New research from the US questions whether saturated fats should be demonised by politicians and the health lobby.

Backed by the Global Dairy Platform, the research reveals that genetics, lifestyle and age could all play a part in how badly people are affected by their saturated fat intake.

“Variations in factors such as human genetics, life stage and lifestyles can lead to different responses to saturated fat intake,” said J Bruce German, professor and chemist in the Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California at Davis. “Assuming that saturated fat at any intake level is harmful is an over-simplification and not supported by scientific evidence.”

Reserch by Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard University School of Public Health, found that the effects of saturated fat intake on cardiovascular disease risk depended upon simultaneous changes in other nutrients. For example, replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates was found to be ineffective and even harmful, especially when refined carbohydrates such as starches or sugars were used.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) had announced a specific target to reduce the saturated fat content in plain sweet and savoury biscuits, and plain cakes by at least 10%; and 5% in non-plain biscuits and cakes, compared to the level of saturated fat in those products during 2008.

However, this will be reviewed after the FSA’s nutrition remit was transferred to the Department of Health (DoH) and the government announced a lighter approach to regulation.

A formal Public Health Responsibility Deal on sat fats is expected later this year. In November last year, Stephen Airey, outgoing head of sat fat reduction at the DoH, told British Baker that this should achieve the same ends as the previous approach through targets, but was expected to be “lighter on bureaucracy”.

>>DoH aims for lighter touch on nutrition targets