Good Fats Research

Heart Health

An analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer.

Researchers reviewed data from 53 studies that examined the health effects of the Mediterranean diet. The studies were controlled trials of 100 or more persons who were followed for at least one year. Cohort studies for cancer outcomes also were included. The analysis found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 30%, had a 29% lower risk of heart disease and a 57% reduced risk of breast cancer. No apparent effects on all-cause mortality were observed. Researchers highlighted the need for more research on the relationship between breast cancer and the Mediterranean Diet, since only one randomized trial involving breast cancer was included in the analysis.

New parents may be at higher risk for chronic disease, a recent study shows. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, new parents tend to eat more saturated fat than people who aren’t parents, placing them at higher risk for developing obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes. The lead author cites convenience foods as the primary culprit, due to the time constraints and stress of parenthood. Overall, diets of parents and non-parents remained fairly similar throughout the seven-year study, with the exception of saturated fat.

Results from a meta-analysis show eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA + DHA) are as effective, if not more effective in some cases, as lifestyle interventions for reducing blood pressure in non-hospitalized patients who are hypertensive but not currently taking any blood pressure medications.

The study included 70 randomized controlled trials that examined the effect of EPA + DHA on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In all studies, compared with placebo, EPA + DHA intake was associated with significantly greater reductions in both blood pressure measurements. Seafood, fortified foods, fish and algal oil, as well as purified ethyl esters, were the most common sources of the fatty acids. Study authors stated these results are statistically significant, as well as clinically meaningful, and indicated that EPA + DHA could prevent an individual from needing to take antihypertensive medication and could help those in a lower stage of progressive hypertension control their blood pressure.

A research study found supplementation of cis-palmitoleic acid, a naturally occurring omega-7 monounsaturated fatty acid, benefited heart health by producing reductions in C-reactive protein, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, along with an increase in HDL cholesterol.

In this double-blind, randomized controlled trial, 60 adults with dyslipidemia and elevated C-reactive protein were split into two groups. One group took a daily supplement of purified cis-palmitoleic acid for 30 days while the other group took a placebo. All subjects were instructed not to change their current diet during the study. Compared to the control group, the supplement group experienced a 44% reduction in C-reactive protein, 15% reduction in trigylcerides, an 8% decrease in LDL, and a 5% increase in HDL.

A study published in Stroke found that high adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced incidence of ischemic stroke.

In this cohort study, 20,197 subjects age 45 and older were evaluated on their adherence to a Mediterranean diet. Participants received scores from 0-9, based on their adherence. Over the course of the follow up (an average 6.5 years), 565 participants had strokes (88% ischemic, 12% hemorrhagic). After adjusting for uncontrolled variables, researchers found a 21% reduced risk for ischemic stroke when comparing high (5-9) and low (0-4) adherence to the Mediterranean diet. When groups were split into high (6-9), moderate (4-5) and low (0-3) categories, risk reduction ranged from 22% to 31%. In addition, for every 1-point increase in score, there was a 5% reduction in risk. No relationship was found between adherence and risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

An increased intake of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs, such as canola or sunflower oils) may raise HDL cholesterol (i.e. good cholesterol) without raising LDL cholesterol (i.e. bad cholesterol). Researchers with the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto recruited patients with hypercholesterolemia (presence of high levels of cholesterol in the blood) and provided a restricted diet high in MUFAs, which included high-MUFA sunflower oil. After two months, the researchers noted the addition of MUFAs increased HDL cholesterol in patients consuming the specialized diet. Researchers concluded that cholesterol-lowering diets may be ‘significantly’ enhanced if dieters include a moderate amount of monounsaturated fat.

Monounsaturated fats (omega-9 fatty acids) have been shown to decrease LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol while also having positive effects on HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Researchers at the University of Manitoba compared a diet rich in high-oleic canola oil versus a typical western diet (high in saturated fat). Participants who consumed the diet high in omega-9 fatty acid demonstrated lower total cholesterol levels, including a 7% reduction in LDL cholesterol. The authors concluded that consumption of the high-oleic canola oil was cardioprotective.

In a recent article from Circulation, dietary linoleic acid was shown to reduce the risk of heart disease when replacing saturated fat.

In this meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies, researchers focused on dietary linoleic acid, the predominant fatty acid in polyunsaturated fat. Researchers evaluated all recent studies that reported an association between omega-6 fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Final data included more than 310,000 subjects, representing 13 published and unpublished cohort studies. Results showed that for each 5% energy increase of omega-6 that replaced equivalent energy from saturated fat, there was a 9% lower risk of cardiovascular events and a 13% lower risk of coronary heart disease deaths. These data confirm that when polyunsaturated fat replaces saturated fat, the risk for cardiovascular disease decreases.

Research examining more than one hundred participants at risk for metabolic syndrome shows canola and high-oleic canola oils can lower abdominal fat when used in place of other selected oil blends in a diet for weight maintenance.

Presented at the American Heart Association’s EPI/NPAM 2013 meeting, the study indicates participants were given a calorie-controlled, heart-healthy diet with a daily smoothie containing one of five study oils. Results showed that consuming canola or high-oleic canola oils on a daily basis for four weeks lowered belly fat by 1.6%. Abdominal fat was unchanged by the other three oils, which included a flax/safflower oil blend, corn/safflower oil blend and high-oleic canola oil enriched with DHA. The data indicates that simple dietary changes, such as using a high monounsaturated fat vegetable oil, may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and therefore, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Research from Circulation found that linoleic acid, the major dietary n-6 polyunsaturated fat, may lower risk of total and coronary heart disease mortality in older adults.

In this prospective cohort study, 2,792 subjects without cardiovascular disease were evaluated for total and cause-specific mortality between 1989 and 2010. Analyses included evaluations of linoleic acid, γ-linolenic acid, dihomo-γ-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid. The results demonstrated that higher linoleic acid levels were associated with a 13% lower total mortality. Other circulating n-6 fatty acids, including arachidonic acid, were not significantly associated with total or cardiovascular disease mortality.

Results from a 2015 study show consuming tree nuts may lead to better adiposity measures and cardiovascular and metabolic syndrome health risk factors. Researchers used NHANES 2005–2010 data to examine the relationship between tree nut consumption and health risks in 14,386 adults. Tree nuts included almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. Results showed that consuming at least ¼ ounce of tree nuts per day was associated with lower BMI, waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, insulin resistance and higher HDL cholesterol, compared with no consumption.