For years, experts have preached the gospel of eating “healthy” fats and limiting “unhealthy” fats. Now, a new study contends that if people worldwide began to eat healthier fats, there might be more than a million fewer deaths from heart disease every year.
Although a great deal of attention has been focused on reducing saturated fats from the diet, the researchers said the focus should be two-fold: reducing unhealthy fats such as saturated fat and trans fats, and replacing them with healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated fats.
“Our findings highlight the importance of ending American fear of all fat. We estimate that nearly 50,000 Americans die of heart disease each year due to low intake of vegetable oils,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author and dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.
The study was published online Jan. 20 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in fatty fish (such as salmon, herring mackerel and trout), tofu, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oils and seeds, and walnuts. These fats help lower bad cholesterol, and have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Saturated fats are found in meat and dairy products. Trans fats are found in processed, baked and fried foods, according the AHA.
To estimate the number of deaths linked to various patterns of fat consumption, Mozaffarian and his team used diet information from 186 countries. They looked at research from previous studies that followed people over long periods of time to see how eating certain fats affects heart disease risk. Death rate information was gathered from a 2010 study.
Using all of that information, the researchers estimated that more than 700,000 deaths worldwide each year, or about 10% of heart disease deaths, were due to eating too little healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, as opposed to saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.
Residents of different countries reported different patterns of fat consumption. For instance, deaths from trans fats are declining in Western nations as the unhealthy fat is garnering more attention. However, the United States and Canada were still in the top four nations for heart disease deaths attributed to trans fat intake, the study showed.
Blame the trans fat issue on the food industry. They are the ones that developed trans fats to lengthen the shelf life of foods and convinced the public that “reduced fat” products were healthier because fat is bad.
A whole generation of Americans has grown up thinking that all fat is bad. It is very difficult to reverse that thinking. While “experts have preached the gospel of eating healthy fats” the same food industry has been reticent in following suit.
Of note, most nutritionists advise against supplementing healthy omega 6 fatty acids claiming they are abundant in our diet and can be pro-inflammatory. I obviously disagree, the addition of omega 6 fatty acids to the diet and in supplement form is frequently needed to restore endocrine balance in the body. However, you must first correct any aspects of metabolic syndrome that can drive omega-6 fatty acids from their normal anti-inflammatory pathways into the inflammatory pathways. This is easily accomplished with the addition of sesame seed oil to the diet.
The Bottom Line:
Make sure you some healthy fats in your diet every day. However, stick with olive oil and sunflower oil for the omega-6 fatty acids; and fish, seeds, nuts, and coconut oil for other polyunsaturated fats. Stay away from corn oil or soybean oil.
Source: January 20, 2016 National Institutes of Health