Saturated fat is fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids (SAFA). Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the individual carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. That is, the chain of carbon atoms is fully "saturated" with hydrogen atoms. Some common examples of fatty acids are :

  • Butyric acid with 4 carbon atoms (contained in butter)
  • Lauric acid with 12 carbon atoms (contained in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and breast milk)
  • Myristic acid with 14 carbon atoms (contained in cow's milk and dairy products)
  • Palmitic acid with 16 carbon atoms (contained in palm oil and meat)
  • Stearic acid with 18 carbon atoms (also contained in meat and cocoa butter)

Since the 1950s, it has been commonly believed that consumption of foods containing high amounts of saturated fatty acids (including meat fats, milk fat, butter, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil) is potentially less healthy than consuming fats with a lower proportion of saturated fatty acids. Some of the diseases correlated to intake of fats rich in saturated fatty acids are:

Cardiovascular disease:

The consumption of saturated fat is generally considered a risk factor for dyslipidemia, which in turn is a risk factor for some types of cardiovascular disease. There are strong, consistent, and graded relationships between saturated fat intake, blood cholesterol levels, and the mass occurrence of cardiovascular disease. The relationships are accepted as causal. Abnormal blood lipid levels, that is high total cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, "bad" cholesterol) or low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, &good& cholesterol) cholesterol all increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Meta-analyses have found a significant relationship between saturated fat and serum cholesterol levels. High total cholesterol levels, which may be caused by many factors, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Breast cancer:

A meta-analysis published in 2003 found a significant positive relationship in both control and cohort studies between saturated fat and breast cancer.

Colorectal cancer:

A systematic literature review published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research in 2007 found limited but consistent evidence for a positive relationship between animal fat and colorectal cancer.

Ovarian cancer:

A meta-analysis of eight observational studies published in 2001 found a statistically significant positive relationship between saturated fat and ovarian cancer.

Prostate cancer:

Some researchers have indicated that serum myristic acid and palmitic acid and dietary myristic and palmitic saturated fatty acids and serum palmitic combined with alpha-tocopherol supplementation are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer in a dose-dependent manner.

Bone problems:

Studies have indicated that bone mineral density is negatively associated with saturated fat intake, and that men may be particularly vulnerable