Saturated Fat

Saturated Fat Content on labels

Saturated fat
Pirate’s Booty, Aged White Cheddar (2017, B&G Foods, Inc.)

There is currently no safe level of saturated fat to consume, however, saturated fat is unavoidable, therefore keeping total saturated fat intake as low as possible is essential for improving cardiovascular health. Example from label: 1g of saturated fat in 1 ounce. It is recommended that patients avoid this product as it contains oil, which means it contains a small amount trans fat (Food and Drug Administration, 2015, para. 6). The percentage of fat of this product is also greater than 20%. Also, the saturated fat content is high for being a relatively small serving size.

According to the Institute of Medicine ([IOM], 2002) “the report doesn’t set maximum levels for saturated fat, cholesterol, or trans fatty acids, as increased risk exists at levels above zero, however the recommendation is to eat as little as possible while consuming a diet adequate in important other essential nutrients” (para. 8). According to the IOM (2002) “a UL (tolerable upper intake level) is not set for saturated fatty acids because any incremental increase in saturated fatty acids intake increases CHD (coronary heart disease) risk” (p. 422).

Look for saturated fat on the label. Saturated fat is unavoidable. Major sources of saturated fat, according to the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture (2015), “include animal products such as meats and dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut or palm oils” (p. 92). Saturated fat can be found in both animal-based foods as well as plant-based foods. Higher fat plant-based foods tend to have more saturated fat. Generally, plant-based foods have relatively smaller amounts of saturated fat.

Some foods may claim they have 0g of saturated fat even though the food product contains animal flesh or animal byproducts as well as tropical oils. Food companies may even claim “No saturated fat”, “Saturated fat free” or “Zero saturated fat” even though their products may contain saturated fat.

How can food manufacturers develop labels that claim the product is “saturated fat free” even if their product contains animal flesh, animal byproducts, or coconut oil, palm oil, or palm kernel oil?

FDA Labeling Laws: According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21 food and drugs, chapter 1 – food and drug administration, department of health and human services subchapter B – Food for Human consumption Volume 2 Part 101 – Food Labeling, Subpart D – Specific Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims 101.62 Nutrient Content Claims for fat, fatty acids, and cholesterol content of foods states the “saturated fat free” claim can be made if:

The food contains less than 0.5 g of saturated fat and less than 0.5 g trans fatty acid per reference amount customarily consumed and per labeled serving, or in the case of a meal product or main dish product, less than 0.5 g of saturated fat and less than 0.5 g trans fatty acid per labeled serving (para. 34).

Therefore, if a product’s serving size contains less than .5g saturated fat, for example .49g of saturated fat, than a claim of 0g saturated fat can be made. Yet, as the IOM (2002) recognized “increased risk exists at levels above zero” for saturated fat intake (para. 8). Until labeling laws are changed, it is everyone’s responsibility to read labels very closely.

**Tips for avoiding saturated fat: Avoid purchasing foods that contain animal flesh or animal byproducts. Avoid purchasing refined plant-based foods, junk foods, and snack foods that contain coconut oil, coconut milk, and palm oil and palm kernel oil as these contain large amounts of saturated fat. Always review the ingredient statement, nutrition facts panel, and serving size. By avoiding animal flesh and animal byproducts, you can avoid consuming high amounts of saturated fat. Avoiding edible oils and tropical oils such as coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil can also limit saturated fat intake.

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