It’s Still Wise to Minimize Saturated Fat Intake
Some of the old dogma about the role of fat in the diet has changed in recent years. Fat is no longer considered the enemy. Nutritionists and other experts are increasingly emphasizing the role of essential fatty acids in a healthy diet, for example, and note that how much fat or cholesterol one consumes has relatively little impact on one’s blood cholesterol levels. Of course, cholesterol levels—especially levels of so-called “bad” LDL-cholesterol—are linked to an elevated risk of heart disease. But the role of cholesterol from the diet is relatively small, contributing only about 25% of a given person’s cholesterol levels. The rest is largely determined by your genetics.
And recent research has shown, for example, that people who consume full-fat dairy may actually fare better at losing weight or avoiding type 2 diabetes than people who stick to skim milk. Investigators suspect this effect is related to a fatty acid in milk fat. Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to avoid too much saturated fat in the diet. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal foods and foods derived from milk, such as cheese, pizza, dairy desserts, bacon, sausage, ribs, fatty cuts of beef, etc.
And, according to new research by investigators at Imperial College London, high blood levels of saturated fat may make a person more prone to inflammation and tissue damage. That’s because saturated fat in the bloodstream seems to prompt white blood cells called monocytes to migrate into the tissues of vital organs.
Lead researcher Dr Kevin Woollard said: "Modern lifestyles seem to go hand-in-hand with high levels of fat in the blood. This fat comes from the food and drink that we consume; for example, you'd be surprised how much saturated fat a latte contains, and some people drink several through the course of the day…We think that maintaining a relatively high concentration of saturated fats for example by constantly snacking on cakes, biscuits, and pastries, could be causing monocytes to migrate out of the blood and into surrounding tissues.”
The condition alluded to in this research reflects a human condition called high blood triglycerides. While intake of saturated fats is generally discouraged, eating too many simple carbohydrates actually has a larger effect on one’s levels of blood triglycerides. Researchers involved in the present study anticipate new drugs which may help limit this affect by targeting monocytes that migrate to the body’s tissues.
In the mean time, it’s also possible to lower your intake of saturated fats—and simple carbohydrates—by adopting a Mediterranean diet, featuring lots of whole grains, fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables, lots of olive oil, some fish, and little if any meat.
Saja et al. Triglyceride-Rich Lipoproteins Modulate the Distribution and Extravasation of Ly6C/Gr1low Monocytes. Cell Reports, September 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.08.020
Ulrika Ericson, Sophie Hellstrand, Louise Brunkwall, Christina-Alexandra Schulz, Emily Sonestedt, Peter Wallstrom, Bo Gullberg, Elisabet Wirfalt, and Marju Orho-Melander. Food sources of fat may clarify the inconsistent role of dietary fat intake for incidence of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr, April 2015 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103010