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Oops! Saturated Fats May Not be as Bad as You Think, Scientists Say

Dec 06, 2016 04:40 AM EST
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A new study suggests that saturated fat may be the key to boosting good cholesterol levels, challenging the long-held belief that dietary fat is unhealthy.
(Photo : Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A new study challenges the long-held belief that saturated fat is bad for the health. Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway found that consuming foods made of saturated fat could actually boost good cholesterol levels.

According to Daily Mail, in randomized trials, 38 men with abdominal obesity followed a dietary pattern high in either carbohydrates or fat, of which about half was saturated. The researchers measured the fat mass in the abdominal region, liver and heart, along with a number of key risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

They found that very high intake of total and saturated fat did not increase the calculated risk of cardiovascular diseases. The participants on the very-high-fat diet also had "substantial improvements in several important cardiometabolic risk factors, such as ectopic fat storage, blood pressure, blood lipids (triglycerides), insulin and blood sugar," the researchers said in a press release.

According to the researchers, both groups had similar intakes of energy, proteins, polyunsaturated fatty acids. The food types were also the same and only had different quantities, and intake of added sugar was minimized. Total energy intake was within normal range and even participants who increased their energy intake during the trials showed substantial decreases in fat stores and disease risk.

"Our findings indicate that the overriding principle of a healthy diet is not the quantity of fat or carbohydrates, but the quality of the foods we eat," Johnny Laupsa-Borge, a PhD candidate and co-researcher of the study, said in a statement.

Saturated fat has been thought to cause cardiovascular diseases as they raise the bad LDL cholesterol in the blood. But the researchers found no clear negative effect on bad cholesterol, and instead, the "good" cholesterol increased.

"These results indicate that most healthy people probably tolerate a high intake of saturated fat well, as long as the fat quality is good and total energy intake is not too high," Ottar Nygard, professor and cardiologist who contributed to the study, said in the same statement. "It may even be healthy."

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