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Saturated vs. Unsaturated Fats: The Truth

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April 6, 2015 / English / By
Nicola

For decades we have been advised against the damages that can be caused by saturated fats; unsaturated fats have been promoted as being better for our health. However, recently some research has been done which calls this belief into question. Which should we believe: the old information or the new?

 

Saturated fats can be found in large doses in foods such as cheese, butter, certain types of vegetable oils, many processed foods, and more. Without going into the chemistry of it all, essentially they are full of saturated fatty acids, which are difficult for your body to break down. As such, they tend to clog arteries and lead to a variety of different serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease.

 

For over 60 years it has been recommended that we should try to reduce the number of saturated fats in our diet as much as possible, whilst unsaturated fats are considered to be much less unhealthy.

 

Unsaturated fats can be found in foods such as fish, nuts, avocado and certain vegetable oils. Essentially, unsaturated fats contain fewer calories than saturated fats, meaning that they require much less energy to burn them off.

 

"Fancy raw mixed nuts macro" by Sage Ross - Own work. Licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fancy_raw_mixed_nuts_macro.jpg#/media/File:Fancy_raw_mixed_nuts_macro.jpg

 

Many foods contain both saturated and unsaturated fats, so it can be difficult to differentiate between the two, which is probably much of the reason why people struggle to pick the right one to reduce in their diet.

 

In 2014 a report was produced by the Annals of Internal Medicine which stated that there was no real difference in the likelihood of developing problems such as cardiovascular disease based on whether the participants ate high levels of saturated or unsaturated fats. Of course, this flew in the face of everything that the food, drink and health world had been telling us. Needless to say, the findings sent the world into disarray.

 

With this in mind, does it mean that we should now reconsider everything that we’ve already been told? Have we been getting it wrong all these years?

 

It turns out that actually, no, we haven’t. Some time later the scientists had to come out and admit that there had been some mistakes with the original report. It looks like they got a few things wrong the first time round, so actually there was a strong correlation between saturated fats and health problems.

 

After all of this – after all the confusion that was caused when we were suddenly told that butter might be healthier than margarine – it turns out that the information fed to us over the last 60 years is correct. In case you’re still confused, I’ll make it clear: saturated fats are bad, while unsaturated fats are good. To be honest, it’s unlikely that all the evidence we’ve seen over the last 60 years is incorrect, so it’s surprising that people didn’t pay closer attention when the report came out in the first place.

 

When it comes to reports with new findings about the differences between saturated and unsaturated fats, don’t believe everything you see in the papers!

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