SACN Report on Saturated Fat

On 1st August the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published its latest report on the effect of saturated fat in the diet on health.

It reviewed 47 systematic reviews and studies to gather evidence on the relationship between saturated fat in the diet and health outcomes in the general population.

The main findings were:

  • Reducing saturated fat in the diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular and heart disease events. There is a significant relationship between saturated fat and cardiovascular and heart disease events but not mortality.

  • Reducing saturated fat is linked to a reduction in blood cholesterol and helps regulate blood sugar.

  • Reducing saturated fat intake is unlikely to increase risk of health problems.

  • A reduction of saturated fat being no more than 10% of total energy intake will lead to health benefits for the general population.

  • It is recommended that we swap saturated fat for unsaturated fat due to the beneficial impact on blood cholesterol.

  • The evidence was unclear or absent on the link between saturated fat intake and blood pressure, body measurements and cognitive function.

  • There was no link found between saturated fat and risk of stroke or incidence of cancers such as colorectal, pancreatic, lung, breast or prostate.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey has shown that saturated fat intake has fallen from the mid 1980’s when intake was about 16% of total energy intake. However it has remained about the same since 2008. The survey from 2014/15 and 2015/16 has shown that mean intakes of saturated fat as a percentage of total energy intake were as follows:

4 - 18 years old - 12.4% - 13%

19 - 64 years - 11.9%

65 - 74 years - 12.5%

75+ years - 14.3%

The conclusion is that the intake of saturated fat in the general population is above the recommended intake in all age groups.

The main foods that we get saturated fat from are biscuits, cakes, pastries and pies, milk and milk products (including cheese) and meat and meat products.

The NHS website gives practical tips on how we can reduce fat in our diet. These include:

  • Compare food labels to choose foods lower in fat.

  • Choose lower fat and reduced fat dairy products.

  • Grill, bake, steam or boil rather than frying or roasting.

  • Trim fat off meat before cooking and choose leaner cuts.

  • Add vegetables to stews to reduce how much meat is eaten.

The full report by SACN can be found here.

SACN Report on Saturated Fat