Doctor in the House: the Lowdown on Saturated Fats

As seen in PETA’s current issue of Animal Times magazine, Neal Barnard, M.D., author of Power Foods for the Brain, answers your questions about nutrition and health.

Q: I know trans fats are unhealthy, but what’s the verdict on saturated fats?

A: Saturated fat, which is found primarily in meat and dairy foods, is without a doubt unhealthy. A meta-analysis of 41 studies indicates that people whose diets are high in saturated fat have a 12% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 20% higher risk of dying from it, compared with those whose diets are low in saturated fat.

Studies have also shown that eating foods high in saturated fat can raise your risk for cancer, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and other health problems.

For instance, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study II, which involved more than 88,000 women, indicates that a diet high in animal fat greatly raises one’s risk for breast cancer. Another study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, suggests that the saturated fat found in dairy foods can raise men’s risk of death from prostate cancer. Diets high in saturated fats and sugar are also linked to gastrointestinal cancers, including cancers of the stomach and esophagus.

And that’s not all. Researchers have found that people who eat the most saturated and trans fats during midlife tend to have worse cognitive decline later in life.

No matter how old you are – or what gender – it’s best to avoid fatty animal-based foods and instead eat wholesome plant-based foods to increase your odds of living a long, healthy life.