Got a sweet tooth? You’re not alone, but that along with a taste for other foods containing naughty trans or saturated fats might actually effect more than just your waistband – it could shorten your life.
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that swapping out saturated fats like butter, lard and red meat with unsaturated fat alternatives could have substantial health benefits.
“There has been widespread confusion in the biomedical community and the general public in the last couple of years about the health effects of specific types of fat in the diet,” Dong Wang, a doctoral candidate and lead author of the study tells ScienceDaily. “This study documents important benefits of unsaturated fats, especially when they replace saturated and trans fats.”
This study is one of the most extensive bodies of research to date on dietary fats and their impact on health. Looking at 126,233 people over a span of 32 years – researchers checked in with participants every two to four years – more than 33,000 deaths took place during the study. This allowed scientists to analyze what kind of fats were present in participants diets and how that related to their cause of death, be it cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease or respiratory disease.
What they found was that different types of fat present in the diet had different associations with mortality.
Trans fats, which are found in foods like french fries, doughnuts and pizza, unsurprisingly had the most negative impact on health. For every two per cent of trans fats consumed in a typical diet they found a 16 per cent higher chance of premature death.
On the other hand, consuming larger quantities of unsaturated fats – found in foods like nuts, avocados and olive oil – was associated with an 11 to 19 per cent lower risk of premature death.
“Our study shows the importance of eliminating trans fat and replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats, including both omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids,” Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School tells Science Daily. “In practice, this can be achieved by replacing animal fats with a variety of liquid vegetable oils."
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