A new study investigating health outcomes of 135,000 people internationally suggests that the type of fat you eat doesn’t really matter — and that they’re all good for you in moderate amounts.
The study followed participants for seven and a half years and queried them about their diets. Participants whose eating habits included higher levels of fats enjoyed an increased likelihood of longevity, and according to Science Daily’s coverage of the study, “this was seen for all major types of fats (saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats).”
That means cooking with a tablespoon of butter might have similar health outcomes to a pour of olive oil; and demonized fat sources such as lard, chicken fat, and canola oil could actually be completely fine for our regular consumption.
The condemning of coconut oil and animal fat might be entirely unfounded. But the study did not mention trans fats as having a similar outcome — so it’ s probably best to continue to steer clear of those (based on decades of accumulated evidence).
So what’s with all the saturated fat warnings? On macronutrient and calorie counting apps such as MyFitnessPal, logging foods with saturated fats results in scolding red warnings flashing across the screen. Turns out, though, the effect might be neutral. The researchers pointed out that although societal opinion has been anti-saturated-fat for some time now, these results are fairly consistent with scientific observations from many other recent studies.
Mahshid Dehghan, lead author of the study, explained to Science Daily the fatal flaw in our limitation of saturated fats. When we limit saturated fats, we often replace them with carbs. “A decrease in fat intake automatically led to an increase in carbohydrate consumption,” she said, drawing from the evidence observed. And an increase in carbohydrate consumption resulted in poorer health outcomes across the board.
So instead of limiting our fats and cutting out butter, this study suggests it’s probably wiser to keep our carbohydrate intake to half our daily calories or less. The American diet, however, is historically heavy on the carbs. “A diet high in carbohydrates (of more than 60 percent of energy) is related to higher mortality, although not with the risk of cardiovascular disease,” the Science Daily report concludes.
So whether you like to eat avocados, butter, chicken fat, or straight-up grease, don’t sweat it — your fat intake is likely doing your body a whole lot of good.