News / Health

Eating More 'Good' Fats Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Reducing saturated fat in diet alone isn't enough, study says

People who eat more polyunsaturated fats have been found to have a lower risk of heart disease.
People who eat more polyunsaturated fats have been found to have a lower risk of heart disease.

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

For years, doctors have been telling patients to cut down on saturated fats — the kinds of fats in meats and milk, for example. Reducing fat in the diet, especially saturated fat, was believed to be an important strategy to reduce heart disease.

Now, a new study says reducing fats isn't enough. We have to focus on the kinds of fats we eat.  

Previous studies found that people who ate a lot of saturated fats were more likely to have a lot of the kinds of cholesterol that can clog arteries and lead to heart attacks. But there was little direct evidence to show that cutting saturated fats actually lowered the risk of heart disease.

"And we wanted to look at whether replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, with a healthy fat rather than, for example, with carbohydrates or protein or other things, was beneficial," says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health. He thought the answer might lie in the numerous studies over the years that looked at diet and heart disease.

"And so, we wanted to do a systematic review of all the literature, find all of the appropriate studies and pool them to see if together, there's a benefit for replacing saturated fat specifically with polyunsaturated fat."

So Mozaffarian and his colleagues studied the studies, eight of them, in which some participants ate less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fats, the kind of fats that are in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. They were compared with a control group that had more saturated fat in their diets.

This kind of research is called a meta-analysis. Often combining the results of several similar studies can produce conclusions that the individual studies don't support. Sometimes that's partly because combining studies increases the number of people participating in the research. In this case, the combined studies included more than 13,000 people.

Reducing saturated fats may reduce cholesterol, but low fat diets alone don't seem to do much to actually reduce clogged arteries and heart attacks.

"There's actually, in the last several years, been convincing evidence that replacing saturated fat in one's diet with carbohydrates has very little effect on heart disease. And so if that's not going to produce benefit, what sorts of replacements [for saturated fats] might?"

Mozaffarian's study found that people who replaced saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat had about a 20 percent lower risk of heart attack or other heart disease.

It's still not exactly clear how the polyunsaturated fats confer this benefit. But the researcher says their effect on cholesterol may be part of the answer.

"So for example, dietary fats also actually, in many cases, improve HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol, compared to carbohydrates, and they actually lower triglycerides, a type of blood lipid which is associated with harm."

But Mozaffarian said dietary fats may also affect blood pressure and inflammation of the blood vessels; they may even have an impact on the heart's electrical function.

Whatever the mechanism, the study does suggest some guidance for people who want to lower their risk of heart disease.

"They can't just look at a product that says 'low grams of saturated fat' or 'low saturated fat' and assume that it's healthy," he said. "If you're taking out the saturated fat, what are you replacing it with?"

And it doesn't mean we have to spend a lot of time parsing the nutritional labeling that is now on packaged foods in many countries.

"If someone says I should eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and avoid processed foods, sugary beverages, and foods with trans fats or high in salt, that's actually much simpler, I think, than chasing all of these numbers."

Professor Dariush Mozaffarian of Harvard School of Public Health. His study was published this week in the journal PLoS Medicine.

You May Like

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid