In a recent heart disease prevention study performed at Tufts University’s, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA), researchers analyzed the genes of over 2,800 women and men who consumed more calories with saturated fat, and with increased genetic risk scores. The subject’s ratio of body weight over height, or Body Mass Index (BMI) was also incorporated in the study.
Good and bad fat
Fat is found in all types of foods. In addition, our bodies produce fat when we intake too many calories. However, not all fat is unhealthy for you. Actually, some fats improve a person’s health.
Dietary fat found in animals and plants contain macronutrients that are a source of energy for the body. Some dietary fat may contribute to type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, as well as cancer and obesity.
There are two primary types of potentially harmful fats for human consumption. Trans fat and saturated fat are usually solid fats; fat from beef, butter, pork, stick margarine, and shortening. Trans fat occurs in small amounts in some foods. A food processing method called partial hydrogenation creates trans fat from oils.
Animals like poultry with skin, lamb, and red meat, as well as pizza, whole or 2 percent milk and dairy products, ice cream, and cheese are principal sources of saturated fat. Additionally, saturated fat is in fried foods and baked goods. This type of fat has the tendency to raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, as well as total blood cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
How much saturated fat is too much?
The American Heart Association recommends that less than seven percent of a person’s daily calories should have saturated fat. For instance, if a person consumes 2,000 calories on a given day, 140 or less of the calories should come from saturated fats. That comes out to close to 16 grams of saturated fat per day.
Eliminating all saturated fat from a diet is not recommended. Too much full-fat dairy products and red meat in a diet can be detrimental to a person’s health; however, they can be replaced with olive oil, salmon, avocados, seeds, and peanuts, which are actually great sources of saturated fats. Moderation is the key.
Saturated fat, genes, and obesity
Researchers are aware that there is an interaction between dietary fat and genes, which affect a person’s BMI. The recent study at Tufts University found that after they analyzed the genes linked with the risk of obesity of the research subjects, they hypothesized that the subject’s who were most likely to be obese based on their genes were more susceptible to having more saturated fat in their diets. The total fat intake for research subjects related to a higher BMI and people with the highest BMIs ate the most saturated fats.
Some researchers suggest saturated fats may interfere with a person’s brain activity that satisfies their hunger and lets them feel like they are full after eating food. However, more research is necessary in order to personalize diets for people predisposed to obesity. In order to do this, researchers need to determine whether genetics can help to identify people who are more susceptible to this complex disorder.