What’s the deal with saturated fat?

By Professor David Russell and Charlotte Harbour FdSc Nutritional Therapeutics

Dietary fat, especially saturated fat, has long been the subject of debate and discussion. Confusingly enough, the British Heart Foundation cites eating saturated fat as a risk factor for high cholesterol, whereas the Australian heart foundation notes that cholesterol in food only has a small effect on the level of cholesterol in your blood. Alongside these differing views from professional organisations are the media headlines that sway between the advocation of coconut oil to the demonisation of eggs. In these confusing times, where should we stand on saturated fat for health? 

It is widely documented that high cholesterol is caused by foods such as red meat, eggs and cheese. However, contrary to this popular belief approximately 75% of the cholesterol in your body is produced in your liver, while the other 25% is obtained from the foods you eat. High cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular problems, however, whether or not food raises this cholesterol is up for debate. Let’s also not forget that cholesterol is an important component of our hormones, cells and the synthesis of vitamin D. The prevailing alternative theory is that high dietary sugar causes high cholesterol as it damages the arteries and causes the body to produce more cholesterol to ‘heal’ the arterial wound.

A 2018 review has deduced that saturated fat is “part of a healthy diet” and is not the villain we once thought it was. Another 2017 review of the literature showed that lowering saturated fat in the diet had little direct effect on stroke risk. However, studies are still being published today that suggest the results are inconclusive and we are no further forward in settling the debate. So, where do we go from here?

It is likely the case that saturated fat affects everyone differently due to the highly differing evidence and our inherent uniqueness. Our genes, habits, lifestyle preferences and mental health will affect the way our body processes food.

What we do know is that a healthy lifestyle that is inclusive of whole foods, exercise, community, purpose and stress management is protective from many chronic illnesses. Check out our previous UB article on the optimal food pyramid to find out more about the best foods to enjoy.


Russell Partnership Consulting can help with all your student and staff nutritional needs. To find out more, visit: www.russellpartnership.com