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Cut saturated fat for healthy heart: Study

AAP logoAAP 23/11/2016

Swapping saturated fat for healthier sources of energy does cut the risk of heart disease, a large study suggests.

New research shows that replacing just one per cent of daily calorie intake from saturated fat with other sources of energy - such as whole grain carbohydrates or polyunsaturated fats - cuts the risk of heart disease by six to eight per cent.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is the latest to throw its weight behind official NHS recommendations which say saturated fat should be limited in order to protect against heart disease.

Other studies have questioned this health message, with some claiming there is no evidence that saturated fat causes a problem.

The new research, from experts at the Harvard school of public health and Harvard medical school in Boston, found that a higher intake of major saturated fatty acids, such as those found in hard cheese, whole milk, butter, beef, and chocolate, was linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

The experts said saturated fat should be replaced with equivalent energy from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats - found in some spreads, oils and nuts and seeds - and whole grain carbohydrates, such as breads and cereals, or plant proteins, such as beans and lentils.

"The saturated fat content of so many of our favourite foods can have very serious consequences and it's crucial that we acknowledge the role of our diet in increasing or decreasing our risk of heart disease," TV doctor Sarah Jarvis said.

But Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist and advisor to the National Obesity Forum, said the study cannot prove cause and effect.

"More robust randomised controlled trials have shown that reducing saturated fat in the diet does not reduce heart attack or risk of death," Malhotra said.

"Nevertheless, we need to move to dietary guidelines that focus on whole foods which include lots of vegetables, olive oil as base fat, nuts and oily fish and one that's low in refined carbohydrates and sugar."

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