Polyunsaturated Fats May Well Lower Risk of Heart Disease
The Better Life Experts | April 19, 2010

A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health offers strong evidence that replacing saturated fats in our diet has heart benefits. For almost 60 years, health care professionals have been advising Americans to reduce their dietary consumption of saturated fats in order to prevent heart disease. However, it has been found that few benefits are attained by simply reducing our intake of saturated fats alone. Upon analyzing the data from numerous clinical studies, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health found that those people who replaced saturated fats in their diets with polyunsaturated fats had a 19% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who did not make the dietary change. They concluded: “The specific replacement nutrient for saturated fat may be very important. Our findings suggest that polyunsaturated fats would be a preferred replacement for saturated fats for better heart health”. 1

Saturated fats are predominately animal fats, found in meat, whole dairy products, egg yolks and seafood. A few plant foods are also high in saturated fats and include coconut and coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil. Because saturated fats raise blood cholesterol it is important to limit dietary consumption as much as possible. Unsaturated fats (both poly and mono) originate from plant sources such as vegetables, nuts and seeds. These dietary fats increase HDL levels (the good cholesterol) and decrease LDL levels (bad cholesterol). They should be a preferred source of dietary fat when we replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats as recommended in the Harvard study.

When implementing these recommendations it may be helpful to do the following: In general, try to limit the total amount of dietary fat you consume daily to about 25-30% of total calories. Within the dietary fat recommendations, further limit saturated fat to no more than 7-10% of total calories. Become familiar with the information found on the foods you purchase. Food labels provide a great way to calculate the percentage of total fat and particularly saturated fat in foods. Labels containing nutrition information are required for most prepared foods, such as breads, cereals, canned and frozen foods, snacks, desserts, drinks, etc. Additionally, many restaurants and fast food establishments now provide nutritional information for their products upon request. Nutrition labeling for raw produce (fruits and vegetables) and fish is voluntary. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) refers to these products as "conventional" foods. When reading a food label, note that it will list the product's ingredients in order by weight. The ingredient in the greatest amount is listed first. The ingredient in the least amount is listed last. The FDA suggests that if desiring those foods low in saturated fat or total fat, you should limit your use of products that list any fat or oil first--or that list many fat and oil ingredients.

[1] Dariush Mozaffarian, Harvard School of Public Health, News Release, March 22,2010
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