There’s a lot of confusing information about nutrition especially when it comes to fat. We need small amount of fat in diet as essential fatty acids cannot be made by our bodies. Fats absorb vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and transport them around the body to where they are needed for consumption.

There are two main types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. Eating large amount of saturated fat can raise the ‘bad’ low density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood. The unsaturated fat helps maintain levels of the ‘good’ high density lipoprotein (HDL) which then has a positive effect on total cholesterol in the body by taking LDL from organs, where there is too much, to the liver to be disposed of. More LDL means more likelihood of cardiovascular disease (CVD – heart and vessel disease).

Science and evidence:

There is extensive research linking higher cholesterol levels with the risk of CVD. It is suggested that reducing saturated fat intake for at least two years causes a potentially important reduction in combined cardiovascular events. This means that replacing the energy intake from saturated fat with unsaturated fat or even with carbohydrate appears to be a useful strategy. Greater reduction in saturated fat causes a greater reduction in cardiovascular events such as coronary heart disease, stroke, transient ischaemic attack, peripheral arterial and aortic diseases.

Evidence also shows that consumption of higher level of saturated fat puts people at an increased risk of developing type II diabetes because of the high amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood.

There is growing evidence that replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fatty acid from plant sources decreases CVD risk. Other substitutions for dietary saturated fat that can decrease CVD risk include carbohydrates from whole grains to increase the amount of fibre in diet. Refined carbohydrates should not be substituted for saturated fats as they are not beneficial for health.

Action

Evidence shows that reducing saturated fat will improve our health and reduce the risk of CVD. Improvement in health can be made even if there is genetic risk. Below are some practical tips to help you reduce the risk of CVD through diet and lifestyle:

  1. Eat a healthier diet – reduce saturated fats and eliminate trans fats. Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Eat more plant sources of protein and increase omega 3 fatty acids.
  2. Get more active.
  3. Quit smoking.
  4. Drink alcohol in moderation.
  5. Try to lose extra weight.