Should I avoid saturated fat?

Sausages Sausages, pies and other processed meats are often high in saturated fats

Related Stories

I had to do a bit of a double-take when I read some research about fat consumption and heart disease.

It said that - contrary to decades of public health advice - switching from saturated fats found in foods like butter, cheese and fatty meats, to polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils and fish - did not seem to have any benefit for the heart.

This surprised not only me but the people who co-funded the research, the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Pretty much every respectable health body says that we should cut down on food that is high in saturated fat because it can cause cholesterol levels in the blood to build up.

Raised cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. Some unsaturated fats can lower blood cholesterol so the assumption has been that this will cut your heart disease risk.

Saturated fat

  • Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter and lard, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, and cheese and cream
  • Eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease, according to NHS Choices.
  • Most of us eat too much saturated fat - about 20% more than the recommended maximum amount.
  • The average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.
  • The average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.

But the analysis of dozens of international studies did not yield clear evidence that switching to mono and polyunsaturated fats reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It should be pointed out that the authors freely admit their research is inconclusive - the BHF wants to see more studies before anyone considers changing dietary advice.

The findings are certainly not an invitation to gorge on a diet of cream cakes and fatty meat pies. Not only do most of us eat too many calories but we eat too much fat overall.

But simply demonising saturated fat or any other single food source is not helpful either. We have to get our calories from somewhere.

The newspapers are full of the latest dietary battle - is fat or sugar to blame for heart disease?

The problem is that sensible food advice, rather than faddy trends, tend to be a bit boring.

The key to a healthy heart remains a balanced and varied diet - with a strong emphasis on vegetables and fruit. Add to that exercise and not smoking.

Do all of those and not only will you cut your risk of heart disease, but cancer, diabetes and dementia.

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

Defeating cancer, the 'evil genius'

Can we win the war against cancer? Over the past 18 months, Panorama has followed a group of patients on drug trials. Some who'd been given months to live, are keeping cancer at bay for years.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination

Comments 5 of 253


Features & Analysis

BBC Future

(Caitlin McNeill)

Do we all see the same colours?

Intriguing science behind #TheDress


  • A bicycle with a Copenhagen WheelClick Watch

    The wheel giving push bikes an extra boost by turning them into smart electric hybrids

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.