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Saturated fat

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Title: Saturated fat  
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Subject: Trans fat, Burger King premium burgers, Olive oil, Ghee, Coconut oil
Collection: Fatty Acids, Lipids, Nutrition
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Saturated fat

A fat is made of two kinds of smaller molecules: glycerol and fatty acids. Fats are made of long chains of carbon (C) atoms. Some carbons are linked by single bonds (-C-C-) and others are linked by double bonds (-C=C-).[1] A saturated fat is a fat in which the fatty acids all have single bonds. Double bonds can react with hydrogen to form single bonds. They are called saturated, because the second bond is broken up and each half of the bond is attached to (saturated with) a hydrogen atom. Most animal fats are saturated. The fats of plants and fishes are generally unsaturated.[1]

Various fats contain different proportions of saturated and unsaturated fat. Examples of foods containing a high proportion of saturated fat include animal fat products such as cream, cheese, butter, other whole milk dairy products and fatty meats which also contain dietary cholesterol.[2] Certain vegetable products have high saturated fat content, such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil.[3] Many prepared foods are high in saturated fat content, such as pizza, dairy desserts, and sausage.[2][4]

The effect of saturated fat on risk of disease is controversial. Many medical professional associations and scientific reviews recommend a diet low in saturated fat, because they argue it will lower risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or death.[5] However, other reviews have rejected those arguments.[6]


  • Fat profiles 1
  • Examples of saturated fatty acids 2
  • Association with diseases 3
    • Cardiovascular disease 3.1
      • Dyslipidemia 3.1.1
    • Cancer 3.2
      • Breast cancer 3.2.1
      • Colorectal cancer 3.2.2
      • Ovarian cancer 3.2.3
      • Prostate cancer 3.2.4
    • Bones 3.3
  • Dietary recommendations 4
  • Molecular description 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8

Fat profiles

While nutrition labels regularly combine them, the saturated fatty acids appear in different proportions among food groups. Lauric and myristic acids are most commonly found in "tropical" oils (e.g., palm kernel, coconut) and dairy products. The saturated fat in meat, eggs, cacao, and nuts is primarily the triglycerides of palmitic and stearic acids.

Saturated fat profile of common foods; Esterified fatty acids as percentage of total fat[7]
Food Lauric acid Myristic acid Palmitic acid Stearic acid
Coconut oil 47% 18% 9% 3%
Palm kernel oil 48% 1% 44% 5%
Butter 3% 11% 29% 13%
Ground beef 0% 4% 26% 15%
Salmon 0% 1% 29% 3%
Egg yolks 0% 0.3% 27% 10%
Cashews 2% 1% 10% 7%
Soybean oil 0% 0% 11% 4%

Examples of saturated fatty acids

Some common examples of fatty acids:

Food Saturated Mono-
As weight percent (%) of total fat
Cooking oils
Canola oil 8 64 28
Corn oil 13 24 59
Olive oil 7 78 15
Sunflower oil[13] 11 20 69
Soybean oil 15 24 58
Peanut oil[14] 17 46 32
Rice bran oil 25 38 37
Coconut oil 87 13 1
Dairy products
Cheese, regular 64 29 3
Cheese, light 60 30 0
Milk, whole 62 28 4
Milk, 2% 62 30 0
Ice cream, gourmet 62 29 4
Ice cream, light 62 29 4
Beef 33 38 5
Ground sirloin 38 44 4
Pork chop 35 44 8
Ham 35 49 16
Chicken breast 29 34 21
Chicken 34 23 30
Turkey breast 30 20 30
Turkey drumstick 32 22 30
Fish, orange roughy 23 15 46
Salmon 28 33 28
Hot dog, beef 42 48 5
Hot dog, turkey 28 40 22
Burger, fast food 36 44 6
Cheeseburger, fast food 43 40 7
Breaded chicken sandwich 20 39 32
Grilled chicken sandwich 26 42 20
Sausage, Polish 37 46 11
Sausage, turkey 28 40 22
Pizza, sausage 41 32 20
Pizza, cheese 60 28 5
Almonds dry roasted 9 65 21
Cashews dry roasted 20 59 17
Macadamia dry roasted 15 79 2
Peanut dry roasted 14 50 31
Pecans dry roasted 8 62 25
Flaxseeds, ground 8 23 65
Sesame seeds 14 38 44
Soybeans 14 22 57
Sunflower seeds 11 19 66
Walnuts dry roasted 9 23 63
Sweets and baked goods
Candy, chocolate bar 59 33 3
Candy, fruit chews 14 44 38
Cookie, oatmeal raisin 22 47 27
Cookie, chocolate chip 35 42 18
Cake, yellow 60 25 10
Pastry, Danish 50 31 14
Fats added during cooking or at the table
Butter, stick 63 29 3
Butter, whipped 62 29 4
Margarine, stick 18 39 39
Margarine, tub 16 33 49
Margarine, light tub 19 46 33
Lard 39 45 11
Shortening 25 45 26
Chicken fat 30 45 21
Beef fat 41 43 3
Dressing, blue cheese 16 54 25
Dressing, light Italian 14 24 58
Egg yolk fat[15] 36 44 16
Avocado [16] 16 71 13
Unless else specified in boxes, then reference is:[17]

