New thinking on saturated fat

The Family Health Guide

Back in 1957, the American Heart Association (AHA) proffered its first guidelines for a heart-healthy diet. In a nutshell, the AHA said that diet may influence heart disease, that both the fat content and total calories in a person's diet were important, and that people should consume less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat. By the late 1960s, though, the message morphed into "fat is bad." What we know today is that dietary fats fall on a spectrum, with trans fats on the "avoid completely" end, saturated fats in the "go easy" middle, and unsaturated fats on the "emphasize" end. Until trans fat slid onto the public health radar, saturated fat was the poster child for "bad" fats. Analyses brush a bit of the tarnish off its sinister reputation. The dozen or so saturated fats that show up in our food are important building blocks and energy depots for many organisms. Americans get most of their saturated fat from red meat, dairy products, and tropical oils such as palm and coconut oil.
To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »