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How Does Excessive Fat Intake Influence Health?

By Nicole Crawford

When it comes to fat, quality is more important than quantity, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Nevertheless, you should limit your fat intake to 20 to 35 percent of your total calorie intake for optimal health. For example, if you consume 2,000 calories daily, only 400 to 700 of those calories should come from fat. Make those calories count by choosing heart-healthy unsaturated fats instead of saturated or trans fats.

Cardiovascular Health

Excessive fat intake is most detrimental to cardiovascular health. Saturated fat is the leading cause of high cholesterol levels in most adults. It is found in a wide variety of foods, many of which are often promoted as healthy, such as milk, cheese and other dairy products. For optimal heart health, limit your intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your overall calorie intake.

Cancer Risk

High fat intake may also contribute to the development of cancer. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, breast, colon and prostate cancer have all been linked to excessive fat consumption. Although it does seem that a high intake of animal fat increases the risk of developing breast and colon cancer, research remains contradictory and the exact link between fat intake and cancer is unclear. Some studies have even suggested a link between unsaturated fats and cancer, while others have shown no link at all between cancer and excessive fat intake.


High fat intake is often thought to cause obesity. However, obesity is not always caused by excessive fat intake. As noted by the Harvard School of Public Health, this is proven by the fact that although Americans have decreased their fat intake in the past few decades, the obesity rates have actually increased. Fatty foods, however, also tend to be high in calories, which is why a high-fat diet may also contribute to weight gain.


For optimal health, consider both the quantity and quality of your overall fat intake. Some fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and essential fatty acids, may actually have health benefits when consumed in moderation. These fats are found in vegetable and plant oils, like corn, canola, olive, sunflower and safflower oil, as well as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and nut butters. You can also decrease your fat intake by choosing lean meats, such as boneless and skinless poultry, and limiting your intake of red meat.

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