Is saturated fat bad for you? Here’s what the current studies say about this questionable nutrient

Is saturated fat bad for your health? For decades, saturated fat usage was regularly linked to coronary heart problems and high blood cholesterol levels. It was likewise damned by governmental bodies and medical specialists alike.


The increase of this low-fat craze appears to connect back to the publication of the popular Ancel Keys research study back in the 1950s. Other than we now know that his research paper was deeply flawed, and current scientific research studies have thrown the notion of damaging saturated fats into concern. Some scientists even think that there are some tangible health benefits to this controversial nutrient.

It is not unexpected then that many of us are left puzzled as to whether we should consist of saturated fat in our diet plans, or cut down on it as much as possible. In fact, dietary fat is a complex subject. The response to the question, ‘is saturated fat bad for you might not be as black and white as we want it to be, and current scientific improvements have demonstrated that various factors might affect our relationship with hydrogenated fats.

Here, we’ll look further into what filled fats are, and what we understand so far about their impact on our bodies.

A lot of dietary fats belong to a group called glycerides. Glycerides are made from two types of molecules: glycerol and a variety of fats, which are long linear or branched chains of carbon atoms. How these carbon atoms are connected with each other will determine whether a glyceride molecule is considered to be filled or unsaturated.

Saturated fat is a kind of fat in which the fatty acid chains all have single chemical bonds. Single bonds support the fat molecule and make it stiff. That’s why hydrogenated fats are strong at space temperature levels.

Saturated fats can be mainly found in animal-based foods like lard, red meats, and dairy items.

  • Whipped cream: 23.2 g per cup/ 19.3 g per 100g
  • Dried coconut: 16.2 g per oz/ 57.2 g per 100g
  • Fatty red meats (eg. pork ribs and beef steak): 15.1 g per 3 oz/ 17.8 g per 100g
  • Processed meats (eg. salami and pepperoni): 15.1 g per 3 oz/ 17.7 g per 100g
  • Dairy-based desserts (eg. ice cream and chocolate mousse): 13.8 g per cup/ 4.5 g per 100g
  • Palm oil: 11.1 g per tablespoon/ 81.5 g per 100g
  • Full-fat milk: 9.1 g per cup/ 1.9 g per 100g
  • Full-fat cheese: 8g per half a cup/ 6.4 g per 100g
  • Butter: 7.2 g per tablespoon/ 50.5 g per 100g
  • Dark chocolate: 7g per 1 oz square/ 24.5 g per 100g
  • Peanut butter: 3.3 g per 2 tablespoons/ 10g per 100g

The claim that a high saturated fat intake is directly connected to cardiovascular illness– the so-called ‘fat-heart hypothesis’– began in the 1950s. Throughout this time, the rate of coronary heart disease amongst middle-aged Americans was constantly growing, and medical specialists were unsure why this was occurring.


It was deeply flawed. Not only did Keys cherry-pick data, he also did not account for any other possible aspects, such as cigarette smoking or fiber consumption. These truths came to light much later on.

This economic recession set in motion scientists to discover efficient methods to prevent heart disease. A Diet plan ended up being the main target. It’s worth pointing out, however, that throughout this time, cigarettes were considered to be healthy, and the link between smoking and unfavorable health outcomes was not yet made.

According to his findings, greater usage of saturated fat in northern European nations was associated with a greater occurrence of heart disease. At the very same time, a greater consumption of polyunsaturated fat in Mediterranean countries appeared to safeguard against cardiovascular issues.

Following the publication of Keys’ findings, public health authorities started recommending an increased intake of carbohydrates and downplaying the potential dangers of excessive sugar consumption. In fact, the U.S. dietary standards from the late 1970s recommended a whopping 7 to 11 servings of bread every day. When the rates of persistent disease in the U.S. began to increase quickly, it was likewise a time.


The science surrounding dietary fats is continuously progressing, and lots of aspects of this subject are still a matter of heated debate among scientists and medical professionals.

Trans fats are a good example. A substantial amount of proof points to their damaging effects, particularly in relation to heart disease and cancers. Nevertheless, it might not be as clear-cut as it seems. According to a review recently published in the Advances in Nutrition( opens in brand-new tab), there is a significant difference between commercial trans fats and trans fats that are naturally present in meat and dairy items. Industrial trans fats promote inflammation and cause damage to the cells in our body, while ruminant trans fats might not have the same unfavorable influence on human health.

The concern of hydrogenated fats might be even more intricate. Despite years of research study, scientists are still unsure about the precise role these nutrients have on health and illness. Early study findings were blighted and frequently contradictory by problematic approaches. Some papers were even presumed to be biased by sugar industry sponsorship.

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Nevertheless, the quality of modern research is continually enhanced.

Our understanding of why similarly created studies may produce vastly different results is also growing. To start with, hydrogenated fats are not a homogenous group– they consist of numerous different nutrients, consisting of either short, medium, or long fatty acid chains. As a result, it’s unlikely they share the exact same properties.

” There has been some speculation that some of the hydrogenated fats in particular foods, for example, the lauric acid in coconut oil, may be better for us than other saturated fats,” states Sarah Coe, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Structure. “There is not enough excellent quality research study to reveal this, and it can not be said that a person hydrogenated fat should be selected over another.”

According to this hypothesis, how our bodies respond to dietary fat intake might be more flexible and based on private circumstances than formerly believed. The rise in ‘bad’ blood cholesterol caused by saturated fats might be a regular, rather than a pathogenic, action.

