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Advice to cut back on saturated fat in our diet has been around for a long time, even though recent evidence suggests otherwise. Many studies that analysed different trials and observations found that reducing saturated fat had no effect on heart disease and overall risk of death. In fact, some studies even found that saturated fat can offer protection against strokes. Although it looks as though saturated fat might raise LDL cholesterol (often called "bad" cholesterol), it hasn't meant an increase in the harmful small, dense LDL particles that are strongly linked to heart disease. Instead, saturated fat tends to increase larger LDL particles, which are less strongly associated with heart disease risk.

The health effects of foods cannot be solely predicted based on their nutrient content. The overall balance of nutrients in our diet matters too. Foods like whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat and dark chocolate contain saturated fat but don't increase the risk of heart disease. Looking at the available evidence as a whole, there is no need to further restrict the consumption of these foods.

Key points to remember:

  • Different types of saturated fats have different effects on our body, and these effects can be influenced by the food's composition and the amount of carbohydrates in our diet.

  • Some foods that contain saturated fat, such as whole-fat dairy, dark chocolate, and unprocessed meat, are not associated with an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes.

  • There is no strong evidence to support the idea that strict limits on saturated fat consumption will prevent heart disease or reduce mortality.

This blog is a summary of extensive research that was published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology in 2020 Here is a link to the article The researchers' conclusions: "The long-standing bias against foods rich in saturated fats should be replaced with a view toward recommending diets consisting of healthy foods. We suggest the following measures: 1) enhance the public’s understanding that many foods (e.g., whole-fat dairy) that play an important role in meeting dietary and nutritional recommendations may also be rich in saturated fats; 2) make the public aware that low-carbohydrate diets high in saturated fat, which are popular for managing body weight, may also improve metabolic disease endpoints in some individuals, but emphasize that health effects of dietary carbohydrate—just like those of saturated fat—depend on the amount, type and quality of carbohydrate, food sources, degree of processing, etc.; 3) shift focus from the current paradigm that emphasizes the saturated fat content of foods as key for health to one that centers on specific traditional foods, so that nutritionists, dietitians, and the public can easily identify healthful sources of saturated fats; and 4) encourage committees in charge of making macronutrient-based recommendations to translate those recommendations into appropriate, culturally sensitive dietary patterns tailored to different populations."

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