Recent research has shown that saturated fats are just as unhealthy as refined carbohydrates, when it comes to favoring heart disease.
Previous research in the field had been inconclusive, regarding the effects of saturated fat on human health. This type of fat, commonly found in red meat and dairy products, had been assessed by some studies as good for the heart. Others, on the other hand, had called for it to be completely cut out from daily diets, claiming it clogs arteries and causes cardiovascular disease.
This recent research was published on September 28 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and points out that indeed saturated fat is detrimental to human health. Also, it explains why prior studies in this field have been contradictory.
Basically, it shows that people who no longer consume saturated fatty acids usually turn to refined carbs, which also heighten the risk of heart disease and stroke. Although banning saturated fat may seem like a step in the right direction, it is essential to replace that with a healthier alternative, because otherwise the benefits are lost completely.
The study was led by Dr. Frank Hu from the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. Two groups of people were analyzed between the 1980’s and 2010: 84,628 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,908 men in the Health Professionals Follow Up Study. At the beginning of the research, none of the respondents had health issues like diabetes, cancer or heart disease.
Throughout this trial period, the subjects were surveyed regarding their diets and any heart-related incidents they may have experienced. Eventually, more than 7,600 patients were reported to have developed coronary heart disease.
Researchers determined that participants who had consumed high amounts of saturated fat were more likely to suffer from heart issues. On the other hand, those who had preferred whole-grain carbohydrates and unsaturated fats (vegetable oil, nuts, fish) reported a lower incidence of cardiovascular issues.
Given the complexity of the study, nutritional trends were also identified among the respondents. For example, those who had diminished the daily energy intake of saturated fat tended to consume refined carbohydrates, like starches. Such nutrients are equally unhealthy, so this explains why heart disease remained just as prevalent as before among these subjects.
On the other hand, individuals who had switched from saturated fatty acids to unsaturated fats actually did improve their condition. Replacing a mere 5% of the daily calorie intake from saturated fats with polyunsaturated ones (fish, soybean or sunflower oil) reduced the number of heart-related events by up to 25%.
Similarly, switching to monounsaturated fats (olive oil or peanut oil) diminished such incidents by 15%, and opting for whole grains lowered the risk by 9%.
Given these findings, researchers suggest that saturated fats must indeed be avoided, but nutrient replacement is of key importance. People must be careful not to turn to pasta, white rice, refined flour products, potatoes or other starches.
Instead, they should consume healthier fats like extra virgin olive oil, and unprocessed carbs, like whole-grain cereal and bread, brown pasta or rice, quinoa, millet and bulgur.
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