Saturated Fats

Talk To Me Johnnie - I have to start the email by thanking you for your awesome programming and sharing your knowledge. So very much appreciated!

What is your stance on saturated fats? Previously, (the last couple months), I have dismissed it as I think a lot of the CrossFit community has as something that shouldn’t be worried about. But after buying The Paleo Diet book I am confused. Cordain writes that sat. Fats should be limited and that the consequences of too much sat fats are undeniable.

It wouldn’t be hard to limit them if I wasn’t trying to gain weight, wasn’t a hard gainer, and could consume milk (lactose intolerant). These all force me to eat a fairly large amount of meat.

Thanks again,



I contacted a very knowledgeable friend about saturated fats and he stated...

There is no convincing evidence that saturated fat is unhealthy. Interestingly, the body possesses desaturase enzymes that can turn saturated fat into monounsaturated fat. As such, it appears that saturated fat is a superior source of fat due to its stability and versatility. The one fat that is a problem in the diet is the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid. Food sources of linoleic acid include: corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil, grapeseed oil, oats, peanuts and peanut oil, rice bran, safflower oil, sesame seeds and oil, sunflower seeds and oil, walnuts, wheat products, brazil nuts, pine nuts, hemp, pecans, and pistachios. Walnuts are recommended because they have a good omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. However, the omega-3 that is present is alpha-linolenic acid, which, due to its poor conversion to EPA and DHA, simply does not balance the linoleic acid (omega-6).

Attached is a research paper by Ronald Krauss, one of the world's most prominent lipid researchers. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease - Siri-Tarion, Sun, Hu & Krauss

Krauss concluded, "A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat. A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat."

Our bodies produce about 20 times more cholesterol than we eat in a day. Insulin does not control the cholesterol particle size. Rather, hyperinsulinemia and small dense lipoproteins are correlated. Small dense cholesterol will result from excess carbohydrate, especially fructose, consumption. The increase in large buoyant LDL that is accompanied by increased saturated fat consumption is nothing to of huge concern.



John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and creator of Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year starter in the National Football League and NFL veteran. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early and retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL and other professional and Olympic athletes. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete and the CrossFit Speciality Seminar: Sports Specific Application. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie or at Power Athlete.

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Posted in Diet, FAQ, Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

11 Responses to Saturated Fats

  1. Pingback: CrossFit Peachtree | CrossFit in Buckhead | CrossFit in Atlanta | CrossFit in Midtown | Personal Training Atlanta | Atlanta Strength and Conditioning Coach | CrossFit Football in Atlanta | Atlanta Speed and Agility Training

  2. Josh

    I saw this the other day and thought it was pretty interesting, even if its not surprising:

    Suggests that processed meats are the real health culprit and that unprocessed meats did not up the heart or diabetes risks. They did not look at cancer or blood pressure, but my guess is they would come to the same conclusion.

    Means that previous studies where they asked people “how much meat do you eat?” didn’t distinguish the results between hot dogs and grass-fed organic beef….then doctors and nutritionists read the study’s summary, and started suggesting patients eat less meat…..d’oh!

  3. Eric Lepine

    Good point Josh!

    It happens all the time in nutrition studies. One can easily find dozens of them claiming that saturated fats are bad, when in fact transfats or excess carbs or excess polyunsaturated oils haven’t even be accounted for!!!! It’s ridiculous really. HUGE diffference between processed meast, grain-fed meat and then grass-fed meat! HUGE! As John mentioned in this post, excess omega-6 is the real culprit, and that’s what any meat but grass-fed or wild can be accused of: having levels of omega-6 that are much too high and, maybe more importantly, a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 that heavily favors the former. At worst, saturated fats are neutral and at best, they could almost be seen as essential… There is no questionning that anymore!!!! Ancel Key’s Lipid Hypothesis is being dismantled daily!!!!

  4. Here’s a phenomenal post called The Big Fat Lie:
    Dr. Kratka includes an inclusive paper by Mary Enig, Ph.D and Sally Fallon that tells the real story about the lipid hypothesis, sat. fats, cholesterol etc.
    Awesome Blog John!

    Ryan Hewitt D.C.

  5. Clinton Canaday - 24/6'3"/220

    So…I should stop eating half a pound of walnuts a day? My fat break down is 60% walnuts, 25% milk, and 15% almond butter.

  6. Stephen A

    What are your thoughts on whether saturated fats are inflammatory or not? Thanks

  7. Josh Ferguson

    I switched to Paleo + D-Milk & Peanut Butter, went from 12% BF to 8%. The difference is obvious when I look in the mirror. My skin cleared up, my digestive system is regular, and I am killing my WODs harder than ever with all the energy.

    All the research in the world will not convince you as much as feeling the results for yourself. Go high sat-fat for a week or two and see if it works for you.

    BTW, I’m a big fan of CFFB and SoCalSC, watched your interview with Rip twice. That was a righteous mustache!

  8. Peanut butter messes me up too, so I get that one. The mustache was aggressive. It was done in preparation for the interview. I wish I could grow a beard but it comes in very patchy, so I am stuck with a stache.

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  10. marc

    Thank you so much for your research and sharing your knowledge. I an VERY interested in the answer to clinton Canaday’s question, “So…I should stop eating half a pound of walnuts a day?” I also eat lots of walnuts and would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the subject.

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