Association with diseases

Since the 1950s, it has been commonly believed that consumption of foods containing high amounts of saturated fatty acids (including meat fats, milk fat, butter, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil) is potentially less healthy than consuming fats with a lower proportion of saturated fatty acids. Sources of lower saturated fat but higher proportions of unsaturated fatty acids include olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, safflower, corn, sunflower, soy, and cottonseed oils.[18]

Cardiovascular disease

The effect of saturated fat on cardiovascular disease is controversial.

Many health authorities such as the

  • Feinman RD (2010). "Saturated Fat and Health: Recent Advances in Research". Lipids 45 (10): 891–892.  
  • Howard BV, Van Horn L, Hsia J, Manson JE, Stefanick ML, Wassertheil-Smoller S, Kuller LH, LaCroix AZ, Langer RD, Lasser NL, Lewis CE, Limacher MC, Margolis KL, Mysiw WJ, Ockene JK, Parker LM, Perri MG, Phillips L, Prentice RL, Robbins J, Rossouw JE, Sarto GE, Schatz IJ, Snetselaar LG, Stevens VJ, Tinker LF, Trevisan M, Vitolins MZ, Anderson GL, Assaf AR, Bassford T, Beresford SA, Black HR, Brunner RL, Brzyski RG, Caan B, Chlebowski RT, Gass M, Granek I, Greenland P, Hays J, Heber D, Heiss G, Hendrix SL, Hubbell FA, Johnson KC, Kotchen JM (2006). "Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of cardiovascular disease: the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial". Journal of the American Medical Association 295 (6): 655–66.  
  • Zelman K (2011). "The Great Fat Debate". Journal of the American Dietetic Association 111 (5): 655–677.  

