Dubai: Saturated fats are one of the main building blocks of many cellular structures in the human body and should be consumed in reasonable amounts, said Dr Sonia Gupte, General Physician at iCare Clinics.

Recent studies conducted by researchers in several Canadian institutions suggested that coronary diseases, cardiovascular diseases, strokes and type two diabetes are not directly linked to one’s saturated fat intake. In light of the recent studies, Dr Gupte explained that, in reality, it is trans fat that does most harm to an individual’s health.

“Saturated fats are one of the components of enzymes which help with hormone regulation,” she said. “For instance, it is present in hormones such as testosterone in males and hormones in females [that are] needed for ovulation.”

Dr Gupte added that a deficiency in saturated fat affects [a person’s] immunity, hormone regulation process and digestion of fat-soluble vitamins.

“Saturated fats are necessary for digestion of fat-soluble vitamins, which are vitamins A, B, C, and K,” she said.

Dr Gupte said that the solution is not to eliminate saturated fats from daily diets, but to consume them in moderation. She added that breast milk contains large amounts of saturated fat and is essential for the cell growth and nourishment of babies.

Nadine Aoun, nutritionist and dietitian at Medcare Hospital, said that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people limit the consumption of saturated fat, which are found in butter, full-fat cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods.

“The reasonable amount of saturated fat that individuals should consume, according to the American Heart Association, is 5 to 6 per cent of [total] calories [consumed],” said Nadine. “So if you need 2,000 calories per day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fats.”

While Dr Gupte advises the public to always read food labels to know what is entering their body, Nadine also encourages people to choose the right foods when cutting down on saturated fat in daily diets.

Butter back on the table

A large new review of existing research suggests that for healthy people, a reasonable amount of saturated fat in the diet poses no health risk.
Trans fats, on the other hand, were associated with an increased risk of death from various causes including from cardiovascular disease, and a diagnosis of coronary heart disease.

Dietary guidelines recommend that saturated fats, found in animal products such as butter, egg yolks and salmon, make up no more than 10 per cent of daily calories.

Trans unsaturated fats, known as trans fats, such as the hydrogenated oils that keep processed foods and margarine shelf-stable, are primarily industrially produced
and should provide no more than 1 per cent of daily calories.

For the new review, researchers at several Canadian institutions including McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, included data from 41 studies of the association
between saturated fat intake and health outcomes, covering more than 300,000 people, and 20 studies of trans fat intake and health outcomes that covered more than 200,000.

Saturated fat intake was not tied to coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes, but its link to risk of death from coronary heart disease was unclear.

Consuming industrial trans fats was associated with a 34 per cent increase in all-cause mortality, a 28 per cent increased risk of heart disease mortality and a 21 per cent increase in the risk of heart disease, the study team reports in The BMJ.

Because the evidence was uncertain for saturated fats, more studies would be helpful, the researchers write. None of the studies they included were randomised controlled trials, all were based on observation over time, so other factors in participants’ lives could have played a role.

Several reports since 2010 have confirmed that saturated fats are not associated with heart attack or stroke, said Dr. Ronald M. Krauss of Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California, a coronary artery disease expert who was
not part of the new review.

Saturated fats are found in dairy, red meat and tropical oils, he said. “Among these, the only category consistently associated with heart disease risk is red meat, and even in this case, it’s not clear that saturated fat all by itself is the main culprit,” Krauss said.

— Agencies