Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review of Current Evidence

Abstract

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the leading causes of death throughout the world. Saturated fatty acids (SFA) have long been implicated in the development of CVD. The evidence to support this hypothesis came from studies which examined the effects of SFA intake on total cholesterol (TC). However, relying on TC as the sole primary outcome may not be sufficient and understanding the effect of SFA on the concentrations of other lipid fractions is necessary. SFA are known to increase low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and consequently dietary guidelines recommend reducing SFA intakes in order to decrease LDL-C and CVD risk. However, recent evidence suggests that not all SFAs possess the same atherogenic properties but this development has not yet been reflected in dietary recommendations. This review summarizes recent evidence on the relationship between SFA intake and CVD risk. It also explores current dietary guidelines specific to SFA intake and outlines why future guidelines may need to be food- rather than nutrient-specific. Overall, the evidence presented in this review suggests that not all SFA are created equal and the food sources of SFA, as well as individual characteristics of the SFA, such as chain length, should be considered in dietary recommendations.

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Fig. 1

Abbreviations

AHA:

American Heart Association

BOLD:

Beef Optimal in Lean Diet

CHD:

Coronary heart disease

CRP:

C-reactive protein

CVD:

Cardiovascular disease

DASH:

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension

EFSA:

European Food Safety Authority

FFQ:

Food frequency questionnaire

HAD:

Healthy American Diet

HDL-C:

High-density lipoprotein cholesterol

IL-1β:

Interleukin-1beta

IL-6:

Interleukin-6

IL-8:

Interleukin-8

IFN-γ:

Interferon gamma

IOM:

Institute of Medicine

LDL-C:

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol

MUFA:

Mono-unsaturated fatty acid

SFA:

Saturated fatty acids

TC:

Total cholesterol

TG:

Triglycerides

TNF-α:

Tumor necrosis factor-alpha

USDA:

United States Department of Agriculture

USDHHS:

United States Department of Health and Human Services

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O’Keeffe, M., St-Onge, MP. Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review of Current Evidence. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep 7, 154–162 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12170-013-0295-z

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Keywords

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Saturated fat
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Dietary guidelines