For decades, we’ve been told to steer free of Saturated fat (meat, eggs, and dairy) as it’s supposed to skyrocket your cholesterol level.
This gave rise to the horrendous “low fat” propaganda that’s still going strong to this day.
A new study published in the International Journal of Cardiology reveals quite an interesting twist to this argument.
Looks like it’s not about saturated fat itself but what kind of saturated fat you are talking about.
The researchers collected the health information of 22,050 British people and 53,375 Danes that were previously collected by the EPIC study.
They also used country-specific food frequency questionnaires to estimate the approximate amount of saturated fats these people usually consumed.
After following the participants for a period of 18.8 years (the British) and 13.6 years (the Danes), they found 1,204 heart attacks in the British sample and 2,260 in the Danish one.
When they compared the number of heart attacks with the food intake data, they discovered that saturated fats with different carbon chain lengths had different heart health effects.
To clarify, each fatty acid has a chain of carbon atoms. Fatty acids are normally divided into short-chain, medium-chain, long-chain, and very long-chain fatty acids, with their chains ranging from one to mid-20s carbon atoms.
The authors discovered that people who consumed large amounts of saturated fats with chains of 16 carbon atoms or more had the highest heart attack risk. These fats are called palmitic acid (16 atoms) and stearic acid (18 atoms), and they are mostly found in meat.
People who ate plant proteins like legumes and nuts instead of meat also had a considerably lower heart attack risk.
Those who consumed a lot of medium-chain saturated fats had no heart attack risk. These are found in dairy products, which is why many recent studies have suggested that full-cream milk and cheese are actually healthy.
Therefore, it’s not saturated versus non-saturated that is important, as many doctors still believe. Rather, among the types of saturated fats, their chain lengths are more important than the fact that they are saturated.