NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 11, 2006

Consuming just one meal with high concentrations of saturated fat can immediately hinder the ability of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol to prevent clogged arteries, according to a study to be published in the Aug. 15 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers at the Heart Research Institute in Sydney, Australia, had 14 people ages 18 to 40 eat two meals of carrot cake and a milkshake one month apart.  One meal, made with coconut oil, contained high levels of saturated fat; the other, made with safflower oil, was high in polyunsaturated fat.

  • The researchers found that three hours after eating the meal high in saturated fat, the lining of enrollees' arteries was hindered from expanding to increase blood flow. 
  • After six hours, the anti-inflammatory qualities of HDL cholesterol were reduced.
  • In contrast, the cake and milkshake with polyunsaturated fat improved the body's anti-inflammatory qualities, with fewer inflammatory agents found in the arteries than before the meal.

The study, led by Stephen Nicholls, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, lends further credit to research that shows saturated fat leads to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, while HDL cholesterol protects arteries from the inflammation that causes plaque.

"The take-home public health message is this: It's further evidence to support the need to aggressively reduce the amount of saturated fat consumed in the diet," says Nicholls.

According to James O'Keefe, a cardiologist at the Mid American Heart Institute in Kansas City, "Even one meal of a double cheeseburger with fries and a Coke will mess up your system, let alone a steady diet of it, which is a recipe for disaster."

Source: Stephen J. Nicholls et al., "Consumption of Saturated Fat Impairs the Anti-Inflammatory Properties of High-Density Lipoproteins and Endothelial Function," Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 48, No. 4, August 15, 2006.

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