Saturated fat is bad for the heart—despite the headlines

2 min read

In spite of recent news reports suggesting that foods high in saturated fat—like butter and red meat—really aren’t that bad for you, experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health disagree. They say it’s still best to replace saturated fats with foods rich in unsaturated fats such as seafood, nuts, and olive oil.

“Saturated fat is still bad for heart disease risk,” Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, said in a story titled “Big Fat Myths” in the December 2015 Nutrition Action Healthletter. “Evidence from studies on thousands of people shows that if you replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat, you reduce your risk of heart disease.”

The article also mentioned a recent news report that described two forms of “bad,” or LDL, cholesterol—one small and dense and supposedly strongly linked with heart disease, and another larger form that’s “lighter and fluffier” and apparently less dangerous to the heart—and suggested that saturated fats produce mostly the latter kind.

But Harvard Chan School’s Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention, said, “Saying that small LDL are more harmful is a total distortion of the science. Large LDL are like lethal packets of cholesterol destroying the artery wall.”