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Eating more healthy fats could decrease heart disease risk

Decreasing saturated fats and trans fats lowers the risk of death from heart disease, but increasing polyunsaturated fats has a more dramatic effect.

By Stephen Feller
Eating more healthy fats could decrease heart disease risk
Researchers found the number of heart disease-related deaths from too few polyunsaturated fats was three times the number attributed to too many saturated fats and trans fats. Photo by alexpro9500/Shutterstock

BOSTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Replacing bad dietary fats with good ones may lower the risk for developing heart disease, researchers at Tufts University found in a recent study.

The researchers said consuming fewer saturated fats is beneficial to health, but increasing the amount of polyunsaturated fats also helps reduce bad cholesterol levels and provides fats essential to the body.

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Increasing good fats in people's diets could prevent one million deaths from heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Polyunsaturated fats are found in soybean, corn, and sunflower oils, tofu, nuts, seeds, and in fatty fish such as salmon, mackeral, herring, and trout.

"Worldwide, policymakers are focused on reducing saturated fats," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in a press release. "Yet, we found there would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if the priority was to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as to reduce trans fats."

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For the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed country-specific dietary surveys, food availability data, and industry reports on fats and oils in packaged foods for 186 countries. This information was used, with data from the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases study on coronary heart disease to find the effects of varying levels of both types of fat on health.

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The researchers found 711,800 heart disease deaths could be attributed to eating too little omega-6 polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates -- accounting for 10.3 percent of total global death from heart disease.

In comparison, 250,900 heart disease deaths were due to an excess consumption of saturated fats, about 3.6 percent of global heart disease deaths, and 537,200, or 7.7 percent of the global total, were due to excess consumption of trans fats.

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"These findings should be of great interest to both the public and policy makers around the world, helping countries to set their nutrition priorities to combat the global epidemic of heart disease," Mozaffarian said.

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