For years, government agencies and health organizations have encouraged people to limit their intake of saturated fats — the kinds found in some dairy and meat products — in favor of unsaturated fats instead, but a new study calls into question the actual benefits of such recommendations.

A review of more than 70 studies involving consumption of fatty acids found that a reduced intake of saturated fats, like butter, in favor of polyunsaturated fats does not necessarily equate to better heart health. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

A review of more than 70 studies involving consumption of fatty acids found that a reduced intake of saturated fats, like butter, in favor of polyunsaturated fats does not necessarily equate to better heart health. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

A review led by the University of Cambridge found that “current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.” In short, the review of dozens of studies evaluating fat consumption does not necessarily point to better heart health if saturated fats are avoided.

“The pattern of findings from this review did not support the current cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of total long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and suggest reduced consumption of total saturated fatty acids,” the study’s lead author Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury told Reuters.

But does this mean people are now at liberty to start slathering more butter on their bread? Other experts say not so fast.

“People need to eat as has been recommended — this paper changes nothing about the adverse impact of saturated fat,” Linda Van Horn, from Northwestern University who chaired the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, told Reuters. ”People like their burgers and their hot dogs, but this study still doesn’t make them nutritious.”

Watch this video from the New York Times, which includes some information about this study’s findings:

The study authors acknowledged that in some cases, people self-reporting their dietary fat intake might have skewed the findings if they weren’t fully aware of what kind of fat they were consuming.

The review was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Featured image via Shutterstock.