Eating healthier fats could save more than a million people dying from heart disease, says recent research adding that the types of diet changes needed would differ greatly between countries.
The study, conducted at Tufts University in Boston, US, claims to have provided for the first time a rigorous comparison of global heart disease burdens estimated to be attributable to insufficient intake of polyunsaturated fats versus higher intake to saturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood which can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
“Worldwide, policymakers are focused on reducing saturated fats. Yet, we found there would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if the priority was to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as to reduce trans fats,” said study author Dariush Mozaffarian.
The findings were published in Journal of theAmerican Heart Association.
Foods that contain polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn and sunflower oils, tofu, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. Saturated fats are found in meat, cheeses and fat-containing dairy products, as well as palm and coconut oils.
To estimate the number of annual deaths related to various patterns of fat consumption, researchers used diet and food availability information from 186 countries.
Using 2010 data, 711,800 heart disease deaths worldwide were estimated to be due to eating too little healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, such as healthy vegetable oils, as a replacement for both saturated fats and refined carbohydrates. That accounted for 10.3 percent of total global heart disease deaths.
In comparison, about one-third of this — 250,900 heart disease deaths — resulted from excess consumption of saturated fats instead of healthier vegetable oils — accounting for 3.6 percent of global heart disease deaths.
“These findings should be of great interest to both the public and policy-makers around the world, helping countries to set their nutrition priorities to combat the global epidemic of heart disease,” Mozaffarian said.