Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Saturated fat is not the major issue

Public Health England endorses limiting saturated fat intake

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 19 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6850
  1. Alison Tedstone, director of diet and obesity1,
  2. Vicki Pyne, public health nutritionist1
  1. 1Public Health England, London SE1 8UG, UK
  1. PHE.Enquiries{at}

Malhotra’s article is based on limited evidence.1 Government recommendations of limiting saturated fat intake to no more than 11% of total food energy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease are based on longstanding advice from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy.2 These recommendations are also endorsed by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which provides the UK with independent scientific advice on nutrition. The advice is in line with recent thorough assessments made by the Institute of Medicine (2005), WHO (2008), and the European Food Safety Authority (2010).

Good evidence from randomised controlled trials shows that saturated fat consumption influences cholesterol concentrations and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. For example, a meta-analysis of 16 trials found that heart attacks and deaths from heart disease were significantly reduced in studies that significantly lowered serum cholesterol by replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat.3 A Cochrane systematic review concluded that reducing or modifying fat intakes to reduce saturated intake lowered the risk of cardiovascular events by 14%.4 The combined results of 14 trials investigating statins also found that a sustained 1 mmol/L reduction in low density lipoprotein-cholesterol over five years reduced major vascular events by 23%.5

On the basis of all the evidence, Public Health England will continue to advise people to eat a diet that is low in saturated fat and it supports the Department of Health’s responsibility deal incentives to reduce saturated fat in foods. Public Health England also supports broader changes to the diet, including reductions in salt, sugar, and energy intake and increases in fruit and vegetable consumption.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6850



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