Saturated fat intake increases risk of cancer; good fat reduces risk

Saturated fat intake increases risk of cancer; good fat reduces risk
The type of fat you consume appears crucial in terms of increased risk of cancer and switching from saturated fat to unsaturated fat consumption can lower risk, according to multi-center research; the consumption of saturated fat increases inflammation.
Saturated fat increases cancer risk
In a large international study, researchers from Imperial College London, the US National Cancer Institute, Washington University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt and more, found that saturated fat intake was linked to a higher incidence of lung cancer amongst smokers.  The Epidemiology study (1) involved some 10 cohort studies in the USA, Europe and Asia and over 1.4 million people. 
The link between saturated fat consumption and cancer was highest for current smokers than for former smokers or those with squamous cell and small cell carcinoma. 
By contrast, those people with a high intake of good oils, like polyunsaturated fats, had a decreased risk of lung cancer.
Indeed, just a 5 per cent switch in consumption between saturated fat and ‘good fat’ such as olive oil was linked to a 16 to 17 per cent DECREASE in the risk of small cell and squamous cell carcinoma. This was a real life, observational study.
Saturated fat consumption increases cancer risk
As long ago as 2006, experiments with mice showed that lower fat levels were linked to less skin cancer (2). In 2015, research showed that a key issue was inflammation. Saturated fat consumption causes inflammation in the body, and inflammation can drive cancer. One study, also from Imperial, showed that higher saturated fat consumption causes immune cells to migrate into the organs and this produces a high inflammatory situation (3). This does not occur with unsaturated fats.
On of the major reasons, often overlooked by 'Health Experts' is the effect different fats have on your gut bacteria. For example, in a Study from Holland in 2021 looking a foods and food groups and their effects on gut bacteria, 'good' oils (Olive oil, Fish oil, walnut oil, avocado oil) increased levels of gut bacteria in the microbiome, each making anti-inflammatory molecules; whereas saturated fats increased levels of gut bacteria causing inflammation in the body (4).
Foods from the Rainbow Diet featured heavily in the study - ‘good fats and oils’ (extra virgin olive oil, fish oils from salmon, tuna, mackerel, nut oils like walnut and certain plant oils like avocado) are essential to your good health. For example, Fish oils give high levels of anti-inflammatory omega 3, while seed oils such as sesame or rapeseed can provide high levels of inflammatory omega 6.
'Unsaturated fats' listed by the American Cancer Society (5) are termed by them to be the “bad” kind and are found in meat and other animal products, such as butter, cheese, and all milk except skim. They are often solid at room temperature. Some oils, such as palm and coconut oils, are also very high in saturated fats. Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, and both Coconut Oil and Palm oil contain quite high levels of inflammatory palmitic acid. To avoid controversy, there is a meta-analysis of 21 research studies, which shows that coconut oil increases 'bad' LDL levels and that substituting the oil with unsaturated fat (olive oil) would reduce cardiovascular risk factors (6).
Saturated fat, Cancer, Heart disease
Please be clear:  On our sister site,, we have told you of two meta-studies in 2010 and 2014 that show there is no increased risk of coronary heart disease for people who consume the highest levels of saturated fat, over those who consume the least. The controlling factor in cardiovascular disease appears to be sugar consumption and insulin more than fat per se
In the USA none-the-less, Dr. Chauncey Crandall of the Palm Beach Heart Clinic advocates switching consumption of saturated fat into good fat, so that the balance is 70% in favour of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, as we listed above under ‘good oils’.
Unfortunately, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a top UK cardiologist advocated a high fat diet for all humans in the Pioppi diet, not just people at risk of cardiovascular disease.  There is even a BBC documentary being made about this diet. The belief is that any and all fat - unsaturated, and saturated – is good for you.
This conclusion is quite wrong.  Even with cardiovascular disease, experts like Crandall believe it is about 'the balance' or 'the ratio' of the two groups. Some saturated fats may be fine if you want to prevent heart disease, this is not our area of expertise.  Saturated fat consumption is not good for people wishing to survive cancer. Again, given it is hard to avoid saturated fat consumption, with cancer this is also likely to be about 'the balance' between the fat types.
High saturated fat and hormonal cancers
High saturated fat is known to lead to higher oestrogen levels in the body and more hormonally driven cancers like prostate, breast and ovarian  We have covered all of this in our Research Center. We have also featured articles - for example, by Nutrition expert Gosia Desmond (7) - showing links between breast and prostate cancers and saturated fat intake in during a person’s teens.
Finally, we have also covered research (8) where high levels of triglycerides in the blood stream were linked to greater cancer metastases and lowered survival.
On a personal level, having lived on the Mediterranean on and off for more than 30 years, I cannot believe that a set of poor Italian villagers near the coast of eat a lot of saturated fat. Copious amounts of cows’ dairy and red meat? Highly unlikely.  
Far more likely is the lifestyle, sunshine, red wine, copious fresh vegetables and herbs and healthy fats like olive oil and fish with walnuts and almonds, as I advocate in the colourful Mediterranean Diet. It's a diet backed by, now, over 90 studies. 
  2. Fat cells and cancer risk; NIH Research Matters;
  3. Saturated fats damage health by promoting inflammation; Dr K Woollard, Imperial College;
  4. Gut Microbiome Study links Rainbow Diet foods to good health;
  5. American Cancer Socirety - fats -
  6. Coconut oil and cardiovascular risk factors in Humans; 2016, Lawrence Eyres et al;‘blood%20fat’%20levels


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