What Effect Does Saturated Fat Have On The Heart?

Despite popular belief, saturated fat does not have a negative effect on cholesterol levels or inflammation. What effect do they have on heart health?
What effect does saturated fat have on the heart?

Saturated fats are among the most reviled nutrients. For many years it was argued that consuming them put cardiovascular health at risk and increased the risk of heart attack or stroke. But the latest studies question these claims.

There are 2 different types of lipids: saturated and unsaturated ones. Based on their spatial configuration, we can establish another classification into two groups: cis fatty acids and trans fatty acids. It is the latter that can have a negative effect on health, not the saturated ones. We explain why.

What are saturated fats?

Saturated lipids are a series of macronutrients characterized by a chemical structure with single bonds. They are normally found in foods of animal origin and tend to be solid at room temperature.

However, their melting point is not high. When they heat up, they become liquid again. This increase in temperature can change their spatial configuration and make them harmful.

Are these fats bad for your health?

Nowadays, the most recent research questions whether saturated fat can increase cardiovascular risk. Some of these, in fact, such as those present in coconut oil, have been shown to have protective effects on the heart.

On the other hand, for many years it was believed that the consumption of saturated fat could alter the lipid profile of the blood, that is, increase cholesterol. This is one of the reasons why we limit our weekly egg consumption.

Examples of foods that contain saturated fat.

But it has been shown that this influence is not as great as previously thought. It is possible to consume eggs and lipids without fear of a significant alteration in cholesterol.

It is also doubted that blood cholesterol is really an indicator of cardiovascular disease. More recent studies, such as the one published in the journal Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine , attribute the risk of atherosclerosis to the oxidation of a small fraction of LDL cholesterol, not to its presence in serum.

In fact, it is argued that a good intake of antioxidants is essential to prevent changes in the redox balance that gives rise to a greater incidence of arteriosclerosis.

The problem of saturated fats

Saturated fats as such do not pose a health problem, except in specific situations. We have already said that these lipids can change their spatial configuration when subjected to high temperatures. This turns them into potentially inflammatory trans-type fats.

These nutrients can interfere with the modulation of inflammation in the body. At the same time, they can also cause changes in the maintenance of the redox potential of lipoproteins, increasing the risk of artery-blocking atheroma plaques.

In short, it is foods with a high content of trans fatty acids that are dangerous for cardiovascular health. However, the consumption of raw saturated fats or cooked with little aggressive processes do not create problems.

Saturated fats, nutrients unfairly categorized

Bacon contains saturated fat.

For many years, saturated fat was thought to have harmful effects on health. Recent research, however, questions this relationship, and considers these nutrients to be beneficial and indispensable.

There are still many unknowns regarding cardiovascular diseases. The role of cholesterol and the risk they actually generate inflammation and oxidation have yet to be elucidated. However, it is now certain that increasing the consumption of cis fats is a protective factor, as is regular physical activity.

This is why it is advisable to prioritize the consumption of fresh food over industrially processed ones. The latter contain trans sugars and lipids, nutrients that are harmful to metabolic health and heart function. The lower their consumption, the better.

It is also essential to avoid the consumption of toxic substances, such as alcohol. And instead, promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables with antioxidant capacity.

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