Over the past several decades, we have made slow progress toward recognizing that not all fatty acids are the same. Saturated fat now has subcategories of short-, medium-, and long-chained fatty acids that determine how they are metabolically handled in the body. Even within the sub-categories there are differences in the blood lipid effects of fatty acids. For example, palmitic acid is more atherogenic than stearic acid, even though both are long-chained saturated fatty acids.
Recently, there has been an increased interest in the kind of food supplying the fat. Dairy products are an excellent example because the impact of dairy fat on blood lipids is very inconsistent. For example, most research shows no association between cardiovascular disease risk and cheese intake. Intervention trials suggest that there isn’t a similarly harmful effect on blood lipids when increasing fat intake from cheese compared to fat intake from butter.
Despite this emerging evidence, health authorities like the American Heart Association continue to recommend limiting saturated fat intake primarily through reducing the intake of fatty meats, butter, and cheese. Therefore, it seems unlikely that an individual would replace butter with cheese in their diet in an attempt to improve their health. A more likely scenario would be replacing fat with carbohydrates, which is currently advocated by many health authorities around the world. Additionally, others may consider replacing fatty meat in the diet with low-fat cheese and lean meats. The study under review aimed to explore the effect of cheese and meat as sources of saturated fat, and their replacement with carbohydrates, on cardiovascular disease risk markers.
While some official recommendations suggest limiting saturated fat intake to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, recent evidence suggests that the type of saturated fat and the food source from which it is ingested matter. This study took a look at how fat from cheese or meat affected markers for cardiovascular risk markers, compared to carbohydrates.