Role of Different Dietary Saturated Fatty Acids for Cardiometabolic Risk

David Iggman; Ulf Risérus


Clin Lipidology. 2011;6(2):209-223. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


There is clinical and observational evidence to suggest that saturated fatty acids (SFA) increase cardiovascular disease risk compared with polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils. Replacing SFA intake has thus been a public health target, but the role of individual SFA in metabolic disease is still incompletely understood. Observational data indicate that all SFA may not necessarily be detrimental. The cholesterol-raising effect of SFA differs among individual SFA and possibly also with regard to cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors. The impact of dietary SFA on cardiovascular disease remains somewhat controversial, possibly due to such individual differences. In this article, we will also separately discuss the effects of dairy SFA, including biomarkers, as a means to elucidate these relationships between fatty acids, foodstuffs and cardiometabolic disease.


In a western diet, the majority of dietary saturated fatty acids (SFA) consists of 16:0, 18:0 and 14:0. In dietary recommendations for metabolic disease, there is a common worldwide agreement to decrease intakes of SFA. With a few exceptions, this is not specified further to consider specific fatty acids or foodstuffs. Although this simplification may appear reasonable, SFA of different chain lengths may display different metabolic properties. The purpose of this nonsystematic review is to highlight these differences and discuss whether there is a rationale for more specific dietary recommendations regarding SFA in prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic disease.