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Tags: cholesterol | heart attack | risk

Cholesterol and Heart Attack Risk Not Always True

By    |   Sunday, 19 October 2014 10:50 AM EDT

A 2014 study has challenged the generally accepted idea that saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease, causing the medical community to examine how diet affects cholesterol levels and, ultimately, heart health.

The body's response to saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and carbohydrates — all of which impact the levels of "bad" cholesterol, or LDL-cholesterol, and "good" cholesterol, or HDL-cholesterol — is complicated, according to The New York Times.

In a study led by Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, cardiovascular epidemiologist at Cambridge University, and published in March in the "Annals of Internal Medicine," researchers determined that higher levels of saturated fats in the diet didn’t impact the risk of heart disease. Likewise, eating higher unsaturated fats did not promote a reduced heart disease risk.

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Chowdhury told The Times that his "take on this would be that it’s not saturated fat that we should worry about."

The study looked at 72 research studies to determine the best evidence in support of the link between dietary choices and heart disease, according to a story by the University of Cambridge. 

What they found "showed that current evidence does not support guidelines which restrict the consumption of saturated fats in order to prevent heart disease. The researchers also found insufficient support for guidelines which advocate the high consumption of polyunsaturated fats (such as omega 3 and omega 6) to reduce the risk of coronary disease,"the UC article said.

The answer to the question of whether saturated fats raise the risk of heart disease and whether polyunsaturated fats can help fight heart disease is complex, Chowdhury cautioned. In delving into the studies, Chowdhury’s team found that the particles most likely to cause clogged arteries were caused not by saturated fat, but excess carbohydrates and diets high in sugar, Chowdhury told the newspaper.

"It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines," he told The Times. "If anything is driving your low-density lipoproteins in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates."

The research also examined the effects of eating red meat, which is high in saturated fats, and Chowdhury pointed to studies done in 2013.

"Last year, two seminal papers very convincingly showed that the harm observed in red meat for heart disease risk can, in fact, be attributed to another harmful chemical (L-carnitine) abundant in red meat rather than the long-supposed saturated fat," he said. "Unless we have more evidence, higher consumption of red meat should still be considered harmful, but it’s just that the saturates may not be the principal explanation, as is traditionally perceived, for the harmful cardiovascular effects of red meat."

More research is necessary, he added.

"These are interesting results that potentially stimulate new lines of scientific inquiry and encourage careful reappraisal of our current nutritional guidelines," Chowdhury said in the UC story. "Cardiovascular disease, in which the principal manifestation is coronary heart disease, remains the single leading cause of death and disability worldwide. In 2008, more than 17 million people died from a cardiovascular cause globally. With so many affected by this illness, it is critical to have appropriate prevention guidelines which are informed by the best available scientific evidence."

The American Heart Association responded to the new research by pointing out well-studied dietary effects on heart disease risk.

"A healthy dietary pattern is recommended that is low in saturated fat and sodium," the organization said. "In summary, the evidence is irrefutable that saturated fat should be decreased to 5 to 6 percent of calories by replacement with polyunsaturated fat to lower LDL-cholesterol and reduce CVD (coronary valve disease) risk."

"Moreover, it is clear that dietary sodium should be reduced to 1500 mg/day to reduce hypertension, age-related increases in blood pressure, and CVD risk. Collectively, these recommendations should be part of a dietary pattern that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils, and nuts; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats."

This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.

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A 2014 study has challenged the generally accepted idea that saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease, causing the medical community to examine how diet affects cholesterol levels and, ultimately, heart health.
cholesterol, heart attack, risk
Sunday, 19 October 2014 10:50 AM
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