A new study has challenged the long-held beliefs about the impact of saturated fatty acids (SFA) on the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Experts concluded that "single risk factors have limitations when considered on their own because the effects of diet on CVD risk are mediated by many pathways, with blood lipids being only one."
Further, the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is a better predictor of the effect of saturated fatty acids on CVD risk than LDL-and/or total cholesterol, as individual fatty acids have differential effects on various blood lipids.
When it comes to determining the correlation between CVD and food, the entire components comprised within the food matrix may be more important than concentrating solely on fatty acids content.
According to the experts, current evidence only suggests that substitution of SFA by polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), but not carbohydrates, results in a lowering of total and LDL cholesterol.
"However, even this conclusion isn't the last word, as there is growing recognition that individual fatty acids within the PUFA category have different physiologic effects," said Cindy Schweitzer of the Global Dairy Platform, referring to a recent analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
When viewed in totality, the expert group concluded that the effect of a specific food on risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) cannot be determined on the basis of its SFA content alone and outlined specific issues that need to be addressed in future research.
The findings have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.