Further reading

  1. ^ a b Reece, Jane; Campbell, Neil (2002). Biology. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings. pp. 69–70.  
  2. ^ a b "Saturated fats". American Heart Association. 2014. Retrieved March 2014. 
  3. ^ "What are "oils"?"., US Department of Agriculture. 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  4. ^ "Top food sources of saturated fat in the US". Harvard University School of Public Health. 2014. Retrieved March 2014. 
  5. ^ Hooper L, Martin N, Abdelhamid A, Davey Smith G (2015). "Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease". Cochrane Database Syst Rev 6 (Jun 10): CD011737.  
  6. ^ de Souza RJ, Mente A, Maroleanu A, Cozma AI, Ha V, Kishibe T, Uleryk E, Budylowski P, Schünemann H, Beyene J, Anand SS (2015). "Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies". BMJ 351 (Aug 11): h3978.  
  7. ^ "USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20".  
  8. ^ → Oil, vegetable, sunflower Retrieved on September 27, 2010
  9. ^ USDA → Basic Report: 04042, Oil, peanut, salad or cooking Retrieved on January 16, 2015
  10. ^ → Egg, yolk, raw, fresh Retrieved on August 24, 2009
  11. ^ "09038, Avocados, raw, California". National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  12. ^ "Feinberg School > Nutrition > Nutrition Fact Sheet: Lipids". Northwestern University. Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. 
  13. ^ → Oil, vegetable, sunflower Retrieved on September 27, 2010
  14. ^ USDA → Basic Report: 04042, Oil, peanut, salad or cooking Retrieved on January 16, 2015
  15. ^ → Egg, yolk, raw, fresh Retrieved on August 24, 2009
  16. ^ "09038, Avocados, raw, California". National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "Feinberg School > Nutrition > Nutrition Fact Sheet: Lipids". Northwestern University. Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. 
  18. ^ "Dietary fats: Know which types to choose".  
  19. ^ Kris-Etherton PM, Innis S (September 2007). "Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Dietary Fatty Acids". Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107 (9): 1599–1611 [1603].  
  20. ^ "Food Fact Sheet - Cholesterol" (PDF). British Dietetic Association. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  21. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about Fats". American Heart Association. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors". Retrieved 2012-05-03. 
  23. ^ "Lower your cholesterol".  
  24. ^ "Nutrition Facts at a Glance - Nutrients: Saturated Fat".  
  25. ^ "Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for fats, including saturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, and cholesterol". European Food Safety Authority. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  26. ^ "Healthy diet Fact sheet N°394". May 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  27. ^ "Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies". BMJ 351 (h3978). Aug 12, 2015.  
  28. ^ Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, Crowe F, Ward HA, Johnson L, Franco OH, Butterworth AS, Forouhi NG, Thompson SG, Khaw KT, Mozaffarian D, Danesh J, Di Angelantonio E (2014). "Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Ann. Intern. Med. 160 (6): 398–406.  
  29. ^ "'"Saturated fats and heart disease link 'unproven. NHI Choices. March 18, 2014. 
  30. ^ Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Cooper SM, Davies B, Sculthorpe N, Di Nicolantonio J and Grace F. "Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Open Heart ;2: doi:10.1136/openhrt-2014-000196. 
  31. ^ Schwab, U; Lauritzen, L; Tholstrup, T; Haldorssoni, T; Riserus, U; Uusitupa, M; Becker, W (2014). "Effect of the amount and type of dietary fat on cardiometabolic risk factors and risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer: a systematic review.". Food & nutrition research 58.  
  32. ^ Hooper L, Summerbell CD, Thompson R, Sills D, Roberts FG, Moore H,  
  33. ^ Micha R, Mozaffarian D (October 2010). "Saturated Fat and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors, Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes: a Fresh Look at the Evidence". Lipids 45 (10): 893–905.  
  34. ^ Mozaffarian D, Micha R, Wallace S (March 2010). Katan, Martijn B., ed. "Effects on Coronary Heart Disease of Increasing Polyunsaturated Fat in Place of Saturated Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials". PLoS Medicine 7 (3): 1–10.  
  35. ^ Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM (2010). "Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91 (3): 535–546.  
  36. ^ Danaei G, Ding EL, Mozaffarian D, Taylor B, Rehm J, Murray CJ, Ezzati M (April 2009). Hales, Simon, ed. "The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors". PLoS Medicine 6 (4): e1000058.  
