Polyunsaturated fats reduce the risk of coronary heart disease

Eating polyunsaturated fats may protect against coronary heart disease. However, merely omitting saturated fats has no influence on this risk. Finnish researchers arrived at this conclusion in a study published in «Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology».

The physicians at the University of Eastern Finland (Kuopio) analysed data from 1,981 men, aged 42 to 60, who recorded their dietary habits between 1984 and 1989 and whose medical development was followed for 21 years. During this time, coronary heart disease was diagnosed in 565 participants, of which 183 had died.

Using computer models, the researchers determined which health effect replacing saturated fatty acids with other foods had. The study showed that consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish, vegetable oils and nuts always had a positive effect on heart risk, no matter whether they replaced saturated fats, trans fats or carbohydrates. On the other hand, the risk increased through the consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates did not affect the likelihood. The glycaemic index of carbohydrates also did not play a role.

Similar associations were found with different fatty acids and atherosclerosis.