Saturated Fats are Not Harmful

Science, generally, is a progressive discipline. In other words, our understanding of science improves over time: we are able to know and understand more today than we did yesterday, and we will understand even more tomorrow. New research, technologies, and techniques drive this constant improvement.

In the field of nutrition, it means that we are able to offer better, more evidence-based advice now than ever before. This has enormous benefits for public health, food safety, consumer protection and, of course, for making public policy decisions.

The best example, right now, is the science surrounding saturated fats. The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), an affiliate of the world-renowned British Medical Journal (BMJ), has published a new meta-analysis that demonstrates the clarity of the latest scientific evidence on the role of saturated fats in human nutrition. It is worth quoting directly from the research, as the findings are so clear:

  • ‘Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat[s] clogging a pipe is just plain wrong.’
  • ‘[There is] no association between saturated fat[s] consumption and (1) all-cause mortality, (2) coronary heart disease (CHD), (3) CHD mortality, (4) ischaemic stroke, or (5) type 2 diabetes.’

The authors of the BJSM study – leading experts from the UK and the US – could not be clearer. Our previous thinking, that saturated fats are harmful, is wrong. The authors go on to state that our approach to saturated fats “urgently requires a paradigm shift”.

Saturated Fats are Not Harmful

This may sound revolutionary, but to those of us involved in nutritional science, this is not a surprise. The evidence has been building for many years: the BJSM research is simply the latest in a long line of studies showing that saturated fats are not, in fact, harmful.

Last year, the BMJ itself had published a re-evaluation of previous studies that also questioned the prior consensus that saturated fats are bad for human health. Italian institutes, including the Nutrition Foundation of Italy, have come to the same conclusion. Professors in America, France, the UK and elsewhere also have demonstrated this new reality.

This new evidence around saturated fats is a great example of how science improves over time. It could be summed up simply as ‘what we thought we knew about fats – and why we were wrong’.

We have been told most of our lives that saturated fats are harmful and should be avoided. All of us, for many years, thought that we knew this to be true. Put simply, that advice was wrong. We now need to abandon our misconceptions and embrace the new scientific reality.


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