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article imageSaturated fat may not be so bad

By Joe Duarte     Mar 18, 2014 in Health
Cambridge - A recent analysis of data from studies looking at the link between saturated fats and increased risk for heart disease suggests that the “fat is bad for your heart” line of thinking may not be entirely accurate.
The review was authored by an international team of scientists who analyzed data from various sources to arrive at the conclusion that “current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”
It was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, a publication of The American College of Physicians.
The systemic review and meta-data analysis, lead by Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury (a cardiovascular epidemiologist at Cambridge University), looked at 72 studies involving some 600,000 participants, looking at everything from what people typically ate to the amount of fatty acids in their bloodstreams. It also looked at 27 random trials for supplements such as fish oils and how they might influence cardio-vascular health.
And though they didn’t find a definitive link between heart health and the type of fat people take in, they did find one between trans fat and heart disease. Trans fats are naturally found in milk and cattle body fat, but can also be created in hydrogenated oils used in processing fast and snack foods.
Saturated fats are maligned for the way they raise the level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) cholesterol in the bloodstream, raising the risk of heart attacks. However, saturated fats also raise the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) — the so-called “good” cholesterol. Further, Dr. Chowdhury says the LDL particles produced by saturated fats are bigger and not as likely to clog up arteries as the smaller LDL particles from sugary foods or excessive intake of carbohydrates.
Further, the analysis showed that separation along the lines of fat designation should also probably not apply. The research noted that a saturated fat in milk and other dairy products posed a lower cardiovascular risk than did some omega-6 polyunsaturates (those associated with processed foods, in particular), although those polyunsaturates associated with fish oils (omega-3) were deemed beneficial.
The team also looked at fish oil supplements and their effect on reducing heart disease, and found no proof that they did. However, Dr. Chowdhury is quick to point out that those studies involved people who already suffered from heart disease, leading him to believe taking fish-oil supplements doesn’t reverse heart disease but may be able to prevent it in people who have not yet developed it.
"This analysis of existing data suggests there isn't enough evidence to say that a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease," Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the study, told United Press International (UPI). “Large scale clinical studies are needed, as these researchers recommend, before making a conclusive judgment. Alongside taking any necessary medication, the best way to stay heart healthy is to stop smoking, stay active, and ensure our whole diet is healthy -- and this means considering not only the fats in our diet but also our intake of salt, sugar and fruit and vegetables.”
More about Saturated fats, Omega3, Heart disease
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