Is Saturated Fat Good Or Bad For Your Health?

Saturated fat is good for health. But you will find that most dietitians and health gurus condemn it as the number one culprit behind the rise in bad cholesterol and heart diseases.

Till a few years ago, nobody would approve of saturated fat in your diet.

But the latest studies and research do not find any fault with it; some researchers are going on to say it must be compulsorily included in your daily diet plan.

In this article, we shall examine the pros and cons of saturated fats and ‘how much-saturated fat per day to be taken.

What is Saturated Fat?

The definition of saturated fats says, ‘A saturated fat is a fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the individual carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. That is, the chain of carbon atoms is fully “saturated” with hydrogen atoms.’

Identifying Saturated Fats (SF) is easy. It remains typically solid at room temperature.

Every fat-rich food has a combination of Saturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat, and Polyunsaturated Fat in them. Still, one of the three will be dominantly present, and the other two will be present in less amount.

Most SFs are found in fatty meats, dairy products, lard, coconut, and palm oils.

About nine calories are present in 1 gram SF.

Changing Approaches To Fats In Diet Plans

Changing Approaches To Fats In Diet Plans

In the 80s and 90s of the twentieth century, weight-loss gurus ardently propagated the idea of a ‘Fat-Free Diet’ to shed kilos and to live healthily. It was expected that reducing as much ‘Fatty-Food’ as possible is the best way to keep obesity at bay.

As a result, the weight loss market was flooded with fat-free foods loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories. The result of this was very contradictory than expected. Obesity and diabetes issues increased fivefold during these two decades.

Again in the first decade of the 21st century, the focus shifted from a ‘Fat-Free Diet’ to “Eat The Right Fat.’ The best weight loss suggestion in that decade (2000-2010) was to eat only monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and avoid saturated fats and calorie-rich foods.

The healthy diet plan has changed again. From the last few years until now, new diet studies have shown that it is useful and necessary to have saturated fats in our daily diet.

This idea is getting wider acceptance now, and people are experiencing better weight loss results and improved health with a healthy intake of saturated fats.

Is Saturated Fats Bad For Health?

Fat Is Not So Dangerous As You Think

For several decades and even now, the largest killer diseases in the world are cardiovascular ailments. Most people’s untimely deaths in the US and Europe are mostly due to heart diseases.

It is proven that the increase of LDL Cholesterol in the bloodstream gives rise to heart diseases. Every health guru promotes ideas on the importance of restricting the formation of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream for a healthy heart.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, almost all health experts began implicating saturated fats as the prime cause of heart disease.

It was generally believed that saturated fats promote the development of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the bloodstream. Even now, some diet gurus and ‘heart health’ researchers have the same idea.

The relationship between SFs and heart disease was not founded on actual experimental studies but is based on some observational studies and a few animal tests.

Many of us mistake ‘cholesterol’ as a threat to our health. It is not true. Cholesterol is the organic lipid molecule that is an essential structural component of animal cell membranes. Cholesterol helps in maintains the cell membrane’s structural integrity and fluidity. We all have and need this wax-like substance in our bodies.

The healthy function of our heart and body depends on the presence of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) that carries the cholesterol in the blood. That is to say, our hearts and body will not be healthy without good cholesterol.

The development of Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood makes the transportation of cholesterol difficult, blocks the artery, and creates a bump in the artery wall called the plague.

It is the particular type of fats that we consume that mostly help in the development of both HDL and LDL Cholesterol. Fats are essential for better health, and some fats benefit bodily health.

Effects Of Saturated Fat In The Body

Are All Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) Bad?

In the past, all the studies on cholesterol were merely concerned about the HDL and LDL in ‘Total Cholesterol’ and their consequences on health. All those studies concluded that HDL counters the high risks caused by LDL. Those studies thought LDL cholesterol development must be prevented, and bad cholesterol levels must be reduced to improve the heart’s health.

The recent experimental results on LDL Cholesterol are a path-breaking diversion from several study results published in the past decades.

The recent study findings say that not all LDL cholesterols are bad. The new studies identified the different subtypes of LDL cholesterol and their particular effects on cardiovascular health.

The density level of LDL is different. Only small LDL particles can penetrate the arterial wall easily, whereas large LDL particles do not penetrate artery walls easily.

Almost all heart diseases are caused by the ‘small LDL particles’ as they can easily penetrate the artery walls, and they are highly prone to getting oxidized.

All LDL is not bad, and only the small LDL particles are dangerous. This is a significant finding in preventing heart ailments and identifying the fast-developing low, dense particle LDL.

Saturated Fats Are Not Bad For You

In the past, saturated fats were taboo as they helped prevent the development of LDL Cholesterol. This misconception does not hold water anymore!!

It is only the small LDL particles that are dangerous.

Interestingly, it is the saturated fats that will help our body to convert the low particle LDL into large particle LDL which is not harmful.

These new experimental study results on ‘bad cholesterol’ have flown into the air the old diet myths condemning saturated fats. On the other hand, SFs help reduce the risks of heart diseases by converting small LDL particles into large particles.

The results of long-term observational studies also suggest no relationship between LDL and saturated fat levels.

