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Back to Symposium 2014

Is it time to revisit saturated fat guidelines?

Current dietary guidelines from many health organizations emphasize the importance of limiting saturated fat (SFA) intake, thereby supporting the recommendation that low-fat milk products should replace higher-fat milk products, an important source of dietary SFA. Yet, the extent to which consumption of SFA influences the risk of coronary heart disease is currently being challenged. Meta-analysis of data from early intervention studies has suggested that replacement of dietary SFA by polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), mostly linoleic acid, reduces the risk for coronary heart disease. On the other hand, meta-analyses of population studies have failed to find an association between dietary SFA and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. More recently, higher intakes of SFA from milk products have actually been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, thus emphasizing the importance of considering the food source from which dietary SFA is provided when assessing cardiovascular outcomes.

Finally, while most experimental data support the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) raising effects of dietary SFA, extrapolations of these effects to cardiovascular outcomes must be made with great caution. Indeed, the effects of food on LDL-cholesterol should not be used alone to determine changes in coronary heart disease risk. In that context, many other coronary heart disease risk factors, chiefly plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol concentrations, LDL-particle size, apolipoprotein B concentrations, inflammation and blood pressure definitely merit consideration when assessing the impact of nutrients and, more importantly, whole foods on coronary heart disease risk.

Overall, it appears that the time has come to reassess current dietary recommendations related to saturated fat.

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