Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Stearic acid again

Better post this one while I have a few minutes. I picked it up while looking for refs for Gustavo Barja's epic The Cell Ageing Regulatory System (CARS) in which longevity is tied to the Double Bond Index of the mitochondrial inner membrane (Thanks Bob!). BTW it is possible to modify the DBI but, with current data, it looks like you cannot alter the saturated or MUFA percentages, it is replacing omega 3s with omega 6s which mimics the mitochondria of long lived mammals!

Anyway, here is the cocoa butter paper:

Differential effects of saturated versus unsaturated dietary fatty acids on weight gain and myocellular lipid profiles in mice

Here are the diet compositions:

The line in red is the total percent of calories from linoleic acid in each diet. Here are the body weight changes:

The bottom two lines are the low fat high carbohydrate diet which happens to come in at just 1% linoleic acid and the cocoa butter diet which comes in at 1.4% of calories as linoleic acid. The high palmitic acid gives the most weight gain as it delivers 4.5% of calories as PUFA. Olive oil is a close second, also with 4.5% linoleic acid. The oddity is the safflower oil diet which is very high in PUFA but only gives intermediate obesity. Quite what is going on here is difficult to say but you have to wonder at what level of omega 6 PUFA that "next level up" signalling (lipid peroxide based) kicks in. No data on that, just a guess/excuse from the Protons perspective. There are a number of other studies showing this phenomenon of limited weight gain with safflower oil.

Still, stearic acid as cocoa butter is still looking pretty good. All of the high fat diets were based around different fat sources placed in to the D1245 background so are equally high in sucrose and starch too, comparable amounts across all of the higher fat diets.



Silverharp said...

I just received cocoa butter I ordered online, not quite sure what to do with it yet but was thinking some kind of bulletproof coffee but will look around to see how people use it. Since xmas ive gone from low carb to playing with the “croissant” diet but I don’t have Stearic acid yet, I live in Ireland so not going to be quite so easy to source but there is probably something on Amazon UK that will work. Ive noticed that some say its from a vegetarian source, is that a deal breaker? or is it basically a chemical so it makes no difference to the human body? A second question, do I need to see “food grade” for it to be safe consume? If it’s a craft site for example that is selling it to make candles, do I need to ask any questions?

Pernickety said...

Silverharp, just a thought, but have you considered trying Peter's old chocolate butter recipe ( and adding a mixture of butter + cocoa butter? Adding honey for a hint of sweetness will make it more "croissant diet"-like in terms of the macros, but omitting the honey would make it lower carb but still following the principle of maximising SAT:POLY fat ratio.

cavenewt said...

Remember that Brad explained he included the carbs in the croissant diet only to prove that it's not necessary to cut carbs to lose weight with stearic acid, i.e. ketosis is not required. The last time I checked, he was making no claims whether or not the macro content of the diet had anything to do with the effects of the stearic acid:

"More importantly, I was trying to prove my point that 'A primary regulator of whole body energy balance is the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat.' If I was going to make myself into a guinea pig I didn’t want anyone to accuse me of creating a diet that worked because of some other mechanism, such as that it was secretly a keto diet or that it was a gluten free diet or a grain free diet or a low food reward diet. Nope, I wanted to demonstrate that I, a person who had managed to approach morbid obesity, could lose weight by eating tasty croissant sandwiches."

Speaking for myself, I'm not using stearic acid as an excuse to start eating bakery items again!

I did acquire some "food-grade" stearic acid from Amazon, which I understand is about half stearic and half palmitic, and with a melting point of ~150°F (66°C) it's like using grated crayons. Kind of hard to integrate into food. So I've mostly switched to cocoa butter.

I use it two ways. To make a sort of bulletproof tea, I melt a chunk of cocoa butter and a chunk of goat butter in some tea, then whiz with a stick blender along with some inulin powder and heavy cream. The butter and possibly the inulin act as a sort of emulsifier so it stays pretty well mixed up. The other way is whenever I am sautéing something, which I do quite often, I start with a mixture of lard or tallow or coconut oil with a chunk of cocoa butter and some grassfed butter (Kerrygold—it's kind of hard to find grassfed butter in the US), and maybe toss in a spoonful of the stearic acid pellets. If heating up some soup or a casserole serving, throw in a chunk of cocoa butter. The coconut smell tends to disappear when you add it to food.

I asked in another thread about people's thoughts on inulin powder and have not received any feedback.

I still occasionally eat a salad. I no longer use olive oil, but MCT oil instead.

cavenewt said...


"...Gustavo Barja's epic The Cell Ageing Regulatory System (CARS) in which longevity is tied to the Double Bond Index of the mitochondrial inner membrane..." I'm looking forward to your further thoughts on this paper. Section 6.2 especially seems to provide evidence for a vegetarian diet! And, like everybody else, they seem on the whole to be thinking that ROS production through Complex I is a Bad Thing.

Incidentally, looking at the Similar Articles in the sidebar of these papers gives me the distinct impression that most researchers don't distinguish between different types of insulin resistance...? I just want to make sure I am understanding this aspect of the Protons thread correctly — that physiological insulin resistance at the cellular level, initiated by ROS production through Complex I, is different from systemic insulin resistance (i.e. met syn/T2D), and that this kind of ROS is, at least sometimes, desirable...? Or maybe I'm completely off-base!

"BTW it is possible to modify the DBA but, with current data, it looks like you cannot alter the saturated or MUFA percentages, it is replacing omega 3s with omega 6s which mimics the mitochondria of long lived mammals!"

Having become increasingly fascinated with the whole subject of saturated versus polyunsaturated fats and their effects on mitochondrial membranes, I can't wait to hear more about this. I often have a hard time recognizing Peter's dry humor.

ctviggen said...

Silverharp, I have been just eating the cocoa butter. I either eat it raw, or I've made some butter oil with 90% stearic acid and have mixed the butter oil 50/50 with cocoa butter. I just eat it. I also use the butter oil for mixing in with food, but I've been keeping it in the fridge, and it gets very hard. You have to heat it and mix it with the food well. I'm going to start leaving it at room temperature.

People who have tried cocoa butter in their hot beverage of choice (usually coffee) say it's good. I prefer to get my calories with food. I usually eat twice a day (when I'm not fasting), but adding the stearic acid makes me not that hungry for dinner. If my family is eating dinner, though, I have a hard time not eating.

Cavenewt, lard might not be the best option. See this:

It's too bad, too, as if I cook pork, I like to use lard for searing. I guess I've have to sear in tallow or ghee.

Jonathan said...

@Cavenewt: "looking at the Similar Articles in the sidebar of these papers gives me the distinct impression that most researchers don't distinguish between different types of insulin resistance...?"

Yes. I find it frustrating that discussions of insulin resistance almost never differentiate between chronic/systemic insulin resistance and short-term insulin resistance (of the type that might be induced by stearic or palmitic acid). And I sense that many researchers haven't yet clued in to the fact that short-term insulin resistance can be a healthy, adaptive part of a well-functioning metabolism (never mind that it might play a necessary role in burning body fat).

cavenewt said...

@ctviggen: I realized my mistake in listing lard, but I realized it too late and we can't edit comments once posted. (Apparently even Peter doesn't even have that godlike power.) Substitute beef suet. FWIW I've eliminated both pork and chicken, going to somewhat of an extreme due to recent cancer issue. If I'm wrong about PUFA? Well, no harm no fowl. Har.

@Peter: Whew, then I'm on the right track toward understanding Protons.

Yes it's discouraging about the (possible? probable?) misunderstanding about short-term insulin resistance—but even more so about the poor demonized Complex I-derived ROS, given the current worship and merchandising of antioxidants.

cavenewt said...

Speaking of editing...just realized I meant @Jonathan instead of @Peter. Whoops.

Silverharp said...

Cheers, tried the cocoa butter in a hot coffee drink with vanilla protein powder, hot milk, tasted good and seems satisfying for now , I can make a second for lunch if I am starving.. Going for OMAD but with carbs in the evening meal. As nice as it sounds eating croissants during the day I don’t think I would lose weight that way

Brad Marshall said...

Peter, I’m not sure what the confusion is regarding safflower oil. The authors make it very clear in the abstract, “ A diet rich in polyunsaturated FAs seems to prevent myocellular lipid accumulation.”

For those not acquainted, this post is meant as sarcasm.

Frunobulax said...

I'm confused about the palm oil. From a F:N ratio perspective palmitic acid is up there with stearic acid. If palm oil is the one that fattens us (or just mice) the most, is it because it gets converted to palmitoleic acid? The PUFA content is (as noted) not really different from other oils that have less effect.

I was wondering if we could replace stearic acid/cocoa butter with palm kernel oil. After looking at this study, maybe we shouldn't...

karl said...

@Peter - re: Safflower oil

Once again we have to realize that Safflower Oil is not a "thing", but a group of things - that varies more than a little..

From Fatty acid composition and tocopherol profiles of safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) seed oils

"The major fatty acid of safflower oil is linoleic acid, which accounted for 55.1 – 77.0% in oils, with a mean value of 70.66%..."


"In addition to linoleic acid, safflower oil contained higher amounts of oleic acid. The range of oleic acid was found between 12.45% (Iran) and 35.15% (USAa). The seed oils of safflower also contain appreciable amounts of saturated fatty acids, especially palmitic (5.7 – 6.81%) and stearic acids (1.88 – 2.57%)."

