Trimming the Fat: Study Questions Link Between Fat and Heart Health

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The days of fat-shaming saturated fats might be numbered. A review of research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that the evidence on hand does not support guidelines advocating diets low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fat as a way to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Instead, what the researchers discovered is that there are not statistically significant associations between fat intake and heart disease. The exception to this was trans fat. When that came under the evaluative microscope, a link between consumption and risk of heart disease was observed. For the other types of fats — saturated and unsaturated — researchers “found essentially null associations between total saturated fatty acids and coronary risk.”

Under current guidelines, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are recommended because they have been considered as better options, providing important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids the body needs. These fats are mainly found in nuts, fish, olive and vegetable oils, and flaxseed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tell people to limit the amount of saturated fats in their diets. Saturated fats appear commonly in butter, high-fat cheeses, ice cream, and oils, and should be avoided because of their ties to heart disease. For trans fat, the CDC says to look for products that do not contain any trans fats.

These are the guidelines for Americans, but other standards exist elsewhere in the world. In introducing the topic, the researchers noted the lack of international cohesion on how much fat is too much fat. To clarify confusion concerning fat consumption, the researchers undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of previously conducted studies. The results are based on 72 studies with more than 600,000 total participants coming from 18 different countries.

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