New study: saturated fats not as bad for health as previously thought

Posted on: August 20, 2015

A large new review, carried out in Canada by Russell de Souza and colleagues (BMJ 2015;351:h3978), found no clear association between higher intake of saturated fats and all cause mortality, coronary heart disease (CHD), CHD mortality, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes among apparently healthy adults.

Trans fats: unhealthy
Consumption of trans unsaturated fatty acids, however, was associated with a 34% increase in all cause mortality, a 28% increased risk of heart disease mortality, and a 21% increase in the risk of heart disease. Further, these data suggest that industrial trans fats confer a 30% increase in the risk of heart disease events and an 18% increase in the risk of heart disease mortality.

Dietary guidelines recommend that saturated fats make up no more than 10% of daily calories. Trans unsaturated fats, known as trans fats, like in partly-hydrogenated oils, should provide no more than 1% of daily calories. The scientists conclude that dietary guidelines must carefully consider the health effects of recommendations for alternative macronutrients to replace trans fats and saturated fats, since there was no association between saturated fats and health outcomes in studies where saturated fat generally replaced refined carbohydrates.

Palmoil: an alternative to trans fat
Palmoil is a good replacement for partially-hydrogenated fat containing trans fatty acids, because palm oil is naturally smooth and stable. Like most natural seed oils, palm oil is virtually free of trans fats. In many food applications, the use of palm oil and palm oil fractions has been instrumental in lowering trans fat levels. The successful reduction of trans fatty acids in margarine for example, has been predominantly the result of using specific combinations of palm oil and liquid oils.