Thirty percent of all deaths in the world are due to heart disease. The authors of a study covering 3.8 billion people in 186 countries believe that there would be a great reduction in heart attack deaths if people increased their intake of the healthful vegetable unsaturated fats (Journal of the American Heart Association, Jan. 20, 2016). They estimate that more than 50,000 of the heart disease deaths in North America each year are due to low intake of vegetable oils. Eating more of the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats from plants and restricting animal saturated fats and man-made partially-hydrogenated fats could prevent more than a million heart attack deaths world-wide every year.
Trying to get people to reduce saturated fats has not been very effective in reducing heart attack deaths because people tend to replace saturated fats with sugars and other refined carbohydrates that are more harmful than the saturated fats. Another study showed that saturated fats that you make in your own body from excess sugar and other carbohydrates are more dangerous than the ones you eat in your food (Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, August 6, 2014). The saturated fats that increase risk for diabetes and heart attacks are made primarily by the human liver from carbohydrates, and far less so from eating foods that are high in saturated fats.
The authors of the JAMA study compared types of fat intake and heart attack rates in 186 countries and estimated that more than 700,000 deaths worldwide each year are caused by not eating enough healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, and eating too much saturated fats from animals and too much refined carbohydrates. In Russia, Germany and Egypt most heart disease deaths were associated with not eating enough healthful polyunsaturated fats. In the Philippines, Malaysia and other tropical nations, most heart disease deaths were linked to too much saturated fat. In middle and low income nations such as India and in the Middle East, deaths linked to high consumption of partially hydrogenated oils are increasing. The authors recommend that you:
• Increase: Sources of unsaturated fats: fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and trout; beans, including soybeans and soybean oil; vegetables and their oils (olive oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and so forth), seeds and nuts. These foods help to lower the bad LDL cholesterol and are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and strokes.
• Decrease: Animal saturated fats found in meats and dairy products. (Saturated fats from plants, such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils, have not been associated with increased risk for heart attacks). The unhealthful partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) are being removed from the food supply in North America, but they are still found in some prepared foods; check the list of ingredients and avoid them.
This new study supports the primarily plant-based diet pattern that I have recommended for many years:
• Do not use drinks that contain sugar, except during vigorous exercise
• Limit refined carbohydrates, found in all foods made with flour such as bakery products, dry cereals and pastas, and all sugar-added foods
• Eat less red meat and dairy products
• Eat far more fruits and vegetables
• Read the labels to avoid all foods made with partially hydrogenated oils