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Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease – Is There a Link?

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We recently read a meta-analysis of 21 cohort studies related to the relationship between cardiovascular disease (CVD), heart disease and stroke. Before reading, the assumption for most people is that there will be a positive link between them, given that that is what we have been told up to now. However, the conclusion from all 21 studies is that dietary saturated fat does not increase the risk of CVD, heart disease or stroke1. We then got to reading a few other studies and found that the scientific research on this is quite inconclusive. What we do know however is that there are a range of lifestyle factors that contribute to these conditions such as smoking and a lack of physical activity. It might also be the total amount of fat in the diet that is just as important as the type of fat.

Saturated fat comes mainly from animal products including meat, milk, butter and cheese, however it is also found in high concentrations in coconuts. At Healthy Meals to Your Door we cook a lot of our meals in coconut oil as we believe it to be a more natural, plant-based fat option.

It must be said though, we do not believe that all saturated fats, or fats and oils in general for that matter, are created equal and perhaps that may explain why its difficult for these studies to come to one specific conclusion.

It appears saturated fat may not be the villain it was first suspected to be, when it comes to heart disease though we still believe that quality and quantity and the source of a fat will influence its affect on your health.

We also know that fats are typically a “companion food” eaten with other things or naturally present in different foods, and it would be interesting to know the extend of the effect of the other components and compounds consumed alongside the fats in these foods.  For example there is saturated fat in meat like lamb, and saturated fat in fruit like coconuts and saturated fat in milk like cream, which is present in cheese or yoghurt or separated into pure saturated fat like butter, all of which are whole foods and arguably healthy in moderation.  But what happens when the fats are highly processed or homogenised or are part of a complicated, highly processed ingredient list, like in bottled milk, biscuits, confectionery, hamburgers, donuts, pies and sausages?  Perhaps a topic for another blog post…

1. Siri-Tarino, P., Sun, Q., Hu, F., & Krauss, R. (2010). Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract


Lisa Cutforth

Lisa Cutforth

Lisa Cutforth is a nutritionist, huge foodie, and owner (plus chef!) of Wholesomeness.

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