Do fats really make you unhealthy?

Dr Malhotra, a cardiology registrar at Croydon University Hospital, London, says the "mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades".
He says saturated fat has been "demonised" and any link with heart disease is not fully supported by scientific evidence.

The food industry has compensated for lowering saturated fat levels in food by replacing it with sugar, he says, which also contributes to heart disease.

Adopting a Mediterranean diet of olive oil, nuts, oily fish, plenty of fruit and vegetables and a moderate amount of red wine, after a heart attack is almost three times as powerful in reducing mortality as taking a statin, writes Dr Malhotra.

Good fats such as the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3s have the opposite effect of contributing to chronic disease. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight. 

However, fat is high in calories. If you eat more calories than you need, you will gain weight and excess weight is linked to poor health. It is about getting the balance right.

Types of Fat

SATURATED FAT                                                                                

For example: butter, cream, lard fat on meat, milk and cheese

Saturated Fat consists of stearic acid, palmitic acid, and lauric acid.
Stearic acid is found to be associated with lowered LDL cholesterol (Bad cholesterol which sticks to the arteries and heart).  
Palmitic and lauric acid, however, are known to raise total cholesterol. But here's what's rarely reported: Research shows that although both of these saturated fatty acids increase LDL ("bad") cholesterol, they raise HDL ("good") cholesterol just as much, if not more. And this lowers your risk of heart disease. That's because it's commonly believed that LDL cholesterol lays down plaque on your artery walls, while HDL removes it. So increasing both actually reduces the proportion of bad cholesterol in your blood to the good kind. This may explain why numerous studies have reported that this HDL/LDL ratio is a better predictor of future heart disease than LDL alone  
Saturated fats can be a part of a balanced diet along with the following healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in many of foods.

UNSATURATED FATS                                                                                 

Potentially the more helpful dietary fat:

  • Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Sunflower, rapeseed and olive oils

  • Fruit and vegetables, including avocados

Oily fish provides omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, the richest source of that particular type.

Omega-3 oils can help lower blood triglyceride levels, prevent blood from clotting and maintain a regular heart rhythm.

The British Heart Foundation says we should aim to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily.
It also recommends a small amount of monounsaturated fats (olive and rapeseed oils, almonds and hazelnuts) to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

The third type of fat that can be found in the diet is trans fats.


For example: margarine, vegetable spreads, processed foods, cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolate, crisps and is often used for frying unhealthy foods like chips in some food outlets. 

Natural trans fats are found at low levels in some foods, including meat and dairy products.

Artificial trans fats are made when oil goes through a process of hydrogenation, known as hydrogenated fat. 
Artificial trans fats can be found in processed foods, such as biscuits and cakes, and are sometimes used to give products a longer shelf life.

A diet high in trans fats can lead to high levels of bad cholesterol in the blood and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and should be avoided.

For additional helpful information about fats, please click on the links below:

British Dietetic Association "FatFacts"

British Nutrition Foundation "Choose your fats wisely"

British Nutrition Foundation " Good fats and bad fats explained"

Mayoclinic "Dietary fats: Know which ones to choose"

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Mark Davies