Other Factors in Your Diet Change the Effects of Saturated Fat

Other Factors in Your Diet Change the Effects of Saturated Fat

When researchers look at associations between saturated fat and health, they often think of the saturated fat as coming from meat, cheese and other dairy.

In reality, 15% of saturated fat in the American diet comes from carb-heavy desserts including cakes, cookies, pastries and candies. Another 15% comes from “junk” foods such as burgers, fries, pizza and chips, and another 6% from dairy-based desserts (12).

When these junk foods and desserts are represented in research only by their saturated fat content, it becomes difficult to tell their health effects apart from those of other foods that also contain saturated fat.

For example, cheese contributes more saturated fat to the Western diet than any other single food. However, the largest study of cheese looked at its effects in 177,000 adults over the course of 5–15 years and found no link between cheese and early death (13Trusted Source).

Another large study following hundreds of thousands of adults for up to 25 years found consuming milk, cheese and yogurt did not increase heart disease, and even slightly reduced the risk of stroke (14Trusted Source).

Regarding meat, a study of more than 1.6 million adults found those who ate the highest amounts of processed meat had a roughly 20% higher risk of heart disease and death from any cause than those who ate the lowest amounts (10Trusted Source).

The study also found that those who ate the highest amounts of red meat had a 16% higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate the lowest amounts (10Trusted Source).

However, it’s important to note that people sometimes wrongfully attribute the effects of an unhealthy diet to saturated fats.

Diets high in saturated fat tend to be high in calories and can lead to weight gain, so it can be easy to blame saturated fats for effects that may actually have been caused by excess calories and weight gain.

For example, some studies have shown that heart disease is actually more closely linked to extra calories and weight gain than to saturated fat (15Trusted Source).

This is important because it means many foods high in saturated fat are safe as long as they are eaten in moderation in a diet that does not cause weight gain.

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