The American Heart Association statistics suggest that heart disease remains the number one global cause of death with 17.3 million deaths each year. Eating healthier fats could save more than a million people internationally from dying from heart disease, and the types of diet changes needed differ greatly between countries, suggested a new study.
"Worldwide, policymakers are focused on reducing saturated fats. Yet, we found there would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if the priority was to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as to reduce trans fats," said senior study author Dariush Mozaffarian.
‘There would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if people increased the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, and reduced the intake of trans fats.’
Mozaffarian further added, "This study provides, for the first time, a rigorous comparison of global heart disease burdens estimated to be attributable to insufficient intake of polyunsaturated fats versus higher intake to saturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood which can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats also provide essential fats that your body needs - such as some long chain fatty acids. Foods that contain polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn and sunflower oils, tofu, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout."
Comparing 1990 to 2010, the investigators found that the proportion of heart disease deaths due to insufficient omega-6 polyunsaturated fat declined 9% and that due to high saturated fats declined by 21%. In contrast, deaths due to high consumption of trans fats rose 4%.
Mozaffarian noted that people think of trans fats as being only a rich country problem due to packaged and fast-food products. But, in middle and low income nations such as India and in the Middle East, there is wide use of inexpensive, partially hydrogenated cooking fats in the home and by street vendors.
"Because of strong policies, trans fat-related deaths are going down in Western nations (although still remaining important in the United States and Canada), but in many low- and middle-income countries, trans fat-related deaths appear to be going up, making this a global problem," Mozaffarian said.
"These findings should be of great interest to both the public and policy makers around the world, helping countries to set their nutrition priorities to combat the global epidemic of heart disease," Mozaffarian concluded. The research appears in Journal of the American Heart Association.