Another major study has once again determined that saturated fat consumption is not associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes or death. The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), also confirmed that industrial trans fats consumption is associated with coronary heart disease and a greater risk of death. This is the seventh systemic review and meta-analysis of saturated fat and/or trans fat and health outcomes in the past ten years. Collectively, these studies contradict what many people, including doctors and nutritionists, may have told you about saturated fat and heart disease.
For decades, consumers were told to reduce their saturated fat consumption to improve their heart health. This misguided information came from a much-quoted observational study, the Seven Countries Study, and was included in the United States’ Dietary Guidelines for decades. The study itself has recently come under intense scrutiny and increasingly researchers have highlighted possible flaws in the study conclusions. Saturated fat occurs naturally in almost all foods including animal sources such as beef fat, pork, butter and cheese, and plant sources such as palm, coconut and palm kernel oil. Even so called polyunsaturated oils carry their share of saturated fatty acids that ultimately add up to the overall saturated fat count in our daily diet. Plant-based sources of saturated fat do not contain cholesterol.
This most recent publication analyzed the results of 50 studies which assessed the association between saturated and/or trans fat consumption and adult health. Saturated fat consumption was not associated with cardiovascular disease mortality, coronary heart disease (CHD), ischemic stroke, type 2 diabetes or all-cause mortality. Trans fat consumption was associated with all-cause mortality and CHD. Trans fats are the by-product of an industrial process (partial hydrogenation) used to make polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils act more like a saturated fat. The FDA is currently mandating the elimination of these unhealthy, man-made fats from the American diet. Similar efforts to remove industrial trans fats from the human food chain are anticipated to fall in place rapidly following the FDA’s initiative in June this year. Meanwhile, many other scientists are working to repair saturated fats reputation and more revealing results from such studies can be expected in the near future.
The study’s conclusion notes that the Dietary Guidelines must carefully consider the health effects of alternatives fats. Many American manufacturers are turning to Malaysian sustainable palm oil for a healthier alternative to trans fats. This versatile and non-GMO oil is naturally trans fat-free and rich in heart- and brain-healthy vitamin E tocotrienols. Palm oil is a balanced oil which contains equal parts saturated and unsaturated fat.
Dr. Kalyana Sundram