Saturated Fats Not Linked to Heart Disease

Science & Nutrition | Huge meta-analysis study fails to find link between saturated fat and heart disease

Dietary intakes of saturated fats are not linked to cardiovascular disease, so says a meta-analysis of 21 studies from across the world
January 14, 2010

The saturated fat found mainly in meat and dairy products has had a bad reputation, but a new analysis of published studies finds no clear link between people’s intake of saturated fat and their risk of developing heart disease.

Previous research has shown that saturated fat can raise blood levels of the so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol, and elevated LDL is considered a risk factor (although not necessarily a cause) for heart disease and stroke. For this reason, experts generally advise people to limit their intake of fatty meat, butter and full-fat dairy.

But in the new analysis, which combined the results of 21 previous studies, researchers found no evidence that higher saturated fat intakes led to higher risks of heart disease or stroke.

The study challenges the widely supported theory that saturated fats are detrimental to heart health. Data from almost 350,000 subjects obtained from these studies indicated that dietary intakes of saturated fat are not associated with increased risk of either coronary heart disease (CHD) or cardiovascular disease (CVD), US researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Our meta-analysis showed that there is insufficient evidence from prospective epidemiologic studies to conclude that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr. Ronald Krauss from the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California.

Participants, who were generally healthy to start, were surveyed about their diet habits and then followed for anywhere from five to 23 years. Over that time, 11,000 developed heart disease or suffered a stroke. No link between saturated fat intake and CHD, stroke, or CVD risk were observed, and this did not change when the researchers focused their analysis to consider age or sex, or the quality of the study.

Overall, Krauss and his colleagues found, there was no difference in the risks of heart disease and stroke between people with the lowest and highest intakes of saturated fat.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online January 13, 2010.

“Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.”

Authors: PW Siri-Tarino, Q Sun, FB Hu, RM Krauss.

From the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute Oakland CA, Departments of Nutrition, Epidemiology, and Harvard School of Public Health Boston MA.

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