Saturated fat and trans fat have been publicly demonised as the "bad fats", which have turned many of us away from consuming traditional foods containing high levels saturated fat such as butter and bacon and opting for low-fat alternatives. While most people on the street would have trouble telling saturated fat and trans fat apart, they are actually very different. Saturated fat occurs naturally and is generally found in animal products such as red meat and full cream milk. Trans fat on the other hand, is mostly made by partial dehydrogenation of oils, a process that makes the fat easier to cook and harder to spoil than naturally occurring oils. Trans fat has been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, increase unhealthy cholesterol and can cause abdominal obesity. Saturated fat on the other hand, despite all the bad publicity from marketers, healthcare professionals and even government agencies, is not all that bad compared to many of the so called healthier alternatives.
While saturated fat can increase both HDL and LDL cholesterols levels in the body, there is currently no concrete evidence associating saturated fat consumption with increased risk cardiovascular diseases (Siri-Tarino et al 2010, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Mente et al 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine). On the other hand, despite the findings in scientific studies showed that consuming saturated fat can make you gain weight, historic population figures painted a very different picture. In 1960, 45% of the calories came from fats and oils in an average American's diet, with 13% of the population considered obese and only fewer than 1% of the people had type 2 diabetes. Remember, that was before the invention of most of the low-fat alternatives so people were actually consuming a healthy dose of saturated fat each day. Today, Americans are eating a lot less fat, 12% less to be precise, however, 34% of the population is obese, that's 21% more than that of in 1960 and 11% of the people have diabetes. Correlation does not equal to causation, but these figures are staggering considering pretty much everyone blames the obesity epidemic on fat consumption.
In my previous articles I mentioned that the current obesity epidemic is mainly caused by a lack of physical activities and a lack of sleep. Here may I add the third item to that list: too much carbs and sugar. That's right, many low fat alternatives contain high levels of carbohydrates and/or sugar. The increased consumption of carbohydrates and sugar will increase the risk of weight gain.
I believe that if we all revert back to the fatty diet of the old days and perform regular exercise the current obesity epidemic would go away. The content of saturated fat in the food we eat is irrelevant as long as we eat natural, whole foods and have a good lifestyle. Replacing saturated fat with low-fat alternatives high in carbohydrates will probably make you fatter. Saturated fat consumption is not to blame for the ever-increasing waistline of the society.