Good Fats Research

Heart Health

A 2016 study linked the removal of artificial trans fat from the food supply to a decreased incidence of cardiovascular-related events, specifically heart attack and stroke. Researchers conducted a retrospective observational pre-post study looking specifically at populations impacted by the trans fat restrictions imposed in New York state between 2007 and 2011. Highly urban counties with trans fat restrictions (11 counties, n = 8.4 million) were compared to highly urban counties with no restrictions (25 counties, n = 3.3 million). Results showed that three or more years after the regulation was implemented, there was a 6.2 percent decline, beyond background temporal trends, in hospital admissions for heart attacks and stroke events combined in counties that banned trans fats compared with those that did not. Heart attacks were significantly reduced by 7.8%, while strokes showed a non-significant reduction of 3.6%.

Cornell researchers explored the economic impact of replacing 5% of energy from dietary saturated fats with equivalent energy from monounsaturated fats.

The 2016 study, published in the Journal of Medical Economics, analyzed data from 247,700 adults from the 2000–2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to estimate cost savings from avoided heart disease. Savings associated with reduced absenteeism from avoided heart disease was estimated from 164,577 adult responses from the survey. Results showed this dietary switch could save the U.S. $25.7 billion in heart-disease related healthcare costs annually, with savings realized by multiple payers including private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and patients. Beyond direct healthcare costs, results also estimated up to $1.2 billion in productivity could be saved each year from fewer days of work lost due to heart disease.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked specific dietary factors to cardiometabolic mortality, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Study authors compared NHANES data from 1999–2002 and 2009–2012 to assess associations between specific dietary factors and cardiometabolic-related mortalities. Results showed nearly half (45.4%) of the 702,308 cardiometabolic deaths in 2012 were associated with suboptimal intakes of specific foods and nutrients. Excessive sodium intake was the leading contributor (9.5% of deaths), followed by low consumption of nuts and seeds (8.5%), high processed meat intake (8.2%) and low consumption of omega-3 fats (7.8%).

Researchers also noted an improvement on many of the dietary contributors during the 10-year span, resulting in a 26.5% reduction in cardiometabolic-related deaths. This was tied most significantly to increased consumption of polyunsaturated fat intake, but other factors included increase intake of nuts and seeds, drop in sugar-sweetened beverage intake and rise in unprocessed red meat intake.

Results from a 2016 study evaluated the association between dairy fat and cardiovascular risk and estimated how this impact could be altered based on replacement with PUFA or vegetable fat.

Subjects included 222,234 individuals in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and Nurses’ Health Studies. Food frequency questionnaires, deployed every four years, assessed dietary fat intake from dairy and other fat sources. When compared with equivalent amounts of energy derived from carbohydrates, dairy fat intake did not increase cardiovascular risk, coronary heart disease or stroke. However, when 5% of energy from dairy fat was replaced with an equal energy amount from polyunsaturated fat or vegetable-based fat, cardiovascular risk decreased by 24% and 10%, respectively. Substituting other animal fat for dairy fat was associated with a 6% increase in cardiovascular risk, coronary heart disease and stroke.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that following a Mediterranean diet that includes extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. Subjects were 7,447 people between the ages of 55 and 80 who were at high cardiovascular risk and were randomized to follow either a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts or a low-fat control diet. The results showed both Mediterranean diets can lead to an approximately 30% percent relative risk reduction for major cardiovascular events. The data also show a significant risk reduction for stroke in the Mediterranean diet groups.

A 2017 observational study shows improvements in cholesterol and triglyceride levels may be contributing to the decline in cardiovascular-related death rates.

Authors analyzed eight 2-year National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cross-sectional cycles between 1999/2000 and 2013/2014 among adults ages 20 years and older. There were 39,049 adults who had total cholesterol levels analyzed, 17,486 who had triglyceride levels analyzed and 17,096 who had triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol levels analyzed. Between 1999/2000 and 2013/2014, the average age-adjusted total cholesterol decreased by 15 mg/dL, age-adjusted average triglyceride levels decreased by 26 mg/dL in 2013/2014, and average LDL cholesterol decreased by 15 mg/dL. Authors suggest the removal of trans fats from food is a possible explanation for the reductions.