According To A New Study There Is No Evidence To Support The Claims That A Diet High In Saturated Fats Lead To High Levels Of Bad Cholesterol
Written by Jahnavi Sarma | Updated : July 17, 2020 9:08 AM IST
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is present in your blood. This is an essential substance for your body to build healthy cells. But high levels of this can put you at risk of heart disease. It can lead to fatty deposits in your blood vessels which restricts the flow of blood through your arteries. If these deposits break off and form a clot, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol may be inherited. But more often than not, it is the result of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Many people have a family history of high cholesterol in the blood. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia. Expert always recommend that such people must reduce their intake of saturated fats to control their cholesterol levels and bring down their risks of heart disease. Even reputed agencies and organisations like the American Heart Association suggest that such people avoid eating food like fatty meat, eggs and cheese. According to such guidelines, even coconut oil is not safe for people at risk of hypercholesterolemia.
Monitoring Intake Of Fat And Cholesterol
Dietary fat and cholesterol are necessary components for a healthy diet. Though, when consumed in excess, they may be harmful to the body and increase ones risk for obesity, atherosclerosis, and heart disease. Keep in mind, however, that dietary cholesterol does not have as much of an effect on blood cholesterol as saturated fat. It is important to regulate ones intake of dietary fat in order to regulate blood LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels.
Consider The Whole Person
Most importantly, match your saturated fat intake to your unique body, preferences, and needs.
People who have cholesterol or cardiovascular issues in their family may be more sensitive to the negative effects of saturated fats, and therefore should limit their consumption.
However, sometimes eating slightly higher amounts of saturated fat is appropriate. For example:
- Larger, more muscular, and more active people can eat proportionately more in general, including more saturated fats. Though, its still a good idea to keep saturated fats in the range of 10 percent of total daily calories.
- If its meaningful for you or your client to have croissants, dark chocolate, and coffee with cream, dont ban it. Moderate it, understand the tradeoffs, and savor the heck out of it.
- Some people feel good on a higher fat diet. For those folks, eating more fats might be appropriate. However, if saturated fats are a main calorie source, consider working with your doctor to test cholesterol levels and blood lipids periodically to ensure theyre in a normal range.
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Whats The Difference Between Ldl And Hdl
Now lets break down cholesterol in order to figure out its relationship with saturated fat in our bodies. According to the CDC , cholesterol is broken up into two different categories of lipoproteins, LDL and HDL . LDL is often referred to as the bad cholesterol while HDL is promoted as the good cholesterol.
While LDLs can actually increase your risk of health issues like heart disease, HDLs can lower your risk of heart disease by either dissolving excess cholesterol or; carrying extra cholesterol through the liver to be discarded from the body. So while cholesterol gets an overarching scary name it should be LDLs we should be scared of and HDLs which we supply our bodies with.
Cholesterol And Healthy Eating
What we eat has an impact on our cholesterol levels and can help reduce our risk of disease. Try to eat a wide variety of foods from each of the five food groups. Not only does this help to maintain a healthy and interesting diet, but it provides essential nutrients to the body.;
The Heart Foundation recommends:;
- Plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains.
- A variety of healthy protein sources , legumes , nuts and seeds. Smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry can also be included in a heart healthy diet. If choosing red meat, make sure it ;is lean and limit to 1-3 times a week.
- Unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. Those with high blood cholesterol should choose reduced fat varieties.
- Healthy fat choices ;nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking
- Herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt.
Also, be mindful on how much you are eating and whether you are filling up on unhealthy foods. Portion sizes have increased over time and many of us are eating more than we need which can lead to obesity and increase our risk of cardiovascular disease.;
Ideally, a healthy plate would include servings of ; ¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrates and ½ vegetables.
Serving size can vary depending on age, gender and specific nutrition needs.;
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High Fat And Cholesterol
Pregnant women are often told that they should avoid high fat and cholesterol-rich foods during pregnancy. While many women think that following a low fat diet is best for their and their babys health, eating fat is essential during pregnancy.
In fact, the need for fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamin A and choline, as well as omega-3 fats, increases during pregnancy (
Fat-rich foods are important for both fetal and maternal health. Healthy, fat-rich foods should be included in meals and snacks to promote a healthy pregnancy.
What Not To Eat: Foods That Raise Cholesterol
Whether you have high cholesterol that needs to be lowered or you simply want to maintain an already-healthy cholesterol level, avoiding certain foods can help.
Any food that contains saturated fat is a no-no for a cholesterol-lowering diet. Trans fats are equally as bad, if not worse. Trans fats are a double whammy they raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, Featherstun says.
Here are some specific types of food to avoid:
Anything fried;Youd be hard-pressed to walk into a restaurant in the United States and not find a deep fryer. But if youre on a cholesterol-lowering diet, take a pass on the greasy stuff. Not only does deep frying cause foods to lose water and suck up fat, making them more calorie dense, but the oils that foods are fried in are often high in trans fats, the worst offenders.
