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LMU 47 – Unveiling the Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease: Insights from a Comprehensive Study

Saturated Fat Increases Risk of Heart Disease: Large study

LMU 47 – Unveiling the Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease: Insights from a Comprehensive Study

Source: British Medical Journal (November 2016)

Lifestyle Medicine Update (March 22, 2016)


The intricate interplay between dietary choices, lifestyle, and cardiovascular health has long captured the attention of medical researchers. A study published in the November 2016 issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) brings to light a critical aspect of this relationship, reaffirming what numerous studies have suggested over the years: the consumption of saturated fat is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In an era where dietary trends and health fads capture public attention, understanding the implications of saturated fat intake remains paramount for preserving cardiovascular well-being.

Setting the Context

The BMJ study echoes the consensus garnered from years of research – that saturated fat in the diet is a potent contributor to heart disease risk. While contemporary media often highlight the negative impact of sugar and trans fats, the ramifications of saturated fat have been somewhat overlooked. Although it’s acknowledged that excessive sugar intake and trans-fat consumption contribute to heart and vascular issues by raising triglyceride levels and inflammation, saturated fat’s role in raising cholesterol levels and promoting clot formation remains underestimated.

Recent years have witnessed a surprising resurgence in the consumption of fatty meats and high-fat dairy products under the assumption that these options are devoid of sugars and trans fats, making them innocuous choices. However, scientific evidence has consistently highlighted saturated fat’s role in heart disease risk.

In-Depth Study Insights

The BMJ’s groundbreaking study explored the correlation between saturated fat consumption and heart disease risk. Spanning over 73,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, this expansive analysis encompassed a cohort of over 115,000 individuals. The study also scrutinized the effects of substituting 1% of daily calories derived from saturated fats with an equal number of calories sourced from polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, whole grain carbohydrates, and plant proteins.

Findings unequivocally established an 18% heightened risk of heart disease in those with the highest saturated fat intake compared to their low-intake counterparts. Furthermore, the study unveiled the varying risk associated with distinct types of saturated fats. Lauric acid, myristic acid, and palmitic acid emerged as particularly problematic. Palmitic acid, found prominently in beef and pork products, along with processed meats like bacon, sausages, and salami, exhibited strong associations with heart disease. High-fat dairy products like whole milk, cream, cheese, and butter are abundant sources of myristic acid and palmitic acid. Surprisingly, even the popular coconut oil, touted for its health benefits, contains a substantial proportion of heart-disease-promoting fats.

Replacing these deleterious fats with plant proteins or polyunsaturated fats led to an 11-12% reduction in heart disease risk, according to the study. A chorus of research also supports the premise that lauric acid, myristic acid, and palmitic acid contribute to elevated cholesterol levels.

Formulating an Effective Strategy

Constructing a robust strategy for heart disease prevention and mitigating the risks associated with saturated fat entails multifaceted considerations:

  1. Minimizing Exposure: Reducing the intake of high-saturated fat foods like fatty meats and high-fat dairy products is pivotal.
  2. Embracing Plant Proteins: Incorporating plant proteins, such as soy products, peas, and beans, can provide healthier alternatives.
  3. Prioritizing Unsaturated Fats: Opting for polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated fats can yield significant cardiovascular benefits.
  4. Evaluating Coconut Oil Use: While coconut oil possesses certain merits, its fat distribution underscores the importance of moderation.
  5. Balanced Supplementation: Selecting high-potency vitamin and mineral supplements enriched with antioxidants aids in heart disease prevention.
  6. Maintaining Active Lifestyles: Regular physical exercise contributes to overall cardiovascular health and complements dietary efforts.


The BMJ’s 2016 study, coupled with a corpus of existing research, affirms the pivotal role of saturated fat in heart disease risk. While public discourse often highlights the perils of sugars and trans fats, acknowledging the adverse consequences of saturated fat consumption is equally imperative. By comprehensively addressing diet, lifestyle, and supplementation, individuals can substantially diminish their vulnerability to heart disease. Ultimately, the study underscores the timeless wisdom that informed dietary choices remain the cornerstone of cardiovascular well-being.


  1. (Main Reference): British Medical Journal (November 2016).
  2. Zong, G., Li, Y., Wanders, A.J., Alssema, M., Zock, P.L., Willett, W.C., Hu, F.B., Sun, Q. Intake of individual saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: two prospective longitudinal cohort studies BMJ. 2016;355:i5796.
  3. Mensink, R.P., Zock P.L., Kester, A.D., Katan, M.B. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:1146-55.
  4. Hu, F.B., J.E. Manson, Willett, W.C. Types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr, 2001;20(1): p. 5-19.

Dr. James Meschino


Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.

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