Really hard to see hard endpoints without chemically defined diets - we are drowning in a sea of cargo-cult science. A bottle of reagent grade linoleic acid runs about $75 (best to keep refrigerated to prevent oxidation) - pretty sure one can get it as an ester or FFA.

So how to think of the results - is it meaningful - or just noise - given the lack of a controlled experiment. There are way to many papers that 'muddy the water'...

Gretchen said...

Please define DBA.

cavenewt said...

Gretchen — I wondered too, and can't find it in either cited paper. I think it might be a typo for DBI, double bond index. From the context, that makes sense.

Peter said...

Hi Gretchen,

Opps, corrected


Peter said...


Yep, there does seem to be something odd about safflower oil!


Peter said...

Hi Frunobulax, Palm oil is just under 10% linoleic acid, comparable to olive oil. I'd stick with butter or dripping/suet...


Peter said...


No one has really tried to alter cardiolipins much. Usually fat is about 10-20% of the diet and there is always plenty of linoleic acid available. Under these conditions it is mostly sucrose feeding which increases saturated fats in cardioloipins! Quite what would happen under a beef fat based ketogenic diet is anyone's guess at the moment (as far as I've read, following Barja's links and related articles)...


Frunobulax said...

I must admit that I haven't read all protons posts yet, as I'm fairly new here. So perhaps you can answer this by pointing to an older post :)

However, I wonder what happens to our metabolism if we mix fatty acids. Cocoa butter for example consists of oleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid, all having a fairly high F:N ratio, so using cocoa butter should be a good idea to achieve satiety and possibly weight loss. But if we add something like 10% linoleic acid, will we see an effect that is more an averaging (that is, the mix will still be pretty good) or does the linoleic acid win (perhaps it's metabolized first, so the 90% of other fats are stored while the mitochondria are burning the linoleic acid)? Of course this is a simplification... But the question is, which is more important: (1) Aim for a low content of fatty acids with bad F:N ratio, or (2) aim for a high content of fatty acids with a good F:N ratio? Palm oil would be "bad" if the answer is (1) but "good" if the answer is (2).

The implications would be fairly significant for the rating of oils like olive oil. Olive oil seems to have beneficial effects that may be due to the polyphenols, BDNF production and whatnot (that is, independent of the fatty acid composition) so it could be a good idea to consume some olive oil, even though I wouldn't use it as the staple fat in the diet.

OK. I know that there is a heavy perception bias with mediterran countries hosting a huge number of very nice workshops where researchers and journalists could essentially enjoy a free vacation if they wrote positively about olive oil and mediterranean diet. But I don't know any evidence that olive oil is actually bad (unlike other omega-6 heavy vegetable oils), so my impression is that olive oil (like many other things) may be beneficial if consumed in moderation.

Peter said...

Yes, Frunobulax, karl quite correctly argues that you should control your variables, certainly for basic physiology experiments. Look at elemental diets first, decide what the significance of the double bond index might be etc, predict what this implies for whole foods, compare your prediction with reality. Includes composing mixtures. On a single cell basis glucose of 25mmol/l plus palmitic acid triggers apoptosis or messy cell death. Adding any amount of oleate is protective. In the whole animal things are different (unless you are a SCD-1 k/o mouse).

It is also almost impossible to imagine the bias in nutrition studies (Olive oil funding sources etc). It even creeps in to LC studies sometimes but in general LC studies have such a hard time to get accepted that they tend to be better than the usual dross......


karl said...

@Frunobulax + Peter

I spent some time looking at Olive oil and the effect of polyphenols. My hunch (always be aware that we are in a sea of ungrounded-narratives) is that polyphenols don't make it to our bloodstream. This leaves a tantalizing possibility that their action is mostly in the intestinal flora and not readily absorbed. Quite possible that they are acting as chelating agents - bind to heavy metals so they simply pass on through. Heavy metal exposure is something I think we actually know is a 'bad-thing'(tm).

There are a number of things plants do to manage toxic metals - I've wondered (pure speculation here) if polyphenols play a role in their defense. If plants use polyphenols to defuse metal ion bombs - it might explain why cocoa sometimes has lead and cadmium - and is also full of polyphenols.

Plants have several things going on to deal with metals:

So my hunch is polyphenols do their bit of good by reducing toxic metal absorption - I could be wrong as the basic science awaits someone that knows what a single variable is.

This could easily be tested in a rodent diet study - not hard or expensive - metals are rather easy to measure in urine and feces.. I imagine a control group - a second diet with a bit of TEL or lead oxide added and a third group with a PURE chemically defined polypheol added.