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Polyunsaturated Fats Really May Lower Heart Risk

Study might offer proof at last that replacing saturated fats has heart benefits

TUESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats may reduce your risk of heart disease, new research suggests.

Harvard School of Public Health researchers reviewed eight studies with a total of 13,614 participants and found that those who replaced saturated fats in their diet with polyunsaturated fats had a 19 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who didn't make the switch.

For every 5 percent increase in polyunsaturated fat consumption -- found in most vegetable oils -- coronary heart disease risk was reduced by 10 percent, according to the study published online March 23 in the journal PLoS Medicine.

For nearly six decades, Americans have been advised to reduce their consumption of saturated fats, such as butter, to prevent heart disease, but there has been little scientific proof that doing so actually decreased heart disease risk, according to the researchers. They said this study provides conclusive evidence from randomized clinical trials that there is a benefit in switching from saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats.

Over the past few decades, saturated fats in the American diet were generally replaced with increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and grains.

"The specific replacement nutrient for saturated fat may be very important. Our findings suggest that polyunsaturated fats would be a preferred replacement for saturated fats for better heart health," study lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, an assistant professor in the epidemiology department at the Harvard School of Public Health and in the department of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlines how to eat for a healthy heart.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Harvard School of Public Health, news release, March 22, 2010

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