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Good saturated fats?
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Hugor posted:
I recently read a couple of research related articles that concluded that in contrast to fats from animals, fats from dairy products don't hurt you and can actually help you. How valid are these claims and does this mean that we can now enjoy things like cheese and coffee cream without worry about damage to our hearts and related organs?
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erice_ma responded:
1. Since they were "research articles," can you provide references so that they can be evaluated directly?

2. Keep in mind that any research article in isolation can lead you to believe something very different than the bulk of research. It is best not to draw conclusions from individual studies but from literature reviews of the field.

3. There is a small but significant minority of researchers who believe saturated fat, per se, is not a health problem. At this point, the majority of health authorities do not concur with that point of view. However, you should know that this is an on-going story. There will be news about this for the foreseeable future and recommendations will evolve over the years. Nevertheless, current advice remains to keep your saturated fat at moderate levels. (About 10% of total calories, less if you have existing heart disease.).

4. There is an increasing body of research on individual fatty acids as opposed to the major classes of fatty acids (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated). With that body of research, some saturated fatty acids have gained status as okay for you. Specifically, the saturated stearic acid (18:0) which predominates cocoa butter is considered "health neutral" having health properties very similar to the predominant monounsaturated fat, oleic acid.

5. Also short chain fatty acids are metabolized very differently than longer chain fatty acids and are not a concern for heart health and are arguably "good for you."

6. There is one polyunsaturated fat, conjugated linoleic acid, in dairy fat that has limited evidence that it is "good for you."

However, even though dairy fat has more conjugated linoleic acid than meat fats, it is a small amount of the total fat. And even though dairy fat has more short chain fatty acids than meat fats, it is a small amount of the total fat.

If you look at the saturated fatty acids that are the purported "bad for you" fats, myristic fatty acid (14:0) and palmitic acid (16:0), there is *more* of them in dairy fat (~38%) than in beef fat (~28%), pork fat (~26%), or chicken fat (~24%). Those meats are much higher in monounsaturated fat and stearic acid than dairy fat. So, at face value, I don't think there is merit to the claim that dairy fat's saturated fat is healthier than meat dairy fats. I suspect they were only talking about the merits of some of the other fats that are present in limited quantities. Since there is more of the "bad," will the "good" overcome the "bad"? This is why it is important to get good research on the health effects of *food* not just reduce them to the individual nutrients. Currently, the prevailing opinion is that dairy fats should be limited to moderation.


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