Saturated fat has been considered a culprit contributor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) for several decades, accused of clogging arteries and increasing the risk heart attacks. Dietary advice dispensers’ persist in recommending reduced consumption of the macronutrient.
Myths and misconceptions have led to consumers wrongly assuming all saturated fat is bad. However, research evidence shows saturated fat intake has only a very limited impact on cardiovascular disease risk, rewriting the “saturated fat is bad” paradigm. In fact, one type of saturated fat, known as stearic acid, may actually protect the heart against disease.
Unlike other saturated fatty acids, studies have shown stearic acid has no adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels (lipids/fats) or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study went as far as to suggest eating lean beef daily improved cholesterol levels after analyzing 36 participants randomly assigned sample diets for five weeks. Stearic acid was responsible for the positive effect, lowing overall cholesterol by 5 percent and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by four percent. Low-density lipoproteins promote health problems and cardiovascular disease and are informally called the bad cholesterol. Results were similar to those on a diet high in fish, lean poultry, and vegetables.
Stearic acid levels vary from food to food and are found in beef, pork, skinless chicken, olive oil, cheese, chocolate, and milk. Cocoa beans and red meat have among the highest quantity. Others types of saturated fatty acids include lauric, myristic, and palmitic acids.
Researchers are not intending to ring the dinner bell and suggest gorging on copious mounds of bacon and a double order of fried eggs. They simply suggest being aware of the benefits of all types of fats in moderation.
Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease that affects the cardiovascular system and is the leading cause of deaths worldwide. Cardiac, vascular, and peripheral arterial diseases are types of cardiovascular diseases.
Atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries typically from accumulated cholesterol) and hypertension (high blood pressure) are the most common causes of cardiovascular disease. Along with dietary influences, age related physiological and morphological changes can alter cardiovascular function and subsequently lead to an increased risk.
[Image via Shutterstock]