While we try to address the most typical concerns about the links between saturated fats and different elements of our health, keep in mind that there is still a lot to find about these nutrients. Inconsistent findings might not always be wrong or altered by poor study style.

Let’s begin with the most widely-researched issue – the ‘fat-heart hypothesis’.

” Medical opinion stays behind the concept that we should reduce our hydrogenated fats and that will lower our danger of heart disease,” states Dr. Brian Fisher, a medical physician and scientific director at Evergreen Life( opens in brand-new tab). “Nevertheless, there is likewise proof that the link in between a saturated fats and heart problems might be weaker than formerly believed.”

Why is that the case?

” An increased consumption of saturated fatty acids (SFA) increases the blood overall cholesterol level,” discusses Dr. Fisher. In contrast to saturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) lower the overall cholesterol.

” This possibility was tested in several major randomized controlled trials. The findings from these trials have actually been normally interpreted as indicating that the threat of CHD can be lowered by partially changing SFA with PUFA.”

He states major defects with this hypothesis have gradually emerged.

” Many cohort research studies were published after 1990 that has actually provided a wealth of information on the relationship between diet and risk of coronary heart problem,” he explains. “Meta-analyses of mate studies have actually clearly shown that consumption of SFA has just a weak, non-significant association with the threat of CHD.

The possibility must be thought about that due to methodological errors, the true association is much bigger than is shown by associate studies. [However] this is very not likely as demonstrated by the fact that friend research studies have reported that a number of other components of the diet plan have much more powerful, significant associations with danger of CHD. So when mate research studies report a weak association in between SFA and risk of CHD, this can not be dismissed as methodological mistake.

” Furthermore, none of the dietary trials that reduced total and LDL cholesterol through dietary changes (i.e. a reduction in hydrogenated fat) have actually revealed a reduction in the occurrence of heart attack, stroke, or death. And this was the case even prior to the introduction of the change in dietary standards recommending us to cut down on saturated fat.”

Depending on how scientists look at the information, they may come to different conclusions. For instance, according to a significant methodical evaluation( opens in new tab), decreasing saturated fat intake for a minimum of 2 years triggers a potentially crucial decrease in combined cardiovascular occasions. At the same time, methodical evaluations released in the Journal of the American Heart Association( opens in new tab) and The American Journal of Medical Nutrition( opens in brand-new tab) did not find a similar link.


Particularly saturated fats, such as lauric and myristic fatty acid discovered in coconut oil, may actually protect against swelling. And as scientists from the International Journal of Molecular Sciences( opens in brand-new tab) point out, there is no evidence that reducing your total fat consumption can fight cancer, or that a moderate intake of SFA poses a health risk within a well-balanced diet plan.


Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Illness (NAFLD) is a condition in which fat accumulates in the liver tissues, leading to reduced function. According to a review released in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research( opens in new tab) journal, saturated fat may contribute to fatty liver, while unsaturated fatty acids appear to secure against this illness.

Bones and joints

According to the Osteoporosis International( opens in new tab) journal, there is a considerable link between SFA intake and an increased threat of hip fracture. And as specified in a review released in the Joint Bone Spine( opens in new tab) journal, SFA intake appears to increase the deterioration and swelling of chondrocytes– cells accountable for cartilage formation.

Brain health

Hydrogenated fat may adversely affect cognitive health. According to the Present Alzheimer Research( opens in brand-new tab) journal, high SFA usage increases the threat of Alzheimer’s disease( opens in brand-new tab) by 39%, and the threat of dementia by almost 105%. In a dose-response analysis, a 4 g/day increment of SFA consumption was related to 15% greater threat of Alzheimer’s disease.



There are no universal guidelines regarding the most ideal consumption of saturated fat. Depending upon the source, the advised amount ranges from 5% to 11% of total calories. The American Heart Association endorses around 5% to 6% of your overall energy consumption– if you eat 2000 calories a day, that comes down to 13g of saturated fat.

At the very same time, the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans( opens in new tab) recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of your overall energy intake. Scientists from the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) Job Force on Dietary Fat Quality( opens in new tab) just recently published a review of dietary guidelines, which stated that a series of 7% to 11% of overall energy consumption is the most appropriate.

A lot of medical professionals and nutritional experts tend to follow the most recent IUNS declaration.

” Our saturated fat consumption needs to not be more than 11% of food energy, which is approximately 30g per day for men and 20g per day for females,” says Sarah Coe.Fisher includes: “About a third of our energy must originate from fat. That has to do with 70g for a lady and 90g for a man per day. Saturated fats should make up no greater than a 3rd of this.”


A low fat diet plan supplies less than 30% of total calories from fat, with some ultra-low fat diets including less than 15%. Because our bodies require a specific amount of dietary fat to function appropriately, reducing this essential nutrient might do more damage than good.

A number of vitamins– particularly A, E, d, and k– need fat in order to be distributed across the body. Without this nutrient, you’re more likely to establish shortages. Exceedingly low dietary fat consumption might also add to problems with the skin and reproductive health.

On the other hand, a well-balanced low-fat diet might improve the nutritional worth of your foods. Incorporating more intricate carbs and fiber may help in reducing the danger of particular cancers, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Low-fat diet plans might also be advantageous for those who had their gallbladder eliminated, as those who have undergone this treatment do not produce adequate enzyme lipase which breaks down fat.

The answer to the concern, ‘is saturated fat bad for you may not be as black and white as we desire it to be, and recent clinical advancements have actually shown that lots of various elements might impact our relationship with saturated fats.

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