Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.,
T. Colin Campbell's Center for Nutrition Studies
This recent confusion over saturated fat may be a result of people trying to blame carbs for the nationís weight problemsóeven though the countryís grain intake is actually far lower than what it once was. What hasnít gone down is the nationís meat and cheese intake.
In fact, it has done just the opposite. In 1909, Americans ate 123.9 pounds of meat per person per year. Since then, meat intake has soared to more than 200 pounds per person per year, and cheese intake has risen from less than 4 pounds to nearly 34 pounds per year.
We have known for decades that fatty foods are anything but good for you, but recent media reports glorifying saturated have caused confusion. Do not be fooled. There is nothing healthful about butter, bacon, cheese, or steak. Saturated fat poses numerous severe health risks of which everyone should be aware.
This recent confusion over saturated fat may be a result of people trying to blame carbs for the nationís weight problemsóeven though the countryís grain intake is actually far lower than what it once was.
What hasnít gone down is the nationís meat and cheese intake. In fact, it has done just the opposite. In 1909, Americans ate 123.9 pounds of meat per person per year. Since then, meat intake has soared to more than 200 pounds per person per year, and cheese intake has risen from less than 4 pounds to nearly 34 pounds per year.
Itís not the carbs that are making Americans sickóitís the saturated fat in meat and cheese. Fifty percent of Americans are expected to be obese by 2030. Fetishizing fat will only exacerbate our national health crisis. And the risks associated with high-fat products do not stop at expanding waistlines.
Here are four facts you should know about saturated fat:
1. Saturated fat can DOUBLE the risk of Alzheimerís disease.
Increased saturated fat intake is associated with increased risk for Alzheimerís disease, dementia, and cognitive decline. In the Chicago Health and Aging Project, people who ate the most saturated fat had twice the risk of developing Alzheimerís disease after four years, compared with those who ate the least saturated fat. The Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project in New York and the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Dementia study in Finland also link Alzheimerís disease risk with saturated fat intake.
A number of studies on cognitive decline have found that high saturated fat intake increases the rate of decline in cognitive abilities as we age.
2. Saturated fat increases cholesterol levels AND heart disease risk.
Research finds that increased saturated fat intake increases the risk of developing heart disease. Consumers are often pushed to eat fatty foods with the false claim that one unhealthful meal canít hurt you. But research shows that eating just one high-fat meal can raise the risk of having a heart attack the same day.
According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat causes the liver to produce more cholesterol and raises cholesterol levels in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
3. High saturated fat intake means high type 2 diabetes risk
Diets high in saturated fat are associated with type 2 diabetes. Harvard researchers found that total fat intake and saturated fat intake were associated with a greater risk of diabetes. In the same study, they found that eating bacon, hot dogs, or other processed meatsóall high in saturated fatófive or more times per week increases a manís risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly 50 percent. Diets high in saturated fat also increase insulin resistance.
4. Saturated fat is associated with MULTIPLE cancers.
Findings from Harvardís Nursesí Health Study II suggest that increased consumption of saturated fat increases the risk for developing breast cancer. A recent study published by the National Cancer Institute also found that women who eat diets high in saturated fat increase their risk of developing breast cancer.
Among men who have prostate cancer removal, those who consume the least saturated fat are more likely to remain disease-free, compared with those who consume the most saturated fat.
People who consume diets high in saturated fat and sugar are four times more likely to develop and 53 percent more likely to die from gastrointestinal cancers, compared with those who consume plant-based diets.
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., is Director of Nutrition Education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting preventive medicine, especially better nutrition, and higher standards in research.
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