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Is Saturated Fat Linked To Heart Disease?

Last updated June 30, 2015

General nutritional guidelines urge consumers to eat low amounts of saturated fat. Saturated fats are found in butter, cream, cheese, lard, pies, cakes, and fatty cuts of meat.


General nutritional guidelines urge consumers to eat low amounts of saturated fat. Saturated fats are found in butter, cream, cheese, lard, pies, cakes, and fatty cuts of meat. Contrary to the popular belief that saturated fat can increase the risk for heart disease, a recent study shows that the evidence for these recommendations may be inconclusive.

A meta-analysis study was conducted at the University of Cambridge in 2014, evaluating the results of 72 previous studies involving a causal link between fatty acid intake and coronary disease. The results of this evaluation revealed that there was no substantial evidence to support a correlation between saturated fats and an increased risk for heart disease.

This new study demonstrated the need for a reevaluation for the general guidelines for saturated fat intake. 

The American Heart Association advises that consuming foods that contain saturated fats raise LDL blood cholesterol, increasing one’s risk for heart disease and stroke. They recommend sticking to a diet plan that consists of no more than 5 to 6% of calories from saturated fats each day, amounting to about 13 grams. Despite the findings from the study conducted at the University of Cambridge, The American Heart Association has chosen to not change the guidelines. 

These new findings motivate the need for further scientific investigation. Existing nutritional guidelines should be reviewed to evaluate their credibility. 

Walter Willett, MD, the chair of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, thinks that these findings should be disregarded. He believes that substituting saturated fat for refined starches, sugars, or carbohydrates will also have negative impact on heart disease risk. 

Despite these findings, its important to notice that these findings do not suggest increasing saturated fat intake beyond what the American Heart Association recommends. Regardless of recent study findings, saturated fat should be consumed with caution.

Written by Stephen Umunna

References:

Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of Dietary, Ciruculating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine.2014; 160(6):398-406.

Saturated fats and heart disease link ‘unproven’ [Internet] 2014 Mar 18 [cited 2014 Oct 27]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2014-03-18-saturated-fats-and-heart-disease-link-unproven/

Saturated Fats [Internet]. [updated 2014 Sept 25]. Available from:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp

Malhotra, A. Saturated fat heart disease ‘myth’ [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2014 Oct 27]. Available from:

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-24625808

Willett W, MD, MPH, DrPH. (expert opinion). Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Mar. 20, 2014.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Oct. 28, 2014
Last updated: June 30, 2015