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Contrary to conventional advice, eating more of some fats may be good for our health, says Michael Mosley
It really is the sort of news that made me want to weep into my skinny cappuccino and then pour it down the sink. After years of being told, and telling others, that saturated fat clogs your arteries and makes you fat, there is now mounting evidence that eating some saturated fats may actually help you lose weight and be good for the heart.
Earlier this year, for example, a systematic review, funded by the British Heart Foundation and with the rather dry title "Association of dietary, circulating and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk
" caused a stir.
Scientists from Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, amongst others, examined the links between eating saturated fat and heart disease. Despite looking at the results of nearly 80 studies involving more than a half million people they were unable to find convincing evidence that eating saturated fats leads to greater risk of heart disease.
In fact, when they looked at blood results, they found that higher levels of some saturated fats, in particular a type of saturated fat you get in milk and dairy products called margaric acid, were associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Although there were critics, NHS Choices described this as "an impressively detailed and extensive piece of research, which is likely to prompt further study".
Some academics queried the paper
, others worried that this sort of research would confuse people and the message they would get would not be "it's OK to eat more of some forms of fat" but that "it's OK to eat lots more saturated fat, even if it is in pies". We know that current levels of obesity have been fuelled, at least in part, by snacks like muffins, crisps and cakes, all high in fat, sugar
and calories.When I talked to one of the researchers behind this paper, Prof Kay-Tee Khaw of the Department of Public Health at Cambridge University, she was quite clear that her research was not a licence to fill up on junk food but she also accepted that new research made the dietary picture more complicated.