If you cant bear the thought of never eating another crunchy onion ring, consider using olive or sunflower oil when frying. In a study published in January 2012 in The BMJ,;researchers in Spain, where olive and sunflower oils are used for frying, found that eating fried foods was not associated with increased rates of heart disease like it is in countries where saturated fats, like lard and butter, are used. Just be sure not to heat these oils past their smoke point the temperature at which an oil starts to burn.
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What To Eat: Foods That Lower Cholesterol
There is great evidence to support functional foods that help lower cholesterol, Featherstun says. Add these choices to your diet:
Plant stanols and sterols;These are naturally occurring compounds found in plant cell walls, Featherstun says. They interfere with cholesterol absorption in the small intestine and can help lower LDL cholesterol. A study published in October 2012 in Lipids in Health and Disease found that eating 9 to 10 grams of stanols per day can help lower LDL cholesterol by more than 17 and as much as 22 percent. You can get plant stanols and sterols in margarine-like spreads such as;Benecol and Smart Balance, available in the dairy section of most grocery stores.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats;These fats can help decrease LDL cholesterol, Featherstun says. To get them, eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, trout, herring, or king mackerel, at least twice a week. Other good sources of unsaturated fats include chia seeds, avocados, almonds, walnuts, and olive oil.
Soy foods;Soy proteins contain isoflavones and phytoestrogens, which block both cholesterol absorption and new cholesterol production, Featherstun says. Good sources of soy protein include tofu, soy milk, and edamame. Try to replace one daily animal protein item with a soy protein alternative, Featherstun suggests.
Saturated Fat = Belly Fat Bad Cholesterol And Worse
Youve been hearing the message for years: For a healthy heart, you must cut back on butter, whole milk, juicy meats, and other foods laden with saturated fat. Eating saturated fat increases “bad” LDL cholesterol and leads to cardiovascular disease. Thats why it may surprise you to learn that, in recent years, a few researchers have pointed to an inconvenient truth: Some scientific studies have failed to show that curbing our intake of saturated fat prevents heart attacks.
But dont start making that bacon-and-cheese sandwich just yet, because this doesnt mean saturated fat is off the hook. As researchers looked closer at these studies, they discovered that simply eating less saturated fat isnt the whole solution: how you replace those calories matters. In other words, cutting back on excessive amounts of saturated fat could be a waste of time if you replace it with foods that are equally punishing to the heart. And, as you know now, many people do just that by filling up on white bread, white rice, and other high-glycemic carbohydrates, which raises triglycerides, lower “good” HDL cholesterol, and create other problems in the cardiovascular system.
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Saturated Fat Intake May Increase Heart Disease Risk Factors But Not Heart Disease Itself
Numerous studies have shown that saturated fat intake increases heart disease risk factors, including LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B . LDL transports cholesterol in the body. The greater the number of LDL particles, the greater the risk of heart disease.
ApoB is a protein and a main component of LDL. Its considered a strong predictor of heart disease risk .
Saturated fat intake has been shown to increase both of these risk factors, as well as the LDL to HDL ratio, which is another heart disease risk factor (
However, there have been conflicting findings, which can be attributed to the highly complex nature of this topic and the design and methodological flaws of currently available research, highlighting the need for future well-designed studies investigating this topic .
Plus, its important to remember that there are many types of saturated fat, each with its own effects on health. Most of the studies investigating the effects of saturated fat on disease risk discuss saturated fats in general, which is also problematic.
Everyone Responds To Dietary Cholesterol The Same Way
Although some genetic and metabolic factors may warrant following a diet lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, for the majority of the population, saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods can be included as part of a healthy diet.
About two-thirds of the population has minimal to no response to even large amounts of dietary cholesterol and are known as compensators or hypo-responders.
Alternatively, a small percentage of the population is considered hyper-responders or noncompensators, as they are sensitive to dietary cholesterol and experience much larger increases in blood cholesterol after eating cholesterol-rich foods .
However, research shows that, even in hyper-responders, the LDL-to-HDL ratio is maintained after cholesterol intake, meaning that dietary cholesterol is unlikely to lead to changes in blood lipid levels that increase the risk of heart disease progression .
This is due to adaptations that take place in the body, including enhancement of certain cholesterol removal pathways, to excrete excess cholesterol and maintain healthy blood lipid levels.
Even so, some research has shown that people with familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disorder that may increase heart disease risk, have a reduced capacity to remove excess cholesterol from the body .
Not everyone responds to dietary cholesterol in the same way. Genetics play an important role in how your body responds to cholesterol-rich foods.
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Making Healthy Food Choices
Saturated fats are found in all animal foods, and some plant sources.
