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Don’t Be a Sat-Fathead

Don’t Be a Sat-Fathead

The urban dictionary defines "Fat-Head Syndrome" as someone who acts like a blowhard. But researchers at Louisiana State University Inflammation and Neurodegeneration Laboratory have found that a diet high in saturated fat—more than 13% of calories from sat fat—can cause a lot more than a bad case of know-it-all-itis! It affects your brain and that leads to anxiety, memory problems and other not-so-great changes in behavior.

Working in the lab, researchers transplanted gut bacteria from mice that ate a high sat-fat diet into thin mice that ate a lowfat diet. Lo and behold, the thin mice developed brain inflammation and had behavior changes that were the same as those of their sat-fat-munching buddies.

What does this mean for you? There’s every reason to think that—even if you’re not overweight—eating a high saturated fat diet throws your gut bacteria way off balance and puts you at risk for body-wide inflammation. That means you’re in for heart and immune system problems, and brain inflammation that can affect your behavior and emotional wellbeing.

A moderate amount of fat is essential for your good health, but it has to be the right kind: mono- and polyunsaturated and the odd fatty omega acids 3 and 9. So aim for at most 25% percent of your daily calories from healthy fats. And make sure in a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet that no more than 2% to 6% of your calories (max 120) come from saturated fat. You’ll be healthier and happier!

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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