Could prevent more than a million heart disease deaths worldwide each year, researchers estimate
By Kathleen Doheny
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- For years, experts have preached the gospel of eating "healthy" fats and limiting "unhealthy" fats. Now, a new study contends that if people worldwide began to eat healthier fats, there might be more than a million fewer deaths from heart disease every year.
Although a great deal of attention has been focused on reducing saturated fats from the diet, the researchers said the focus should be two-fold: reducing unhealthy fats such as saturated fat and trans fats, and replacing them with healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated fats.
"Our findings highlight the importance of ending America's fear of all fat. We estimate that nearly 50,000 Americans die of heart disease each year due to low intake of vegetable oils," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, senior study author and dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.
However, while the study found an association between risk of death from heart disease and the types of fats consumed, it didn't prove cause-and-effect.
The study was published online Jan. 20 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in fatty fish (such as salmon, herring, mackerel and trout), soybeans, tofu, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oils and seeds, and walnuts. These fats help lower bad cholesterol, and have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Saturated fats are found in meat and dairy products. Trans fats are found in processed, baked and fried foods, according to the AHA.
To estimate the number of deaths linked to various patterns of fat consumption, Mozaffarian and his team used diet information from 186 countries. They looked at research from previous studies that followed people over long periods of time to see how eating certain fats affects heart disease risk. Death rate information was gathered from a 2010 study.
Using all of that information, the researchers estimated that more than 700,000 deaths worldwide each year, or about 10 percent of heart disease deaths, were due to eating too little healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, as opposed to saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.