Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Randy
Saturated fat, a type of fat that is solid at room temperature, can be found in some plant foods (for example, tropical plant oils like coconut oil), and many animal foods such as dairy products, eggs, and meat. Eggs also contain cholesterol, which worsens the effects of the saturated fat. Cutting down on animal products and eating a plant-based diet may help in reducing saturated fat and cholesterol intake.
Saturated fat is considered harmful to health. Studies have shown that high saturated fat intake may raise the risk of:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Colon cancer
- Coronary artery lesions
- Decreased male fertility
- Hardening of the arteries
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol levels
- Intestinal lining breakdown
- Kidney problems
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Periodontal disease
- Skin aging and wrinkling
Restricting saturated fat intake is a key part of the Swank diet, which has been used to help successfully treat many Multiple Sclerosis cases. Similarly, the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with lower cancer risk, has low amounts of saturated fat. One study found that for men who had their prostates removed for cancer, cutting down on saturated animal fat improved chances of cancer-free survival. In one breast cancer survival study, women who ate the most saturated fat after diagnosis increased the risk of dying by 41%.
Research suggests that swapping 1% of saturated fat calories in our diet for any other macronutrient can add nearly a whole year of aging length onto our telomeres. A low saturated diet, even for children, can help boost arterial function. Workplace programs in which, as one action, participants cut saturated fat intake, have seen positive results, including weight and cholesterol loss, as well as better blood sugar control in diabetics.
The meat, dairy, and egg industries have funded studies and undertaken campaigns designed to give the public the mistaken idea that foods with saturated fat are not harmful. At the Federal government level, though, the potential harm of saturated fat has been noted in the U.S. dietary guidelines starting with the first release in 1977. In 1980, the Guidelines directly stated that saturated fat should be avoided, and in 2010 they recommended reducing intake of saturated fat. In Finland, the use of science-based dietary guidelines for reducing saturated fat intake resulted in an 80% drop in cardiac mortality across the entire country.
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