Looking to lose weight? Try our FREE Calorie Counter »  |  Log In
Articles Fitness Nutrition

Why Saturated Fatty Acids Are Harmful

Saturated fats, which are usually solid at room temperature, are simply fats that contain saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are a long-chain carboxylic acid, which usually has between 12 to 24 carbon atoms that has no double bonds. Thus, saturated fatty acids are saturated with hydrogen, since double bonds reduce the number of hydrogens on each carbon.

What Foods Contain Saturated Fatty Acids?

Saturated fatty acids are found mainly in animal fats, including dairy products. Fatty meats, such as bacon, salami, and sausage, are primary sources of saturated fat. Cheeses, full fat milk, butter, and cream are good sources of saturated fat. Only two vegetable fats are saturated, which are palm oil and coconut oil. We typically get our greatest proportion of saturated fats from prepared or processed foods. This includes sweets and snacks such as cookies, cakes, pastries, crisps, and chocolate.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7 percent of your total daily calories.

Harmful Effects

Saturated fatty acids are a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Diets high in saturated fatty acids increase the production of acetate fragments in the body which, in turn, leads to an increase in the production of cholesterol. When consumed, saturated fats tend to clump together and form deposits in the body, along with protein and cholesterol. They get lodged in blood cells and organs, leading to many health problems, including obesity, heart diseases, and cancers of the breast and colon. The build-up in the arteries can cause a narrowing of the arteries, called atherosclerosis, which consequently can lead to major heart problems.


The saturated fat that is consumed are put into storage cells called adipose cells. These storage cells can hold up to 1,000 times its own size, therefore it is used to store up a large amount of fats. Saturated fats, which are flat, build up easily in these cells causing obesity. A host of other health problems typically accompanies obesity in those consuming a diet rich in saturated fatty acids.

Not All Bad

Saturated fats have been shown to improve liver health, promote healthy lungs, promote healthy brain functioning, positively influence proper nerve signaling, improve bone strength, and support the body's immune system. However, unsaturated fats also accomplish many of these benefits in the body with less harmful side effects. A diet void of fat should be avoided; however, smart diet decisions should be made instead.

Healthy Diet

In order to avoid a diet rich in saturated fatty acids, a modest total intake of fats should be followed. This would be around 25 percent of your total daily calories. Also, normal amounts of omega-3 fat, which is healthy fat, should be included in the diet. Intake of saturated fat should be reduced in the diet to a maximum of 1/3 of your total fat intake. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats eaten to less than 7 percent of the total daily calories. Choose lean meat, fish, and skinless poultry. Grill meat instead of frying in fattening oil or lard. Also, trim the fat off of meat before cooking it. Consume fewer pastries, biscuits and sweets.

Article Comments