Unsaturated versus Saturated Fats and Aging


Welcome back to our blog series on the Sun. In the series, we delved deep into various topics, including the role of sun exposure in our lives, the risks of skin cancer, and the significance of sunscreen. In this blog post, we will focus specifically on the role of unsaturated versus saturated fats in aging, particularly in the context of photoaging and skin cancer. Understanding these types of fats and their potential impact on our health is vital, so let’s dive in.

The Debate: Unsaturated vs Saturated Fats

First, let's clarify what we mean by unsaturated and saturated fats.

  • Saturated Fats: These are fats that have all of their carbon atoms saturated with hydrogen atoms. They are usually solid at room temperature. Examples include animal fats like tallow, lard, dripping, and plant fats like coconut oil.

  • Unsaturated Fats: These fats contain one or more double bonds in their carbon chain, making them less saturated with hydrogen atoms. They are usually liquid at room temperature. Examples of monounsaturated fats include olive oil and avocado oil. Examples of polyunsaturated fats include canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil and other highly processed seed and vegetable oils.

The debate between unsaturated and saturated fats has been a point of contention in Western medicine for years, with shifting viewpoints on which is better for overall health.

Linoleic Acid and Photoaging

One particular fatty acid that has caught attention recently is linoleic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid found in many oils and foods. One hypothesis is that consuming less linoleic acid could potentially result in less photoaging. Photoaging refers to premature aging of the skin caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation, primarily from the sun.

Mechanisms Supporting the Hypothesis:

  1. Linoleic acid is highly reactive to ultraviolet rays, causing oxidation and potential skin damage.
  2. Lower linoleic acid content in the skin could make it less susceptible to UV-induced damage.

Given these mechanisms, it's worth considering the types of oils we use in our diets and skincare routines.

Stearic Acid and Other Animal Fats

On the other side of the spectrum, we have stearic acid—a saturated fatty acid commonly found in animal fats. Animal fats like those rich in stearic acid and oxygen fatty acids could potentially be beneficial for humans.

Benefits of Animal Fats:

  1. Longer-chain saturated fats like stearic acid have been shown to have beneficial effects on health.
  2. These fats are less reactive to UV radiation, potentially lowering the risk of photoaging and skin cancer.

The message here is not to avoid plant oils like coconut oil, but to suggest that animal fats might offer particular benefits, especially when it comes to aging.

To make a more informed decision, let's consider the linoleic acid content in different oils.

Oil Type Linoleic Acid Content (%)
Tallow 2%
Olive Oil 15%
Avocado Oil 15%

As you can see, olive oil and avocado oil have significantly higher linoleic acid content (15%) compared to tallow (2%). Given the potential implications for photoaging, it might be wise to opt for oils with the lowest linoleic acid content, such as coconut and tallow.

Western Medicine's Errors of Judgment

Western medicine has often been quick to pinpoint a single cause for diseases, especially skin cancer. The sun is usually blamed as the major culprit, without taking into account other potential factors. We need to consider other elements like the consumption of linoleic-acid rich foods and even psoralen-rich foods like celery, parsnips, and parsley, which can all play roles in skin health.

The Context of Healthy Sun Exposure

In this discourse, it's crucial to address what "context" means for healthy sun exposure. According to the podcast, achieving Vitamin D levels around 50 mg/mL is ideal and can be done through healthy sun exposure. If sunlight is not available, alternative methods like specific types of tanning beds can be used.

Types of Tanning Beds for Mimicking Sunlight:

  • Fluorescent sunbed lamps with 2.2% - 4.2% UVB radiation

These have been used in studies to produce physiological levels of serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D in healthy volunteers.

Tanning Beds: A Word of Caution

If you’re considering tanning beds, exercise caution. Some tanning beds minimize UVB radiation, which might not provide the Vitamin D levels you're aiming for. Overuse can also lead to burns and other health issues. Note that this is not medical advice, and consulting a healthcare provider is essential.


Understanding the types of fats we consume is crucial, especially when it comes to aging and health risks like skin cancer. Animal fats rich in stearic acid and low in linoleic acid might offer specific benefits. Equally essential is acknowledging the errors of judgment often seen in Western medicine when attributing causes to diseases like skin cancer.

Call to Action

I invite you to be more mindful of the types of fats you consume and consider how they might affect your health. Please feel free to share your experiences or thoughts in a message to us here.


This blog post is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider for personalized medical advice.