Balancing the Evidence: Heart disease and dietary fat
Introduction
What is Dietary Fat?
Cancer and Dietary Fat
Heart Disease and Dietary Fat
Obesity and Dietary Fat
What is Right for You?
About This Site
If you or anyone in your family has heart disease you will want to learn about the relationship between dietary fat and heart disease before you try a low carbohydrate diet to lose weight. The amount and type of fat in your diet does affect your risk for having a heart attack or other cardiovascular disease.

Summary of the Evidence: For many years doctors have recommended that you reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol that you eat. More recent studies using newer techniques have allowed researchers to refine these recommendations. They have found that it is not as important to reduce the total amount of fat in your diet, as it is to reduce the saturated and trans fats in your diet. These fats are found in animal products and in some margarines and processed foods. Both of these fats have been shown to increase the amount of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in your blood and increase the risk of heart disease.

When you reduce the amounts of saturated and trans fats in your diet, you can decrease your risk of heart disease even further by replacing them with fats that are good for you. These fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. They are found in vegetable oils like soybean, olive and canola oils. These fats can lower the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood and decrease your risk of dying from heart disease.

Another type of fat that may be helpful in decreasing your risk of heart disease is omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid. This type of fat is found in oily fish, and some nuts and seeds. This fat may lower your serum cholesterol levels, but it also seems to work in other ways to decrease the risk of mortality from heart disease.

People who consume fewer fatty foods in their diet usually consume more carbohydrates. In some cases this may cause their serum triglycerides to increase and this is a risk for heart disease. This triglyceride increase can sometimes be prevented by choosing less refined cargbohydrates like whole grain breads and cereals and minimally processed fruits and vegetables. Another alternative is to increase the amounts of monounsaturated fats in the diet to about 40% of energy intake.

Diet Recommendations:

To decrease the risk of coronary heart disease consume a diet that has 30% or less of the calories from fat with less than 10% from saturated fats. Avoid trans fatty acids and increase the amount of monounsaturated fatty acids by choosing vegetable oils like olive and canola oil. If elevated triglyceride levels are a problem avoid refined carbohydrates and consider increasing the fat in the diet to 40% of calories by increasing the intake of fatty fish and vegetable oils (Mediterranean diet). These links to the American Heart Association web site may be helpful.

References from the Medical Literature

Link to introduction page

10/21/02