maximum in the obsolete fat-phobic advice from the USDA and others. But about as much as the healthiest populations in Europe today. Coincidence?
More: The Paleo Diet Explained