According to research published in The Lancet, higher consumption of a specific type of fat has been associated with a lower risk of stroke – a serious life-threatening medical condition. The Stroke Association described a stroke as a “brain attack” that occurs when blood supply to the organ is cut off, killing brain cells. In the research analysis, the scientists looked at the dietary intake of 135,335 people, aged between 35 to 70 years of age, over a seven-year period.
During the follow-up, there were 5,796 deaths and 4,784 major cardiovascular disease events.
Higher carbohydrate intake was associated with an increased risk of death from all causes, except cardiovascular disease.
“Higher saturated fat intake was associated with lower risk of stroke,” the researchers noted.
What’s saturated fat?
The NHS warn against too much consumption of saturated fat, which can be found in:
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Meat products, including sausages and pies
- Butter, ghee, and lard
- Cheese, especially hard cheese like cheddar
- Cream, soured cream and ice cream
- Some savoury snacks, like cheese crackers and some popcorns
- Chocolate confectionery
- Biscuits, cakes, and pastries
- Palm oil
- Coconut oil and coconut cream.
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“Too much fat in your diet, especially saturated fats, can raise your cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease,” the NHS explained.
So why has that research study shown an inverse association between saturated fat and stroke?
“A small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet,” the NHS added.
And saturated fat can be found in oils that also contain unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are considered a healthier fat than saturated fats, which can be found in oils from plants and fish.
“Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself,” the NHS added.
The consumption of a little bit of fat can help the body absorb vitamins, so it does have its health benefits.
To be specific, fat consumption can help aid the absorption of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E.
The NHS added: “These vitamins are fat-soluble, which means they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.”
Fats are high in energy, with one gram of fat – whatever fat it may be – equating to nine calories (37kJ).
While the research suggests saturated fat can lower the risk of a stroke, it’s likely this type of fat was consumed in healthy oils that contain both saturated and unsaturated fat.
Most people in the UK currently eat too much saturated fat, according to the NHS.
NHS guidelines suggest that “men should not eat more than 30g of saturated fat a day”.
As for women, they “should not eat more than 20g of saturated fat a day”, and children should have even less.
Be aware of products in the supermarket labelled “low-fat”, which can still contain a lot of fat compared to the recommended guidelines.
In addition, sometimes the fat is replaced with sugar, which can be unhealthy.