Saturated Fat, A Dietary Villain No More?

November 06, 2013

Good and bad fats, it's hard to keep track of what's what. Find out here the latest on saturated fats

For over two decades, health and nutrition researchers have discussed and debated the role of dietary fats; most of the debates have failed to stress the benefits of certain classes of fats and have mainly focused on the negative aspects.

Until recently, virtually all of these discussions were based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences during the ‘70s and ‘80s when it was initially suggested to reduce total dietary fat to 30 percent (the average was 35-37 percent) in order to maintain or reach a healthy weight. Following this suggestion, 30 percent became the benchmark definition of a low fat diet; saturated fat was seen as the bad guy, but little attention was given to the many benefits associated with other fats. Today Americans are slowly adopting the mindset that there are certain types of fats that are more healthful than others. 

According to the Daily Mail, cardiologist Aseem Malhotra believes that cutting back on butter, cream and fatty meats may have done more harm to heart health than good; in fact, doing so has ‘paradoxically increased our cardiovascular risks’. He is leading a debate online in the British Medical Journal, challenging the demonization of saturated fats in particular. Moreover, recent studies fail to show a link between saturated fat intake and risk of cardiovascular disease, with saturated fat actually found to be protective, according to Malhotra.

Professor David Haslam, of the National Obesity Forum, commented, ‘The assumption has been made that increased fat in the bloodstream is caused by increased saturated fat in the diet?…?modern scientific evidence is proving that refined carbohydrates and sugar are actually the culprits.’  Another US study demonstrated that a ‘low fat’ diet was worse for health than one low in carbs.

Should we follow Sweden?  Dr Malcolm Kendrick, author of The Great Cholesterol Con, said Sweden had become the first western nation to develop national dietary guidelines that rejected the low-fat myth, in favor of low-carb high-fat nutrition advice. ‘Around the world, the tide is turning, and science is overturning anti-fat dogma.'

Recently, the Swedish Council on Health Technology assessment has admitted that a high fat diet improves blood sugar levels, reduces triglycerides improves ‘good’ cholesterol - all signs of insulin resistance, the underlying cause of diabetes - and has nothing but beneficial effects, including assisting in weight loss.

Nutrition studies and findings can create a lot of confusion for consumers, especially when doctors and other health professionals have been recommending the complete opposite for decades. The takeaway here is to focus on real foods, as close to nature as possible.  Saturated fats can of course be found in animal products, as well as fats that are solid at room temperature like coconut oil. 

Sources, Daily Mail Robert Lustig