And as it turns out, carbohydrates could be the bigger villain. By Sasha Gonzales
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A controlled-diet study, carried out by researchers at the Ohio State University in the US and published in the journal Plos One in November 2014, found that doubling or even nearly tripling saturated fat in the diet does not increase saturated fat in the blood. As we know, increased levels of saturated fat in the blood tend to raise one’s risk of heart disease.
When the subjects’ saturated fat intake was increased and their carbohydrate intake simultaneously reduced, the saturated fat in their blood did not go up. In fact, it went down in some people. But when their carbohydrate intake was progressively increased and their saturated fat intake reduced, researchers detected higher levels of the fatty acid palmitoleic acid in their blood. Palmitoleic acid is associated with the unhealthy metabolism of carbohydrates that can promote disease.
However, Lauren Ho, dietitian at the Singapore Heart Foundation, says that just because recent studies have shown that people who ate more saturated fat did not have a higher risk for heart disease than those who ate less, it doesn’t mean that you should go overboard with the fatty meats and butter.
“More studies are needed to establish the link between saturated fat and heart disease,” explains Lauren. “Some researchers suggest that saturated fat raises a subtype of LDL with large, fluffy particles that is benign, rather than the smaller and denser LDL particles that are more harmful. Nevertheless, most dietitians and doctors would prudently advise you to limit your intake of saturated and trans fats.”
She adds: “While saturated fat is still a contentious subject, experts all agree that the biggest culprit is trans fat, as well as a diet that is high in added sugars and refined carbohydrates. So, you can still eat foods like butter or coconut milk, but in small amounts. The Singapore Dietary Guidelines 2003 recommends that your saturated fat intake should comprise less than 10 per cent of your total daily calories.”