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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid