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At a molecular level, saturated fatty acids have no kinks caused by double bonds in their carbon chains. This means that the molecules are capable of packing tightly together, allowing foods that are high in saturated fats (like butter, cheese, and lard) to remain solid at room temperature. There are many health risk factors associated with a diet high in saturated fat.

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There's some important history behind how this term is used by movement activists today. I wonder if perhaps there's not a scientific concensus on the question of "health risks," which are linked to the term, above. At least, there's not a Movement concensus. There was a big increase in focus on this with the development of transfats and hydrogenated oils, for example, in advertisements (i.e. by the transfat industrial complex,) during the 1960s. They then falsely influenced the McGovern congressional committee on nutrition during the 1960s, leading food activists, (especially vegetarians?) to tout the (claimed) benefits of transfats and hydrogenated oils over saturated fats, (for example, in early versions of the best selling book Diet for a Small Planet?). Mary Enig, a fat researcher, was an early critic of the claims of the transfat complex, but it took decades for transfats and hydrogenated oils to be seen as bad (and have we yet arrived with the latter?). The Weston A. Price Foundation, (with Enig, and which has worked on this issue for decades,) tells this history and makes the case (i.e. here http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-oiling-of-america/) and gives the benefits of Saturated fat in contrast to the hazards of transfats, for example, in a simple brochure, here (http://www.westonaprice.org/wp-content/uploads/TransfatBrochure.pdf). A nutritionist told me that said it took 30 years to get medical doctors here to stop recommending margarine to heart patients. I'm sure this will continue to be an issue that divides us. We see that in discussions related to the recent dietary guidelines (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/06/05/1390888/-Anomalies-in-the-Dieta...). By the way, note that it says here "associated" with health risks, meaning a correlation, not a causation. I think that's the same term that's used in the newly proposed dietary guidelines.

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