Saturated fat intake is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease – the leading cause of death in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2008 heart disease accounted for 48,000 or 34 per cent of all deaths.
Saturated fat contributes to heart disease by raising levels of total and low density lipoprotein (or bad) cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol accumulates in the arteries, restricting blood flow and increasing blood pressure. Efforts to prevent heart disease focus on lowering blood cholesterol, including through reducing intakes of saturated fat.
The main sources of saturated fat in the diet include fatty cuts of meat, including some processed meats; full fat dairy foods, including milk, cheese, butter and cream; commercially baked products, such as biscuits and pastries; and deep-fried fast foods.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that all Australians limit their intake of saturated fat. The goal is to reduce our current intakes from approximately 14 per cent of total energy intake, to no more than 8 to 10 per cent.
Through the Food and Health Dialogue, work is underway to reduce the saturated fat content of popular processed meat products.