Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Is Saturated Fat Good or Bad?

By Rosemary Stanton

Populist TV, blogs and publications have portrayed saturated fats as healthy rather than dietary villains, but this is an oversimplification as it’s not valid to judge our complex dietary intake by only one component.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Internet blogs, popular books and some TV chefs are propounding the idea that saturated fat is now “healthy”, asserting that the “experts got it wrong” and we wouldn’t be so fat and sick if we hadn’t shunned saturated fat. Popular papers push the idea with headlines such as “Butter is back,” “Bacon for breakfast” and “Vegetable oils are toxic”.

Those pushing these ideas claim that “studies” have proved them right. When pressed, most quote a review (not a study) by Chowdhury et al. which reported no significant differences for coronary disease with different levels of saturated fat.

Chowdhury and colleagues’ analysis has been widely criticised. It did not examine what those who reported a lower intake of saturated fat had eaten in its place, nor did it report any advantages from saturated fat. Many eminent researchers identified multiple errors and omissions, finding that had all relevant studies been quoted correctly, replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats has clear benefits for heart disease.

These criticisms do not appear to bother those who continue to proclaim that faulty dietary guidelines cause our diet-related health problems. Nor do they seem aware that few people follow dietary advice.

Australia’s dietary guidelines, first released in 1981, did recommend less fat, principally by avoiding lard and dripping, trimming fat from...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.