  37. ^ Mente A, de Koning L, Shannon HS, Anand SS (April 2009). "A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease". Arch. Intern. Med. 169 (7): 659–69.   Free full-text
  38. ^ Skeaff CM, Miller J (2009). "Dietary fat and coronary heart disease: summary of evidence from prospective cohort and randomised controlled trials". Ann. Nutr. Metab. 55 (1-3): 173–201.  
  39. ^ Jakobsen MU, O'Reilly EJ, Heitmann BL, Pereira MA, Bälter K, Fraser GE, Goldbourt U, Hallmans G, Knekt P, Liu S, Pietinen P, Spiegelman D, Stevens J, Virtamo J, Willett WC, Ascherio A (2009). "Major types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of 11 cohort studies". The American journal of clinical nutrition 89 (5): 1425–32.  
  40. ^ Van Horn L, McCoin M, Kris-Etherton PM, Burke F, Carson JA, Champagne CM, Karmally W, Sikand G (February 2008). "The evidence for dietary prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease". Journal of the American Dietetic Association 108 (2): 287–331.  
  41. ^ Astrup A, Dyerberg J, Elwood P, Hermansen K, Hu FB, Jakobsen MU, Kok FJ, Krauss RM, Lecerf JM, LeGrand P, Nestel P, Risérus U, Sanders T, Sinclair A, Stender S, Tholstrup T, Willett WC (April 2011). "The role of reducing intakes of saturated fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease: where does the evidence stand in 2010?". Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 93 (4): 684–8.  
  42. ^ Jebb SA, Lovegrove JA, Griffin BA, Frost GS, Moore CS, Chatfield MD, Bluck LJ, Williams CM, Sanders TA (October 2010). "Effect of changing the amount and type of fat and carbohydrate on insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular risk: the RISCK (Reading, Imperial, Surrey, Cambridge, and Kings) trial". Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 92 (4): 748–58.  
  43. ^ Faculty of Public Health of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom. Position Statement on Fat [Retrieved 2011-01-25].
  44. ^ Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation (2003). "Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases" (PDF). World Health Organization. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  45. ^ "Cholesterol". Irish Heart Foundation. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  46. ^ U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (December 2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 (7th Edition). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  47. ^ Cannon, Christopher; O'Gara, Patrick (2007). Critical Pathways in Cardiovascular Medicine, 2nd Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 243. 
  48. ^ Graham I, Atar D, Borch-Johnsen K, Boysen G, Burell G, Cifkova R, Dallongeville J, De Backer G, Ebrahim S, Gjelsvik B, Herrmann-Lingen C, Hoes A, Humphries S, Knapton M, Perk J, Priori SG, Pyorala K, Reiner Z, Ruilope L, Sans-Menendez S, Scholte op Reimer W, Weissberg P, Wood D, Yarnell J, Zamorano JL, Walma E, Fitzgerald T, Cooney MT, Dudina A (2007). "European guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice: executive summary" (PDF). European Heart Journal 28 (19): 2375–2414.  
  49. ^ Labarthe, Darwin (2011). "Chapter 17 What Causes Cardiovascular Diseases?". Epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular disease: a global challenge (2 ed.). Jones and Bartlett Publishers.  
  50. ^ Clarke R, Frost C, Collins R, Appleby P, Peto R (1997). "Dietary lipids and blood cholesterol: quantitative meta-analysis of metabolic ward studies". BMJ (Clinical research ed.) 314 (7074): 112–7.  
  51. ^ Bucher HC, Griffith LE, Guyatt GH (February 1999). "Systematic review on the risk and benefit of different cholesterol-lowering interventions". Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology 19 (2): 187–195.  
  52. ^ a b Lewington S, Whitlock G, Clarke R, Sherliker P, Emberson J, Halsey J, Qizilbash N, Peto R, Collins R (December 2007). "Blood cholesterol and vascular mortality by age, sex, and blood pressure: a meta-analysis of individual data from 61 prospective studies with 55,000 vascular deaths". Lancet 370 (9602): 1829–39.  
  53. ^ Labarthe, Darwin (2011). "Chapter 11 Adverse Blood Lipid Profile". Epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular disease: a global challenge (2 ed.). Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 290.  
  54. ^ Labarthe, Darwin (2011). "Chapter 11 Adverse Blood Lipid Profile". Epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular disease: a global challenge (2 ed.). Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 277.  
  55. ^ Thijssen MA, Mensink RP (2005). 171–2 "Fatty acids and atherosclerotic risk" . Handb Exp Pharmacol (170): 165–94.  
