What is Saturated Fat?

Saturated fat is fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the individual carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. That is, the chain of carbon atoms is fully "saturated" with hydrogen atoms. There are many kinds of naturally occurring saturated fatty acids, which differ mainly in number of carbon atoms, from 3 carbons (propionic acid) to 36 (hexatriacontanoic acid).

Various fats contain different proportions of saturated and unsaturated fat. Examples of foods containing a high proportion of saturated fat include animal fats such as cream, cheese, butter, and ghee; suet, tallow, lard, and fatty meats; as well as certain vegetable products such as coconut oil, cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, chocolate, and many prepared foods.

Dietary Recommendations


Recommendations to reduce or limit dietary intake of saturated fats are made by Health Canada, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the UK Food Standards Agency, the Australian Department of Health and Aging, the Singapore Government Health Promotion Board, the Indian Government Citizens Health Portal, the New Zealand Ministry of Health, the Food and Drugs Board Ghana, the Republic of Guyana Ministry of Health, and Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety.

A 2004 statement released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined that "Americans need to continue working to reduce saturated fat intake" In addition, reviews by the American Heart Association led the Association to recommend reducing saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total calories according to its 2006 recommendations. This concurs with similar conclusions made by the US Department of Health and Human Services, which determined that reduction in saturated fat consumption would positively affect health and reduce the prevalence of heart disease.

In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expert consultation report concluded that "intake of saturated fatty acids is directly related to cardiovascular risk. The traditional target is to restrict the intake of saturated fatty acids to less than 10% of daily energy intake and less than 7% for high-risk groups. If populations are consuming less than 10%, they should not increase that level of intake. Within these limits, intake of foods rich in myristic and palmitic acids should be replaced by fats with a lower content of these particular fatty acids. In developing countries, however, where energy intake for some population groups may be inadequate, energy expenditure is high and body fat stores are low (BMI <18.5 kg/m2). The amount and quality of fat supply has to be considered keeping in mind the need to meet energy requirements. Specific sources of saturated fat, such as coconut and palm oil, provide low-cost energy and may be an important source of energy for the poor."

Dr. German and Dr. Dillard of University of California and Nestle Research Center in Switzerland, in their 2004 review, pointed out that "no lower safe limit of specific saturated fatty acid intakes has been identified" and recommended that the influence of varying saturated fatty acid intakes against a background of different individual lifestyles and genetic backgrounds should be the focus in future studies.

Blanket recommendations to lower saturated fat were criticized at a 2010 conference debate of the American Dietetic Association for focusing too narrowly on reducing saturated fats rather than emphasizing increased consumption of healthy fats and unrefined carbohydrates. Concern was expressed over the health risks of replacing saturated fats in the diet with refined carbohydrates, which carry a high risk of obesity and heart disease, particularly at the expense of polyunsaturated fats which may have health benefits. None of the panelists recommended heavy consumption of saturated fats, emphasizing instead the importance of overall dietary quality to cardiovascular health.

This definition may contain information from Wikipedia.