IS Saturated Fat Good For Your and Health?

Dr. Andrew J Chappell, PhD, MSc, BSc (hons)

Saturated Fat And Health

A few years ago a number of systematic reviews and meta-analysis were published which challenged the current paradigm that saturated fat was bad for your health. Saturated fat was all of a sudden good or at least not as bad as we first thought or may be even neutral. At the time I recall being quite conservative about it, and noted that there was still a large body of evidence supporting the notion that saturated fats were linked to cardiovascular events, and poor blood cholesterol levels. Moreover, the results of your systematic review and meta-analysis largely depend on the studies you include in them.

Almost 5 years on people are no longer as concerned about saturated fats, and have moved on. Recently, however SACN, the Scientific Advisory Commission for Nutrition published their long awaited review on saturated fats based on 47 systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

The report concluded:

  • Higher saturated fat consumption is linked to raised blood cholesterol
  • Higher intakes of saturated fat are associated with increased risk of heart disease
  • Saturated fats should be swapped with unsaturated fats
  • There is no need to change current advice that saturated fat should not exceed around 10% of food energy.

Foods high in saturated fatty acids are typically from animal produce and are often greatest in processed and fried foods, like the ones below. Aim to reduce your servings of these foods.

The great British fry up tastes great but is high in saturated fat and not great for your heart health

Aim to replace the saturated fats in your diet with monounsaturates and polyunsaturates. These fats can be found in vegetables oils, nuts, seeds and pulses like the examples featured below.

Finally polyunsaturated fatty acids like those found in fish and marine sources have the greatest positive impact on your blood lipids and heart health. Be sure to try and consume at least portion of oily fish and one portion of fish per week.

You can read the full report at the link below and I’ve included the summary from the British Nutrition Foundation website.

SACN Report on Saturated Fat and Health

“The report highlights that the evidence base on saturated fats and health has increased considerably since 1994, when previous recommendations were published. There is now a significant body of research on the effect of different fatty acids on blood lipid profiles as well as other intermediate factors, risk markers and health outcomes.

These findings support and strengthen the evidence for current public health nutrition advice to reduce our consumption of saturated fat and replace foods rich in saturated with those with a higher proportion of unsaturated fat. Importantly, the report also found that reducing saturated fat intake was unlikely to increase health risks for the UK population.  The report found evidence that reducing saturated fat and replacing it with polyunsaturated fats improved blood lipid profiles and reduced the risk of CVD and CHD events. In the case of replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, there was also some evidence that this could improve some aspects of glycaemic control. There was less evidence for beneficial effects of replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats although there did appear to be beneficial effects on blood lipids.

The report concludes that the current recommendation that saturated fatty acids should make up no more than 10% of total dietary energy (11% of energy from food and drink, excluding alcohol) should be upheld and that saturated fats are substituted with unsaturated fats (poly or monounsaturated fats). While the report did not look specifically at older adults or children under 5 years they state that there’s no reason to assume that these recommendations cannot apply and therefore they apply to the population as a whole. As all age groups are currently consuming more than 10% of total energy from saturated fats, this means that strategies to reduce our intakes are recommended.”