Does saturated fat increase the risk of diabetes?

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) released a review in their August 2020 publication stating that recent meta-analyses of clinical trials and observational studies have found no beneficial effects from limiting saturated fatty acids (SFA) in the diet. Those meta-analyses found that saturated fat has a protective effect against stroke.

The review stated “Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of CVD [Cardiovascular disease]. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.”

The review went on to say that increased risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, CVD, heart failure, and mortality tracked closely with dietary carbohydrate intake. This goes against what we are told by most dietitians and medical professionals.

What do the dietary guidelines say?

Current dietary recommendations advise limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories. Carbohydrates are recommended to be 50-60% of total calories.

This is just the latest published evidence that reducing saturated fat has not been found to be beneficial. The evidence against reducing SFA intake has been mounting over the last few years but nutrition education and the dietary guidelines have yet to catch up.

This review goes into detail about the reasons behind the saturated fat recommendations and the benefits of different whole foods which contain high levels of saturated fat.

Should you make dietary changes?

It is important to note that carbohydtrates, fat, and protein effect everyone differently. Some people do well on a higher carb diet while others do well on a higher fat diet. This is the biggest problem with the dietary guidelines. It assumes there is a one size fit all approach to nutrition. If that were true, there would be no reason for dietitians to exist.

Despite there not being a one size fits all approach, dietary saturated fat is still limited for most people. Americans tend to buy low-fat products and avoid red meat and butter. While the attention has been on lowering saturated fat, processed carbohydrates have gone under the radar.

Though this review points out the issues with carbohydrate consumption and their connection to disease and mortality, try not to fret about foods like starchy vegetables and fruits. Processed food and particularly processed carbohydrates are extremely high in most diets. Reducing or eliminating those foods is the best way to ensure good health.

Practical Applications:

  • Increase your saturated fat intake by no longer limiting high-fat foods
  • Stop purchasing low-fat products
  • Reduce your processed carbohydrate intake
  • Increase whole foods

If you need help identifying processed carbs or whole foods email me at and be sure to follow me on instagram @jessbnutrition.


  1. Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food-Based Recommendations: JACC State-of-the-Art Review