Everyone knows saturated fats lead to cardiovascular disease. However, a major research review getting media attention this week provides further evidence everyone just might be wrong.
The analysis, led by researchers at Cambridge University and published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, pooled data from 72 studies on relationships between dietary fatty acids and heart disease.
The studies analyzed for the report included over 600,000 participants in 18 different countries. Among the studies, 32 were observational studies of fatty acids from dietary intake, 17 were observational studies of fatty acid biomarkers and 27 were randomized, controlled trials of fatty acid supplementation.
The pooled analysis found no significant link between heart disease and saturated fatty acids, whether measured in the bloodstream or as part of the diet. The researchers also did not find significant evidence showing any reduction in heart-disease risk linked to total monounsaturated fatty acids, long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
When the researchers looked at data relating to bloodstream levels of specific types of fatty acids, they found some evidence linking certain long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids omega-6 fatty acids to lower heart risk. Among saturated fatty acids, they found some data showing weak links between bloodstream levels of palmitic and stearic acids, predominantly found in palm oil and animal fats, respectively, and heart disease, according to an article in Medical News Today. Blood levels of margaric acid however, a saturated fat found in dairy products, appears to significantly reduce heart risk.
The researchers concluded that “Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”
Quoted in the Medical News Today article, professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation which helped fund the study, says "Alongside taking any necessary medication, the best way to stay heart healthy is to stop smoking, stay active, and ensure our whole diet is healthy - and this means considering not only the fats in our diet but also our intake of salt, sugar and fruit and vegetables."