Saturated fat claims are misleading

26 April 2017        

Category: BHF Comment


Claims made about saturated fat in a recent editorial are unhelpful and misleading.

Clinicians, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, claimed that the common belief that ‘saturated fats clog up arteries’ is wrong.

However, the consensus among world-leading researchers is that too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which can increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Saturated fat can increase the ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol in your blood which can cause fatty material to build up in your artery walls. The risk is particularly high if you have a high level of bad cholesterol and a low level of good cholesterol.

What is saturated fat?

At the moment UK guidelines encourage us to swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats. Saturated fat is commonly found in processed meats like sausages, ham, burgers, fatty meat, hard cheeses including cheddar, whole milk, cream, butter, lard, ghee, suet, palm oil and coconut oil.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins - so they’re an important part of your diet.  Sources of these unsaturated fats include oily fish, nuts and olive oil.

What we said

Dr Mike Knapton, our Associate Medical Director, said: “The Mediterranean diet and daily exercise can help reduce heart disease risk, but I’m afraid the claims about saturated fat made in this opinion piece are unhelpful and misleading. 

“Decades of research have proved that a diet rich in saturated fat increases ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood, which puts you at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke. 

“When it comes to reducing your risk of heart disease the lower your cholesterol is the better. This can be achieved through a healthy, balanced diet or medication for some.

“A coronary artery blocked with fatty plaque causes heart muscle to die as it becomes starved of oxygen.  A stent keeps the artery open so blood can flow through unimpeded. This practice is used by leading cardiologists around the world and has helped save countless lives and improve quality of life.”