Recent scientific studies indicate that heart disease risk is highly increased with many LDL-p particles floating in the bloodstream than the concentration and size of the LDL particles.

This is another positive support for the healthiness of saturated fat as it can effectively lower the LDL-p in the bloodstream. It is also a proven fact that it is the low-fat diets that lead to the development and rise of LDL-p.

The studies in the past decades only gave importance to the idea of LDL levels being raised by saturated fats. But those studies failed to identify the fact that SF also helps in the development of HDL cholesterol.

There is little relation between saturated fat and heart disease. Saturated fat foods only help boost healthy blood lipid profiles by increasing HDL and large LDL particles and decreasing PDL-p.

Saturated Fat Myths Busted

Dietitians and health scientists have been bashing saturated fat as the mother of all health diseases for decades. Serious health enthusiasts subscribed to this idea and began to avoid saturated fats, but this did not decrease the occurrences of heart diseases.

The medical community for a healthy heart was shocked to find the extensive study report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010. This report relinquished the relationship between saturated fats and heart disease or stroke.

The analysis report of 2010 involves synthesized results from 21 individual studies that covered 350,000 people as samples. These mammoth observations and experimental research cannot be rejected simply; they found widespread acceptance soon.

All previous studies in the past decades that condemned saturated fats were all based on the “diet-heart hypothesis” resulting from studies conducted on animals.

The researchers involved in the 2010 study report concluded that cutting out saturated fats did not make any difference in preventing heart diseases. It does not even help with weight loss, either.

It was also found that people with a low-carb diet, rich in saturated fats, lost more weight and a healthy cholesterol ratio compared to people who followed a low-fat diet.

People who follow low-carb diets, which usually contain saturated fat, are also helped in keeping diabetes under control besides preventing heart diseases. Saturated fat is good for you.

Saturated Fat And Heart Disease

In the past decades, all heart diseases were related to a saturated fat-rich diet. Even these days, several dietitians are (ill-informed or resisting changes) still recommending a low-fat diet (strictly avoiding saturated fats!!) for a healthy heart and weight loss.

Here is the stark reality… people who avoided saturated fat were not stopped from getting heart diseases and gaining weight.

No studies and research conducted till today have established a clear link between saturated fats and heart diseases.

Only some hypothetical conclusions based on animal studies or limited observational studies have been raising an objection to saturated fats for a long time.

All recent studies, including the one conducted in 2014, which included 32 observational studies (512 420 participants), could not find any link between heart diseases and saturated fats.

The Cochrane Collaboration 2011 published their review study combining hundreds of previous research on heart diseases. It conclusively stated the inability to relate the reduction in saturated fat intake with any effect on stroke or death from heart diseases.

Interestingly, the same review study encouraged using saturated fats instead of unsaturated fats to lower the risk of heart disease.

It is not wise to hold on to the ideas of the old school of dietitians anymore. It may be difficult for some of us to take a sudden shift from what we have heard for the last several decades that ‘saturated fats are bad.’

Today’s diet mantra is another way around. Saturated fats are good for healthy hearts.

Saturated Fat Rich Foods

You can find many foods that are rich in saturated fats. The most commonly available rich sources of SF are meats and dairy products. You can find it in fatty beef, pork, chicken, lamb, beef fat, lard, butter, cheese, etc.

The plant sources rich in SFs are Palm-Oils, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil. All the other types of oils also have it but in less proportion to monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats found in them.

It should be remembered that sources from you get saturated fats that must be natural and organic. For example, the beef you eat should be from cows or bulls reared in natural pastors rather than those fed on grains.

How Much Saturated Fat Per Day?

You might be wondering how much-saturated fat per day is healthy.

It is told that in a healthy diet rule, you should keep everything to a moderate level.

For the best health reasons, it is better to limit the intake of saturated fat to not more than 8% of the total calories you consume daily. If you need about 1800 calories daily, about 14o calories could be from saturated fats.

Who Should Avoid Saturated Fat?

As per the recent and credible studies on saturated fats and heart diseases, it is good to have SF as a compulsory part of our diet plan.

Here it must be noted that every study result is based on the majority of instances; this does not refer to 100% instances of validity.

It allows for the possibility that a few individuals may face an increased risk of heart disease or other health hazards with SF, but the vast majority won’t face any issues.

Some individuals already on medications and restricted diets should not think of saturated fats. It is also not advisable to have SF-rich diets for persons with a genetic disorder called Familial Hypercholesterolemia, and a gene variant called ApoE4.

Final Thought

All recent studies have clearly indicated that there is no proven link between saturated fats and heart diseases. These studies have also said low-fat diets have not arrested cholesterol issues or helped in weight loss.

The erstwhile bad-guy reputation of the SFs does not hold good anymore. Today’s most pressing dietary problems are high fructose juices, carbonated drinks, high-carb foods, artificial trans-fats, processed vegetable oils, etc.

You may still firmly believe in and follow the old scheme of low-fat diets entirely free of saturated fats to avoid heart diseases. Carry on… But you will not be free from heart diseases with the trans-fats and high-carb diet you wish to follow.