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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

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