A study led by researchers at McMaster University has found that that trans fats are associated with greater risk of death and coronary heart disease, but saturated fats are not associated with an increased risk of death, heart disease, stroke, or Type 2 diabetes.
Guidelines currently recommend that saturated fats are limited to less than 10 per cent, and trans fats to less than one per cent of energy, to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.
Saturated fats come mainly from animal products, such as butter, cows' milk, meat, salmon and egg yolks, and some plant products such as chocolate and palm oils. Trans unsaturated fats (trans fats) are mainly produced industrially from plant oils (a process known as hydrogenation) for use in margarine, snack foods and packaged baked goods.
Contrary to prevailing dietary advice, a recent evidence review found no excess cardiovascular risk associated with intake of saturated fat. In contrast, research suggests that industrial trans fats may increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
To help clarify these controversies, de Souza and colleagues analysed the results of 50 observational studies assessing the association between saturated and/or trans fats and health outcomes in adults.
Study design and quality were taken into account to minimise bias, and the certainty of associations were assessed using a recognized scoring method developed at McMaster.
The team found no clear association between higher intake of saturated fats and death for any reason, coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiovascular disease (CVD), ischemic stroke or type 2 diabetes.
However, consumption of industrial trans fats was associated with a 34 per cent increase in death for any reason, a 28 per cent increased risk of CHD mortality, and a 21 per cent increase in the risk of CHD.
Inconsistencies in the studies analysed meant that the researchers could not confirm an association between trans fats and type 2 diabetes. And, they found no clear association between trans fats and ischemic stroke.