R P Mensink, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

E H M Temme, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Fats and oils always consist of a mixture of fatty acids, although one or two fatty acids are usually predominant. Table 1 shows the fatty acid composition of some edible fats rich in saturated fatty acids. In the Western diet, palmitic acid (C16:0) is the major saturated fatty acid. A smaller proportion comes from stearic acid (C18:0), followed by myristic acid (C14:0), lauric acid (C12:0), and short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) (C10:0 or less).

When discussing the health effects of the total saturated fat content of diets, this class of fatty acids has to be compared with some other component of the diet that provides a similar amount of energy (isoenergetic). Otherwise, two variables are being introduced: changes in total dietary energy intake and, as a consequence, changes in body weight. Normally, an isoenergetic amount from carbohydrates is used for comparisons.

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