In this study, they fed four groups of rabbits different diets:
- Regular low-fat rabbit chow
- Regular low-fat rabbit chow plus 0.5 g cholesterol per day
- High-fat diet with 30% calories as coconut oil (saturated) and no added cholesterol
- High-fat diet with 30% calories as sunflower oil (polyunsaturated) and no added cholesterol
Total cholesterol was also the same between all groups except the cholesterol-fed group. TBARS, a measure of lipid oxidation in the blood, was elevated in the cholesterol and sunflower oil groups but not in the chow or coconut groups. Oxidation of blood lipids is one of the major factors in atherosclerosis, the vascular disease that narrows arteries and increases the risk of having a heart attack. Serum vitamin C was lower in the cholesterol-fed groups but not the others.
This supports the idea that saturated fat does not inherently increase LDL, and in fact in most animals it does not. This appears to be the case in humans as well, where long-term trials have shown no difference in LDL between people eating more saturated fat and people eating less, on timescales of one year or more (some short trials show a modest LDL-raising effect, but even this appears to be due to an increase in particle size rather than particle number). Since these trials represent the average of many people, they may hide some individual variability: it may actually increase LDL in some people and decrease it in others.