Science and Nutrition, New Studies Bring Back Fats

There are no absolutes, except for one: trans fats are absolutely bad.

Nutritional trends come and go, with the pendulum swinging from no-fat diets and cholesterol fears to sugar being put on the hot seat. Nutrition, like any science, is not static. As science improves with studies and our understanding of how our bodies work, so does the information we receive about good nutrition. So take a breath, because butter is back – virtually, that is!

Let’s talk about fats – our bodies need them, except for trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils (which we’ll get to later). Let’s break it down.

Saturated fats are derived primarily from animal products like butter, lard, palm and coconut oil. They are solid at room temperature and have received their fair share of criticism over the years. Saturated fats were once believed to be a significant concern for individuals with cholesterol issues. However, studies have shown that saturated fats are just a small part of a much larger puzzle. Cholesterol is a metabolic problem, and while consuming a healthier diet is a step in the right direction to improve overall body function, it only marginally affects cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are vital for our bodies to function. Saturated fats are critical for the construction of cell membranes, organ padding, nerve sheathes, hormone production, cellular signaling within the body, and immune function. They also aid in the proper absorption of some minerals and fat-soluble vitamins.


On the other hand, trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils are primarily present in processed foods. In 2013, the FDA preliminarily determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in human food, as these fats increase bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol, and are linked to Type II Diabetes. Clearly, these fats are bad news.


Doctors don’t recommend that we cover our food with butter and bacon. However, they suggest that entirely eliminating saturated fats from our diets is not necessary and may be more harmful than helpful. For example, consider that 60% of a baby’s milk is made up of saturated fat, which is crucial for health and growth.


While no scientific studies can provide an exact amount or percentage of saturated and unsaturated fats we should consume, conservative percentages suggest as low as 6%, while most dieticians and research scientists recommend around 10%. The primary issue is overeating. If we consume too many calories, many of them will be fat calories, whether they are saturated or unsaturated. This can be harmful to our bodies. As a result, we must focus on maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle with a balanced diet, rather than worrying excessively about the fat on our plates. Moderation is the key to healthy eating, and no single food product or nutrient will save or ruin us. Indulge every once in a while – a pat of butter is much healthier and tastier than margarine.