Saturated Fat (DLM-SF) Systematic Review (2018-2021)

Saturated Fat (DLM-SF) Systematic Review (2018-2021)

Welcome to the Saturated Fat Systematic Review

The evidence on saturated fat intake over the past few decades has been conflicting, confusing, and highly debated.  The purpose of this review was to examine available evidence on the amount of saturated fat intake, replacement nutrients, and sources of saturated fat intake, and the association with risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) and risk factors associated with atherosclerotic CVD. Multiple moderate-high quality systematic reviews that met inclusion criteria were identified in the literature search and are included in this review. For topic areas, where systematic reviews were not identified, new systematic reviews of primary evidence were conducted.  

The saturated fat panel  evaluated the association of saturated fat intake with disorders of lipid metabolism (DLM) and morbidities associated with DLM within the general population, and conducted sub-analysis based on population as appropriate. Clarification of health risks or benefits associated with saturated fat intake is of interest to a broad audience, and therefore the panel did not limit the scope of the project to individuals with DLM.    

Key Findings

  • Mortality: Observational evidence did not find an association with varying amounts of saturated fat intake regardless of replacement nutrients, or source of saturated fat with mortality.
  • CVD and CHD: Observational evidence found that a reduction in saturated fat intake may reduce cardiovascular events. However, the association with coronary heart disease (CHD) events and stroke is unclear. Evidence evaluating replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat also found a reduction in cardiovascular events. One systematic review did find a reduction in coronary heart disease with higher cheese intake. The same review found an increase in coronary heart disease with high fat milk intake, but not low-fat milk intake. No association was found between yogurt intake or butter intake and CVD or CHD.  
  • Blood Lipids: Observational evidence found that a reduction of saturated fat intake will likely reduce total and LDL cholesterol. No significant effect was found on HDL or triglycerides. Evidence evaluating replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated found a reduction in total cholesterol and triglycerides, but no clear differential effect on HDL or LDL.
  • Endothelial Function and Inflammation: The expert panel identified endothelial function and inflammation as outcomes of interest that have yet to be extensively explored. The available evidence was sparse, and little to no effect was found on most outcomes.  

Use the left navigation to view the results of the Saturated Fat review. Visit the Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) Effectiveness: Dyslipidemia systematic review for additional information.