  56. ^ Boyd NF, Stone J, Vogt KN, Connelly BS, Martin LJ, Minkin S (November 2003). "Dietary fat and breast cancer risk revisited: a meta-analysis of the published literature". British Journal of Cancer 62 (9): 1672–1685.  
  57. ^ a b Hanf V, Gonder U (2005-12-01). "Nutrition and primary prevention of breast cancer: foods, nutrients and breast cancer risk.". European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology 123 (2): 139–149.  
  58. ^ Lof M, Weiderpass E (February 2009). "Impact of diet on breast cancer risk.". Current opinion in obstetrics & gynecology 21 (1): 80–85.  
  59. ^ Freedman LS, Kipnis V, Schatzkin A, Potischman N (Mar–Apr 2008). "Methods of Epidemiology: Evaluating the Fat–Breast Cancer Hypothesis – Comparing Dietary Instruments and Other Developments". Cancer journal (Sudbury, Mass.) 14 (2): 69–74.  
  60. ^ Lin OS (2009). "Acquired risk factors for colorectal cancer". Methods Mol Biol 472: 361–72.  
  61. ^ Huncharek M, Kupelnick B (2001). "Dietary fat intake and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer: a meta-analysis of 6,689 subjects from 8 observational studies". Nutrition and Cancer 40 (2): 87–91.  
  62. ^
  63. ^ a b Männistö S, Pietinen P, Virtanen MJ, Salminen I, Albanes D, Giovannucci E, Virtamo J (December 2003). "Fatty acids and risk of prostate cancer in a nested case-control study in male smokers". Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 12 (12): 1422–8.  
  64. ^ a b c Crowe FL, Allen NE, Appleby PN, Overvad K, Aardestrup IV, Johnsen NF, Tjønneland A, Linseisen J, Kaaks R, Boeing H, Kröger J, Trichopoulou A, Zavitsanou A, Trichopoulos D, Sacerdote C, Palli D, Tumino R, Agnoli C, Kiemeney LA, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Chirlaque MD, Ardanaz E, Larrañaga N, Quirós JR, Sánchez MJ, González CA, Stattin P, Hallmans G, Bingham S, Khaw KT, Rinaldi S, Slimani N, Jenab M, Riboli E, Key TJ (November 2008). "Fatty acid composition of plasma phospholipids and risk of prostate cancer in a case-control analysis nested within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 88 (5): 1353–63.  
  65. ^ a b Kurahashi N, Inoue M, Iwasaki M, Sasazuki S, Tsugane AS (April 2008). "Dairy product, saturated fatty acid, and calcium intake and prostate cancer in a prospective cohort of Japanese men". Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 17 (4): 930–7.  
  66. ^ Corwin RL, Hartman TJ, Maczuga SA, Graubard BI (2006). "Dietary saturated fat intake is inversely associated with bone density in humans: Analysis of NHANES III". The Journal of nutrition 136 (1): 159–165.  
  67. ^ see the article Food pyramid (nutrition) for more information.
  68. ^ "Saturated and Trans Fats". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  69. ^ "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  70. ^ "Saturated Fat". Retrieved 2010-12-02. 1
  71. ^ "Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  72. ^ "Getting the Fats Right!". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  73. ^ "Citizens Health Knowledge Centre Nutrition". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  74. ^ "New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guideline Statements for Healthy Adults". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  75. ^ "Food and Drugs Board Regulating for Your Safety Eating Healthy". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  76. ^ "Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  77. ^ "Nutrition Labelling". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  78. ^ Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation (2003). "Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases (WHO technical report series 916)" (PDF). World Health Organization. pp. 81–94.  
  79. ^ "Trends in Intake of Energy, Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat, and Saturated Fat — United States, 1971–2000".  
  80. ^  
  81. ^ Smith SC, Jackson R, Pearson TA, Fuster V, Yusuf S, Faergeman O, Wood DA, Alderman M, Horgan J, Home P, Hunn M, Grundy SM (June 2004). "Principles for national and regional guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention: a scientific statement from the World Heart and Stroke Forum". Circulation 109 (25): 3112–21.  
  82. ^ "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" (pdf).  
  83. ^ Eat less saturated fat
  84. ^ Fats explained
  85. ^ German JB, Dillard CJ (September 2004). "Saturated fats: what dietary intake?". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 80 (3): 550–559.  
  86. ^ Zelman K (2011). "The Great Fat Debate: A Closer Look at the Controversy—Questioning the Validity of Age-Old Dietary Guidance". Journal of the American Dietetic Association 111 (5): 655–658.  


