By Dr. John Briffa


If you have any interest in health at all, you’ll be familiar with the concept of altering fat intake to reduce risk of disease and premature death. One central theme here is that certain types of fat (e.g. saturated fat) increases risk of ‘cardiovascular’ diseases such as heart disease and stroke, while others (e.g. polyunsaturated fats) have a protective effect. Either replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat and/or reducing fat overall is supposed to be good for our health – but is it?

In recent years there have been quite a number of studies, which have failed to find a link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. These studies cast considerable doubt on the wisdom of cutting back on saturated fat. Yet, studies such as these that are ‘epidemiological’ in nature and only tell us of a lack of a relationship between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. To really know whether cutting back on saturated fat and/or replacing it with supposedly healthier fats is beneficial to health we need to conduct studies that test just that, with what are known as ‘intervention’ studies.

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