Of the saturated fatty acids present in the average diet, there appear to be only two that are concerned with the elevation in serum cholesterol levels, a Harvard University investigator reported.
These are myristic acid and palmitic acid, said D. Mark Hegsted, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health. Of the two, myristic acid is the most potent, accounting for 67% of the variation in serum cholesterol levels in a controlled diet study.
The two saturated acids together accounted for 80% of the observed changes in serum cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated acids and dietary cholesterol accounted for another 11% of the changes.
The studies were conducted with men in a mental institution who were physically normal and had average serum cholesterol levels for their ages.
Test diets were developed to provide sufficient caloric intake to maintain weight. The fatty acid and dietary cholesterol content of the diets were varied. So far, 36