See also

Carbon atoms are also implicitly drawn, as they are portrayed as intersections between two straight lines. "Saturated," in general, refers to a maximum number of hydrogens bonded to each carbon of the polycarbon tail as allowed by the Octet Rule. This also means that only single bonds (sigma bonds) will be present between adjacent carbon atoms of the tail.

It should be noted, as this is the defining factor of saturated fats, that the two-dimensional illustration has implicit hydrogens bonded to each of the carbon atoms in the polycarbon tail of the myristic acid molecule (there are 13 carbons in the tail, 14 carbons in the entire molecule).

A space-filling model of the saturated fatty acid myristic acid
Two-dimensional representation of the saturated fatty acid myristic acid

Molecular description

Blanket recommendations to lower saturated fat were criticized at a 2010 conference debate of the American Dietetic Association for focusing too narrowly on reducing saturated fats rather than emphasizing increased consumption of healthy fats and unrefined carbohydrates. Concern was expressed over the health risks of replacing saturated fats in the diet with refined carbohydrates, which carry a high risk of obesity and heart disease, particularly at the expense of polyunsaturated fats which may have health benefits. None of the panelists recommended heavy consumption of saturated fats, emphasizing instead the importance of overall dietary quality to cardiovascular health.[86]

Dr. German and Dr. Dillard of University of California and Nestle Research Center in Switzerland, in their 2004 review, pointed out that "no lower safe limit of specific saturated fatty acid intakes has been identified" and recommended that the influence of varying saturated fatty acid intakes against a background of different individual lifestyles and genetic backgrounds should be the focus in future studies.[85]

The United Kingdom, National Health Service claims the majority of UK people eat too much saturated fat. The British Heart Foundation also advises people to cut down on saturated fat. People are advised to cut down on saturated fat and read labels on food they buy.[83][84]

A 2004 statement released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined that "Americans need to continue working to reduce saturated fat intake…"[79] In addition, reviews by the American Heart Association led the Association to recommend reducing saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total calories according to its 2006 recommendations.[80][81] This concurs with similar conclusions made by the US Department of Health and Human Services, which determined that reduction in saturated fat consumption would positively affect health and reduce the prevalence of heart disease.[82]

In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expert consultation report concluded that "intake of saturated fatty acids is directly related to cardiovascular risk. The traditional target is to restrict the intake of saturated fatty acids to less than 10% of daily energy intake and less than 7% for high-risk groups. If populations are consuming less than 10%, they should not increase that level of intake. Within these limits, intake of foods rich in myristic and palmitic acids should be replaced by fats with a lower content of these particular fatty acids. In developing countries, however, where energy intake for some population groups may be inadequate, energy expenditure is high and body fat stores are low (BMI <18.5 kg/m2). The amount and quality of fat supply has to be considered keeping in mind the need to meet energy requirements. Specific sources of saturated fat, such as coconut and palm oil, provide low-cost energy and may be an important source of energy for the poor."[78]

Recommendations to reduce or limit dietary intake of saturated fats are made by the World Health Organization,[67] Health Canada,[68] the US Department of Health and Human Services,[69] the UK Food Standards Agency,[70] the Australian Department of Health and Aging,[71] the Singapore Government Health Promotion Board,[72] the Indian Government Citizens Health Portal,[73] the New Zealand Ministry of Health,[74] the Food and Drugs Board Ghana,[75] the Republic of Guyana Ministry of Health,[76] and Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety.[77]

Dietary recommendations

Mounting evidence indicates that the amount and type of fat in the diet can have important effects on bone health. Most of this evidence is derived from animal studies. The data from one study indicated that bone mineral density is negatively associated with saturated fat intake, and that men may be particularly vulnerable.[66]


Some researchers have indicated that serum myristic acid[63][64] and palmitic acid[64] and dietary myristic[65] and palmitic[65] saturated fatty acids and serum palmitic combined with alpha-tocopherol supplementation[63] are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer in a dose-dependent manner. These associations may, however, reflect differences in intake or metabolism of these fatty acids between the precancer cases and controls, rather than being an actual cause.[64]

Prostate cancer

A meta-analysis of eight observational studies published in 2001 found a statistically significant positive relationship between saturated fat and ovarian cancer.[61] However, a 2013 study found that a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies observed no association between total fat intake and ovarian cancer risk. Further analysis revealed that omega-3 fatty acids were protective against ovarian cancer and that trans fats were a risk factor.[62] This study revealed that histological subtypes should be examined in determining the impact of dietary fat on ovarian cancer, rather than an oversimplified focus on total fat intake.

