Special edition: Oils & fats

Time for a rethink on saturated fat?

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

If the cover of TIME magazine earlier this month (headline: Eat Butter) is anything to go by, it would seem that the conversation about fat, and saturated fat in particular, is changing, at least in the media. But are policymakers sitting up and taking notice. And should they?

One man who is convinced that they should is Gerald McNeill, PhD, who heads up R&D at palm oil specialist Loders Croklaan. 

When it comes to cardiovascular disease risk, we often talk about 'good', 'bad' and 'ugly' fats, and put saturated fat firmly in the 'bad' category, he told FoodNavigator-USA at the IFT show in New Orleans.

But some very large observational studies have concluded that there is in fact no compelling evidence that saturated fat increases our risk of developing coronary heart disease, he said.

And in the case of palm oil, this should probably not surprise anyone, as half of the fat in it is unsaturated, and while the other half (saturated fat) raises LDL ('bad') cholesterol, it also raises HDL ('good') cholesterol in equal measure, effectively canceling out the deleterious effects, he said.

"Saturated fat doesn't really do anything.​ [The crackdown on saturated fat] has unfortunately been a complete waste of time for the last 25 years."

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