Many of you will know that there has been a big focus of late on the potentially toxic effects of industrially produced ‘trans’ fats which can be found in foods such margarine, biscuits and other baked goods and salad dressings. These fats have been strongly linked with an increased risk of heart disease, and also have associations with other conditions too including diabetes, infertility in women and weight gain.
However, just recently, I have noticed that certain health groups are beginning to put the spotlight back on that old favourite – saturated fat. Earlier this week, I read a report about how the American Heart Association is raising awareness about the perils of substituting trans fats for saturated fats in food. And today I read that this cry is echoed on this side of the Atlantic. Health bodies known as a the Faculty of Public Health and Heart of Mersey claim that cutting back on saturated fat is necessary to cut the risk of heart disease. But is it?
While we’re repeatedly told saturated fat has heart-stopping potential, the evidence for this is not as strong as you might imagine. For instance, of the couple of dozen or so studies that have looked at the link between saturated fat and heart disease, all but a small handful have found no significant association. Also, the great majority of studies which have had people reduce their saturated fat in take have found no benefits in terms of disease risk either.
Saturated fat has been said to boost cholesterol levels, which is then ‘assumed’ to boost heart disease risk. However, the evidence suggests that when individuals take dietary steps to reduce cholesterol, it simply does not save lives. That strongly suggests that cholesterol is simply not the dire threat to health it is so often made out to be. All of the evidence in this area is reviewed and referenced in my forthcoming book The True You Diet which is out at the end of May.
The idea that saturated fat is, for many of us, deeply ingrained in our psyches. For this reason I feel it’s important for all of us to remember this plain and simple fact:
Saturated fat has been in the human diet for as long as we have been on this planet, and is therefore something we are likely to be very well adapted to.
Compare this, however, to the industrially produced trans fats spewed out of factory facilities that we’ve had in our diet for less than a century.
Think of food in this way, and it becomes intuitively apparent to many people that saturated fat have likely had an unnecessarily bad rap. I agree that industrially produced trans fats should be removed from food. But the notion that saturated fat is just as bad or even worse is neither based in science nor common sense.