Ovarian cancer

One review found limited evidence for a positive relationship between consuming animal fat and incidence of colorectal cancer.[60]

Colorectal cancer

A meta-analysis published in 2003 found a significant positive relationship in both control and cohort studies between saturated fat and breast cancer.[56] However two subsequent reviews have found weak or insignificant associations of saturated fat intake and breast cancer risk,[57][58] and note the prevalence of confounding factors.[57][59]

Breast cancer


Meta-analyses have found a significant relationship between saturated fat and serum cholesterol levels.[50] High total cholesterol levels, which may be caused by many factors, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.[51][52] However, other indicators measuring cholesterol such as high total/HDL cholesterol ratio are more predictive than total serum cholesterol.[52] In a study of myocardial infarction in 52 countries, the ApoB/ApoA1 (related to LDL and HDL, respectively) ratio was the strongest predictor of CVD among all risk factors.[53] There are other pathways involving obesity, triglyceride levels, insulin sensitivity, endothelial function, and thrombogenicity, among others, that play a role in CVD, although it seems, in the absence of an adverse blood lipid profile, the other known risk factors have only a weak atherogenic effect.[54] Different saturated fatty acids have differing effects on various lipid levels.[55]

There are strong, consistent, and graded relationships between saturated fat intake, blood cholesterol levels, and the mass occurrence of cardiovascular disease. The relationships are accepted as causal.[48][49] Abnormal blood lipid levels, that is high total cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, "bad" cholesterol) or low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, "good" cholesterol) cholesterol are all associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.[22]

The consumption of saturated fat is generally considered a risk factor for dyslipidemia, which in turn is a risk factor for some types of cardiovascular disease.[43][44][45][46][47]


While many studies have found that including polyunsaturated fats in the diet in place of saturated fats produces more beneficial CVD outcomes, the effects of substituting monounsaturated fats or carbohydrates are unclear.[41][42]

Harcombe, 2015[30] No reduction in CHD and all-cause mortality were observed when replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, even though reductions in serum cholesterol were observed.
Schwab, 2014[31] There was convincing evidence that partial replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially in men.
Hooper, 2011[32] Reducing saturated fat in diets did not reduce mortality, despite reducing the risk of having a cardiovascular event by 14 percent.
Micha, 2010[33] Based on consistent evidence from human studies, replacing saturated fatty acids with polyunsaturated fat modestly lowers coronary heart disease risk, with ~10% risk reduction for a 5% energy substitution; whereas replacing SFA with carbohydrate has no benefit and replacing SFA with monounsaturated fat has uncertain effects.
Mozaffarian, 2010[34] These findings provide evidence that consuming polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) in place of SFA reduces Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) events in randomized controlled trials (RCT). Replacing saturated fats with PUFAs as percentage of calories strongly reduced CHD mortality.
Siri-Tarino, 2010[35] 5–23 years of follow-up of 347,747 subjects, 11,006 developed CHD or stroke. A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.
Danaei, 2009[36] Low PUFA intake has an 1-5% Increased risk of ischemic heart disease: Low dietary PUFA (in replacement of SFA). age 30–44 Increase in RR 1.05.
Mente, 2009[37] Single-nutrient RCTs have yet to evaluate whether reducing saturated fatty acid intake lowers the risk of CHD events. For polyunsaturated fatty acid intake, most of the RCTs have not been adequately powered and did not find a significant reduction in CHD outcomes.
Skeaff, 2009[38] Intake of SFA was not significantly associated with CHD mortality, with a RR of 1.14. Moreover, there was no significant association with CHD death. Intake of PUFA was strongly significantly associated with CHD mortality, with a RR of 1.25. The Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the EUROASPIRE study results mirrored those of total PUFA; intake of linoleic acid was significantly associated with CHD mortality.
Jakobsen, 2009[39] "The associations suggest that replacing saturated fatty acids with polyunsaturated fatty acids rather than monounsaturated fatty acids or carbohydrates prevents CHD over a wide range of intakes."
Van Horn, 2008[40] 25-35% fats but <7% SFA and TFA reduces risk.

A 2014 systematic review looking at observational studies of dietary intake of fatty acids, observational studies of measured fatty acid levels in the blood, and intervention studies of polyunsaturated fat supplementation concludes that the finding ″do not support cardiovascular guidelines that promote high consumption of long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 and polyunsaturated fatty acids and suggest reduced consumption of total saturated fatty acids.″[28] Researchers acknowledged that despite their results, further research is necessary, especially in people who are initially healthy. Until the picture becomes clearer, experts recommend people stick to the current guidelines on fat consumption.[29]

A 2015 systematic review found no association between consumption and risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes or death.[27]

A number of systematic reviews have examined the relationship between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease and have come to different conclusions:


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