At a time when doctors and nutritionists – not to mention the rest of us – had finally come to the point that they felt they had a solid understanding of fats, new research has been presented that could have us starting over again. Until now, the common belief had been that unsaturated fat was “good”, in appropriate quantities, and saturated fats were “bad” in essentially any quantity. Now, as it turns out, this may not be as true as we once thought.
What Are Saturated Fats?
The American Heart Association defines saturated fats as a type of dietary fat that is usually solid at room temperature. They typically come from animal-based sources such as beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and full-fat dairy products, though some tropical plant oils contain them as well, such as palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils.
The American Heart Association recommends replacing much of the saturated fats in our diets in order to prevent heart disease, to which those foods can contribute. They recommend that no more than 5% to 6% of your daily calories be composed of those fatty foods.
This can be accomplished with straightforward changes such as eating poultry without the skin, or swapping butter for olive oil when cooking something in a pan. It can also mean eating more fish and legumes in place of dishes you might otherwise have with beef or pork. It doesn’t mean that you need to cut all foods containing saturated fats out of your diet. That said, you can eat them more infrequently and/or eat them in smaller portions.
What Does the Research Say?
A massive meta-analysis and systemic review of almost 80 individual studies was recently published within the Annals of Internal Medicine. It looked into whether or not saturated fats (such as those found in red meats, butter, and cream) contribute negatively to heart disease, and whether polyunsaturated fats (such as those found in vegetable oils and fatty fish) are truly helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease.
What the researchers found when they examined unique fatty acids within those two categories of fats, they found that each unique fatty acid was not equal to the next, even if it was within the same group. For instance, margaric acid, a type of saturated fat found in dairy products, and two types of omega 3 fatty acids that were found in fish were both considered to be helpful in protecting an individual against heart disease. However, omega 6 fatty acids found in veggie oils and another type of polyunsaturated fat were found to increase the risk of experiencing heart problems.
What the researchers in this review and analysis concluded was that the current evidence doesn’t actually provide support for the cardio health guidelines that would suggest that people lower their total saturated fats intake and boost their intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
It’s Easy to See Why People Are Confused
This has left many people wondering what they should do about the fats that they are eating, particularly if they have been making a concerted effort to change their eating habits in order to improve their cardiovascular health and prevent disease.
At the moment, the plan appears to be to stay the course and simply encourage people to continue to eat a wide variety of nutrient dense foods within appropriate portion sizes. Keep up a focus on whole foods while avoiding processed foods and maintain your habit of focusing on immune support vitamins, among others. This way, a more complete nutrition will be achieved, and the body won’t be dependent on a single source of any nutrient, including fats.
Further study is sure to follow now that this publication has been released. It remains very important to speak with a doctor before making any major dietary changes.