You vowed to eat a heart-healthy diet and have been pretty successful, but every once in a while you can’t resist splurging on a big fat juicy cheeseburger and a thick, creamy milk shake. So is that really all that bad? Find out if an occasional surge of fat in your diet is okay.
The ‘Shake and Cake’ Study
The Heart Research Institute in Australia performed the following “carrot cake and milkshake” test. This well-known research was published in the American College of Cardiology. The subjects were normal weight men and women, age 18 to 40, with no cardiovascular risk factors or established heart disease.
Each participant consumed fat in the form of a slice of carrot cake and a milkshake. They had to eat one gram of fat per kilogram of body weight (i.e., one gram of fat for every 2.2 pounds).
For example, a 200-lb person (91 kg) had to eat 91 grams of fat or the equivalent of eating all of the following at one meal:
- Double 1/4 pounder with cheese (45 g total fat) = 700 cal.
- Large order of French fries (24 total fat) = 510 cal.
- Large vanilla milkshake (22 g total fat) = 800 cal.
DAY 1: The subjects ate the carrot cake and milkshake that were made with SAFFLOWER OIL which is predominantly polyunsaturated fat. Then 3 hours and 6 hours after they ate, the scientists measured their blood flow (endothelial function) and assessed how well their HDL (“good cholesterol”) was protecting their arteries from inflammation.
DAY 2 (one month later): The subjects returned and ate another carrot cake and milkshake meal that contained the same amount of calories and fat except the type of fat used was different. Instead of polyunsaturated fat, the cake and shake contained COCONUT OIL which is 90% saturated fat. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.
The Role of HDL (“Good Cholesterol”)
HDL cholesterol is “supposed” to be anti-inflammatory, that is, they suppress inflammatory molecules from multiplying. When arteries become inflamed:
- Substances adhere to the artery wall.
- Arterial plaques can rupture. A blood clot forms around the rupture blocking the artery, resulting in a possible heart attack.