Good Fat vs. Bad Fat

Quality of Fat, Not Quantity, Could be Dietary Key to Avoiding Heart Disease and Stroke

Jan. 24, 2005 - You are what you eat: Getting more fish and good fats can keep heart disease and stroke at bay, new research shows.

Two studies with those conclusions appear in this week's issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Fat Matters in Heart Disease

In the first report, middle-aged men who substituted more good fat -- such as omega fatty acids (linoleic acids) and polyunsaturated fats - were 60% less likely to die early of heart disease than men who ate the least amounts of these good fats in their diets, reports lead researcher David E. Laaksonen, MD, PhD, with the University of Kuopio in Finland.

That study involved 1,551 middle-aged men living in eastern Finland. Researchers obtained information on the men's daily intake of linoleic acid and the total polyunsaturated fats in their diet. Researchers then looked at medical records on the men 15 years later to find out about heart disease and deaths.

Men who got the most linoleic acid and polyunsaturated fat got "substantial" heart protection compared with those who ate less fat of any kind, reports Laaksonen. They were 62% less likely to die of heart disease than other men in the study, he says.

Dietary fat quality seems to be more important than fat quantity in the reduction of cardiovascular disease mortality in men, he concludes. Linoleic acid is found in oils like olive, corn, safflower, soybean, canola, and sunflower.

To Prevent Stroke, Don't Fry Fish

Lots of fish prevents stroke in elderly people, but don't fry it!

Studies looking at health benefits between fish consumption and stroke risk come up with definite conclusions, writes Daariush Mozaffarian, MD, MPH, an epidemiologist with Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

In his study, Mozaffarian analyzed medical records for 4,775 adults over age 65, all without heart disease at the study's beginning. He also got diet information on each, including whether they ate fish and how it was fixed. Then he looked at their medical records 12 years later.

There were 626 strokes among these elderly people. He found that those who ate more tuna and other fish had a lower risk of strokes.

Compared to people eating fish less than once a month, he shows that:

  • Those who ate tuna and other non-fried fish one to four times a week had a 27% lower risk of stroke. Those eating fish five or more times per week had 30% less stroke risk.
  • Those eating fried fish and fish sandwiches had higher stroke risk - 44% higher risk if they ate it more than once a week.

They say their study shows that fish consumption may influence stroke risk later in life. The explanation for how this occurs remain unclear and warrants further study, they write.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Laaksomen, D. Archives of Internal Medicine, Jan. 24, 2005; vol 165: pp 193-199. Mozaffarian, D. Archives of Internal Medicine, Jan. 24, 2005; vol 165: pp 200-206.
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