Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death by disease in America, and one risk factor is obesity. A new study from The Harvard School of Public Health used various online databases as well as previous research studies to investigate the possibility that by reducing only saturated fats—and replacing them with polyunsaturated fats in a regular diet—individuals may be able to lessen their risk of incidence of coronary heart disease.
Foods rich in saturated fat include butter, cheese, whole milk dairy, red meat, poultry (with skin) and products cooked or baked with palm or coconut oils, such as store-bought bakery items and some movie-theater popcorn. Examples of foods rich in polyunsaturated fats include certain plant oils like canola, safflower, soy and sesame, as well as nuts and seeds.
Researchers looked at population characteristics and diet, as well as medical care, types of cardiac events, and diets, and selected eight previous studies comprising over 13,000 participants and 1000 coronary heart disease events. Their analysis of these studies indicates that there is a 10 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease for every 5 percent increase in the share of total calories from polyunsaturated fat. These findings suggest that replacing some of the saturated fat in your diet with an equal amount of calories from polyunsaturated fat may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
There are other risk factors for coronary heart disease including smoking, lack of exercise, and genetics. But if being overweight puts you or a family member at risk, there’s more reason than ever to make the switch to cooking with heart-healthy vegetable oils instead of butter, and snacking on a peanut butter sandwich instead of cookies and pastries.
For more suggestions on eating healthy, visit A Healthy Guide to Eating and Feeling Great.