Saturated Fats - The Facts

Saturated fats have always had a bad press from dieticians and health experts. But recent research suggests that not all saturated fats are bad for us.

Saturated fats in fast food

The NHS website advises that men should consume no more than 30g of these fats per day and women no more than 20g.

The so-called ‘bad’ fats are found in butter, lard, fatty meats, cheese, cream, coconut oil; all these fats have been lumped together under the label ‘unhealthy’.

Unhealthy because they can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease.

However there are two aspects to the fats debate that warrant closer scrutiny; the first relates to where the fat builds up in the body.

Subcutaneous and Visceral Saturated Fats

The build up of fat that makes someone appear overweight is known as subcutaneous fat, but the real villain is the visceral fat that builds up around the internal organs; the heart, liver, kidneys and intestines.

Research by Professor Nick Hastie of the Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh, shows that visceral fat is formed from embryonic cells.

This fat is formed by a gene expressed in pregnancy, known as Wt1 and which continues to operate into adulthood. This type of fat has been linked with kidney tumours and other diseases.

Medical Research

Good And Bad Fats

The second aspect that concerns us is what actually constitutes good and bad fats.

Good Fats; omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and flaxseeds, nuts, seeds, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil.

Bad Fats: dairy products, meat products, processed foods such as pies, pasties, cakes, biscuits.

A recent study however has been unable to establish an association between  fat consumption and heart disease.  In fact a type of dairy fat called margaric acid was found to be beneficial while, contrary to popular belief, omega-3 and omega-6 supplements showed no benefits.

The study results, published in the journal Annals Of Internal Medicine, were derived from analysis of 72 studies into heart disease drawn from over 600,000 participants.


Professor Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation, which co-funded the research, added that the best way to stay healthy was to quit smoking, take exercise and follow a healthy diet. We should also consider not only fats but our daily intake of salt and sugar.

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