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Diseases with ties to saturated fat intake

Posted by Ir. Adhi Hartono on 25 October 2009

Cardiovascular diseases

Diets high in saturated fat have been correlated with an increased incidence of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.

Combined cholesterol and saturated fat feeding has shown an increase in cholesterol levels of African green monkeys[7], while one study with baboons showed the opposite effect on LDL cholesterol. PMID 7625361 (PubMed)
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An increase in cholesterol levels has been observed in humans with an increase in saturated fat intake, such as a study of 22 hypercholesterolemic men.[8][9][10] Some studies have suggested that diets high in saturated fat increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Epidemiological studies have found that those whose diets are high in saturated fats, including lauric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acid, had a higher prevalence of coronary heart disease.[11][12][13][14] Additionally, controlled experimental studies have found that people consuming high saturated fat diets experience negative cholesterol profile changes.[15][16][17][18]

In 1999, volunteers were randomly assigned to either Mediterranean (which replaces saturated fat with mono and polyunsaturated fat) or a control diet showed that subjects assigned to a Mediterranean diet exhibited a significantly decreased likelihood of suffering a second heart attack, cardiac death, heart failure or stroke.[19][20]

An evaluation of data from Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that “diets lower in carbohydrate and higher in protein and fat are not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease in women. When vegetable sources of fat and protein are chosen, these diets may moderately reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” [21]

Meta-studies conducted by scientists in 1997[22] and 2003[23] found high corelation between excessive amounts of saturated fats and coronary heart disease. Mayo Clinic highlighted oils that are high in saturated fats include coconut, palm oil and palm kernel oil. Those of lower amounts of saturated fats, and higher levels of unsaturated (preferably monounsaturated) fats like olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils are generally healthier.[24] The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute,[25] and other health authorities like World Heart Federation[26] have urged saturated fats be replaced with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The health body list olive and canola oils as sources of monosaturated oils while soybean and sunflower oils are rich with polyunsaturated fat. A 2005 research in Costa Rica suggests consumption of non-hydrogenated unsaturated oils like soybean and sunflower over palm oil.[27]

The Cochrane Collaboration published a meta-analyses of fat modification trials finding no significant effect on total mortality, but with significant reductions in the rate of cardiovascular events that was statistically significant in the high risk group.[28]

Fatty acid specificity

Epidemiological studies of heart disease have implicated the four major saturated fatty acids to varying degrees. The World Health Organization has determined that there is “convincing” evidence that myristic and palmitic acid intake increases the probability, “possible” risk from lauric acid, and no increased risk at all from stearic acid consumption.[29]

In 2005, Dutch scientists at Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University compared the effects of stearic acid with oleic and linoleic acids. Forty five subjects (27 women and 18 men) consumed, in random order, three experimental diets, each for five weeks. The results suggest stearic acid is not highly thrombogenic compared with oleic and linoleic acids.[30]


Breast cancer

There is one theorized association between saturated fatty acids intake and increased breast cancer risk.

Prostate cancer

Myristic and palmitic saturated fatty acids are associated with prostate cancer.

Small intestine cancer

A prospective study of data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study correlated saturated fat intake with cancer of the small intestine” [31]

Dietary recommendations

A 2004 statement released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined that “Americans need to continue working to reduce saturated fat intake…” [32] Additionally, 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.[33][34] This concurs with similar conclusions made by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Department of Health and Human Services, both of which determined that reduction in saturated fat consumption would positively affect health and reduce the prevalence of heart disease.[35][36][37]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that saturated fats negatively affect cholesterol profiles, predisposing individuals to heart disease, and recommends avoiding saturated fats in order to reduce the risk of a cardiovascular disease.[38][39]

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”. No randomized clinical trials of low-fat diets or low-saturated fat diets of sufficient duration have been carried out. 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.[40]

Contrary Research

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The relevance of particular information in (or previously in) this article or section is disputed.
The information may have been removed or included by an editor as a result.

Please see discussion on the talk page considering whether its inclusion is warranted.(March 2008)

One confounding issue in studies may be the formation of exogenous (outside the body) advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) and oxidation products generated during cooking, which it appears some of the studies have not controlled for. It has been suggested that, “given the prominence of this type of food in the human diet, the deleterious effects of high-(saturated)fat foods may be in part due to the high content in glycotoxins, above and beyond those due to oxidized fatty acid derivatives.” The glycotoxins, as he called them, are more commonly called AGEs[41]

  • A 3-year study conducted of 235 postmenopausal women with established coronary artery disease, many also having metabolic syndrome concluded that “in postmenopausal women with relatively low total fat intake, a greater saturated fat intake is associated with less progression of coronary atherosclerosis.” Nevertheless, the authors deemed that “the findings do not establish causality.” [42][43]
  • A study of 297 Portuguese males with acute myocardial infarction (MI), found that “total fat intake, lauric acid, palmitic acid [two common saturated fats] and oleic acid [a monoinsaturated fat] were inversely associated with acute MI” and concluded that “low intake of total fat and lauric acid from dairy products was related to acute MI”. The authors suggest that “recommendations on fatty acid intake should aim for both an upper and lower limit”[44].
  • Fulani of northern Nigeria get around 25% of energy from saturated fat, yet their lipid profile is indicative of a low risk of cardiovascular disease. This finding is likely due to their high activity level and their low total energy intake.[45]
  • A 2004 article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition raised the possibility that the supposed causal relationship between saturated fats and heart disease may actually be a statistical bias. The authors take the example of the “Finnish mental hospital study” in which saturated fat intakes were monitored more closely than were total fat intakes, therefore ignoring the possibility that simply a larger fat intake may lead to a higher risk of coronary diseases. It also suggests that other parameters were overlooked, such as carbohydrates intakes.[46

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