Dietary Fat And Your Heart

Although it may sound logical, that dietary fat will make you fat, is just a myth that is not medically or scientifically based.

The Journal Lancet published a large cohort study that included more than 135,000 people in 18 countries. The conclusion of the study found that dietary fat doesn't cause heart disease nor strokes. What did the study find that is driving heart disease and strokes? A high carbohydrate diet.

different types of dietary fatThe study assessed the associations between consumption of carbohydrates, total dietary fat, and each type of fat with cardiovascular disease and total mortality. The fats included:

  • Saturated fat
  • Monounsaturated fat
  • Polyunsaturated fat

Over the course of the study the researchers documented 5,796 deaths and 4,784 major cardiovascular disease events. They found that higher carbohydrate intake was associated with an increased risk of total mortality. And that the consumption of total dietary fat and each type of fat, was associated with lower risk of total mortality.



The researchers also found that higher saturated fat intake was associated with lower risk of stroke. And that total fat, saturated fat and unsaturated fats were not significantly associated with risk of myocardial infarction or cardiovascular disease mortality.

They concluded the study saying:

"High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality. Whereas saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke. Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings."

The More You Know

Inverse Association or Inverse Correlation also known as negative correlation, is a contrary relationship between two variables (in this case dietary fat intake and heart disease or stroke) such that they move in opposite directions.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary defines inverse as an inverted state, a direct opposite.

Webster Dictionary defines inverse as opposite in order, relation, or effect.

Definitions.Net

What Other Studies Have Reported About Dietary Fat

For decades, health officials have urged the public to avoid saturated fat as much as possible, saying it should be replaced with the unsaturated fats in foods like nuts, fish, seeds and vegetable oils.

Health officials have also encouraged a low-fat, high-carb diet. But the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that there is no benefits for a low-fat diet.

Jennifer Fitzgibbon - dietary fat
Jennifer Fitzgibbon

The body needs fat and if you eliminate too much fat from your diet, it can have serious health consequences explains Jennifer Fitzgibbon, a registered oncology dietitian at Stony Brook Hospital Cancer Center.

Jennifer says that mental health issues and vitamin deficiencies can occur. Vitamins like A, D, E and K are fat soluble, meaning they need fat to attach too so they can do their job. The body stores them as well in fatty tissue and the liver.

The intestines need dietary fat as well explains Jennifer to properly absorb these fat soluble nutrients. These vitamins benefit the health of your skin, bones and cardiovascular system.

Liz Weinandy, an outpatient dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center says, "It appears more and more that perhaps saturated fats like butter, cream and other types coming from animals are not as harmful as we once thought."

The journal American Society for Clinical Nutrition in 2004 after comparing studies on saturated dietary fat, concluded saying that a high-fat, high–saturated fat diet is associated with diminished coronary artery disease.



The journal Annals of Internal Medicine, reported saying that their studies did not find any association of individuals who ate higher levels of saturated fat with heart disease.

Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury - dietary fat
Image Credit: British Heart Foundation

Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury a cardiovascular epidemiologist at Cambridge University says that it’s not saturated fat that we should worry about in our diets.

Dr. Chowdhury and his colleagues evaluate nearly 80 studies involving more than a half million people. They looked at what they reported eating, and also the composition of fatty acids in their bloodstreams and fat tissue.

No evidence was found on the dangers or negative impact on human health from saturated fat. But they did find a correlation between trans fats and heart disease.

Explaining The Raise Of LDL By Saturated Dietary Fat

But what about the claim that saturated dietary fat increases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL, the kind that raises the risk for heart disease?

Dr. Chowdhury says the relationship between saturated fat and LDL is complex. Saturated fat not only raises LDL cholesterol, but also increases high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, what is considered good cholesterol.

The LDL that saturated fat increases, is a subtype of big, fluffy particles that are considered benign. Doctors refer to a preponderance of these particles as LDL pattern A.

The smallest and densest form of LDL is more dangerous. These particles are easily oxidized and are more likely to set off inflammation and contribute to the buildup of artery-narrowing plaque.

large and small LDL particles - dietary fatAn LDL profile that consists mostly of these particles, known as pattern B, usually coincides with high triglycerides and low levels of HDL, both risk factors for heart attacks and stroke.

The smaller, more artery-clogging particles are increased not by saturated fat says Dr. Chowdhury, but by sugary foods and an excess of carbohydrates.

If anything is driving low-density lipoproteins in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.

The study found a cardiovascular risk with omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, commonly found in vegetable oils and processed foods. High consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has been shown to induce chronic body wide inflammation.

Changing Your Risk Factors

Risk factors are conditions that increase your risk of developing a disease. Risk factors are either modifiable, meaning you can take measures to change them.

DIET is modifiableWith that said, YOUR DIET is modifiable, the most important modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Current U.S. government guidelines recommend a diet or less than 30% fat consumption and limiting saturated fatty acids to less than 10% of food intake and replacing them with unsaturated fatty acids.

Should these guide lines be changed in view of what recent scientific studies have found on dietary fat intake? If so, when and by whom?

Important questions YOU should be asking. And rightly so, because it's your heart that is involved.

The Lancet study mentioned earlier in the article, was publish in November of 2017 and concluded with saying, "Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings."

Are you going to wait until the guidelines of dietary fat intake are changed, or will you take action now?



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