The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has today published the final version of its report, 'Saturated fats and health'.

The role of saturated fats in health was last considered by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA, the predecessor of SACN) in 'Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom' (COMA, 1991), and 'Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease' (COMA, 1994). 

The report

In 2014 it was agreed that a review of the evidence on saturated fats and health was required due to the on-going scientific and media debate which focuses on the relationship between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease (CVD). 

A draft version of the report was released last May, with SACN subsequently running a consultation inviting comments on the scientific content of the draft report ‘Saturated fats and health’ and its supporting documents between 8 May 2018 and 3 July 2018.

The report published today confirms a saturated fat link to blood cholesterol and heart disease and concludes there is no need to change current advice. Based on 47 systematic reviews and meta-analyses, SACN concludes that:

  • higher saturated fat consumption is linked to raised blood cholesterol
  • higher intakes of saturated fat are associated with increased risk of heart disease and
  • saturated fats should be swapped with unsaturated fats
  • there is no need to change current advice that saturated fat should not exceed around 10% of food energy.

Professor Paul Haggarty, Chair of the Saturated Fats and Health Working Group of SACN, said:

“Looking at the evidence, our report confirms that reducing saturated fat lowers total blood cholesterol and cuts the risk of heart disease. Our advice remains that saturated fats should be reduced to no more than about 10% of dietary energy.”

Professor Louis Levy, Head of Nutrition Science at PHE, said:

“SACN’s review supports and strengthens current advice. We recommend eating foods high in saturated fat less often and in smaller amounts and swapping to unsaturated fats to help achieve a healthy, balanced diet. We all need to take action, but food manufacturers, suppliers and caterers have a particular responsibility in helping people to do this.”

Discussing the implications of the report

In response to the report, the Nutrition Society's Training Academy will be running a 45-minute webinar, in association with Public Health England, on 12 September 2019.

During this 45- minute webinar, Professor Paul Haggarty, Chair of the SACN Saturated Fats Working Group, will discuss the evidence considered within the SACN report and the basis of the conclusions drawn on the range of outcomes considered: cardiovascular disease, blood lipids, blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and measures of glycaemic control, anthropometry, cancers and cognition. Professor Haggarty will also discuss the limitations of the evidence and research recommendations arising from the consideration of evidence.

There will also be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions on the live version of the webinar, and it is hoped that the webinar will be of use to all nutrition and public health professionals. To register and to find out more.

Read the full SACN report here.