The following foods may be high in saturated fats. Many of them are also low in nutrients and have extra calories from sugar:
- Baked goods
- Fried foods
- Fatty or processed meats
- Whole-fat dairy products
- Solid fats such as coconut oil, palm, and palm kernel oils
Here are some examples of popular food items with the saturated fat content in a typical serving:
- 12 ounces , or 340 g, steak — 20 g
- Cheeseburger — 10 g
Does Saturated Fat Cause High Cholesterol
Learn about saturated fats, and its relationship with LDL and HDL cholesterol.
Whats the deal with dietary fat? Is it good for us, is it bad for us, how do we measure levels of fat into our macronutrient plan? When living a healthy lifestyle comprised of a nutritious diet and a routine exercise plan, where does the role of consuming fat come to play?
The questions revolving around the conversation behind fat, go even further than our own comprehension. The first step to understanding the human bodys relationship to fat, is breaking down different kinds of fat. For example, whats the deal behind saturated fat? Everything from coconuts to bacon contain levels of saturated fat. With such a common thread of nutrients behind many of our beloved foods, how does it affect our cholesterol levels and underlying health.
While a complicated matter to understand, we spoke with health professionals to learn all about saturated fat and its relationship with cholesterol.
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Ancel Keys And The Seven Countries Study
In 1953, Ancel Keys, an American scientist, published an epidemiological study comparing the saturated fat consumption and the prevalence of heart disease in 7 countries. Here is the graph that came from this study:
Looking at this graph, we can clearly see that there seems to be a direct and obvious correlation between saturated fat consumption and the prevalence of heart disease. There are two major flaws though in the study:
What Is Saturated Fat
According to experts at Harvard University, the American diet is often and commonly full of saturated fat. Harvard University defines saturated fat as the number of hydrogen atoms surrounding each carbon atom. The chain of carbon atoms holds as many hydrogen atoms as possible its saturated with hydrogens. The easiest way to discover what is saturated fat is to notice whether or not the fat solidifies when cooled. Some examples of saturated fat include, coconut oil, bacon grease, avocado, red meat, and dairy like butter and whole milk.
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Facts About Saturated Fats
Saturated fat is a type of dietary fat. It is one of the unhealthy fats, along with trans fat. These fats are most often solid at room temperature. Foods like butter, palm and coconut oils, cheese, and red meat have high amounts of saturated fat.
Too much saturated fat in your diet can lead to heart disease and other health problems.
Fats And Oils In Your Diet
We now know that fats from animal sources are necessary to maintain your health. But what about oils? The sheer amount of different oils you can find in supermarkets can be confusing. So lets take a look at what oils to choose and what oils to stay away from.
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Not All Saturated Fat Is Created Equal
You can find saturated fat from animal and plant-based sources, says Dr. Nikola Djordjevic MD from MedAlertHelp.org. The saturated fat itself is made up of several fatty acids, so saturated fat can never be purely saturated as it varies .
Saturated fat that has higher HDL cholesterol content is better to incorporate into your diet than its counterpart LDL cholesterol, says Dr. Djordjevic . I would say eat less saturated fat from animal sources since it raises your LDL cholesterol. Eating healthy and including lots of fruits, veggies and nuts can help reduce cholesterol .
The Difference Between Fat And Cholesterol
Cholesterol and fats are both lipids and they are found both in the food you eat and circulating in your bloodstream. Cholesterol has a more complex chemical structure when compared to fats.
In the body, cholesterol is bound to protein as low-density lipoprotein which is considered to be the “bad cholesterol,” for heart health risks, and high-density;lipoprotein , which is called the “good cholesterol.”
The amount of unsaturated and saturated fat in your diet can influence your levels of total cholesterol, HDL, and LDL. Saturated fat, the kind found in beef, butter, and margarine, was thought to raise the “bad cholesterol” LDL levels.
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Eating Fat Increases Diabetes Risk
Many dietary patterns recommended for the treatment of type 2 and gestational diabetes are low in fat. This is due to the misconception that consuming dietary fat may increase diabetes risk.
Although consuming certain fat-rich foods, such as trans fat, fatty baked goods, and fast food, can indeed increase your risk of diabetes, research has shown that other high fat foods may offer protection against its development .
For example, fatty fish, full fat dairy, avocados, olive oil, and nuts are high fat foods that have all been shown to improve blood sugar and insulin levels and potentially protect against diabetes development .
While some evidence suggests that a greater intake of saturated fat may increase diabetes risk, more recent studies have found no significant association.
For example, a 2019 study in 2,139 people found no association between the consumption of animal- and plant-based fat or total fat and the risk of type 2 diabetes .
The most important factor in reducing your diabetes risk is the overall quality of your diet, not the breakdown of your macronutrient intake.
Fat-rich foods do not increase diabetes risk. In fact, certain fat-rich foods may help protect against the diseases development.