Trans fat pegged more risky than saturated fats in observational study

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Researchers, health scientists, dietitians have long been debating on which types of fat are good for your health and which are dangerous. A new research suggests that trans fats are actually harmful as they increase the risk of death and coronary heart disease.

The study led by scientists at McMaster University also found that they have found no possible association between saturated fats and increased risk of death, heart disease, stroke, or Type 2 diabetes. The findings, published in The BMJ, suggest that trans fats are not healthy at all and that they pose a significant risk for heart disease.

Speaking of sources of these fats, saturated fats come mainly from animal products, such as butter, cows’ milk, meat, salmon and egg yolks, and some plant products such as chocolate and palm oils. Trans unsaturated fats (trans fats) are mainly produced industrially from plant oils (a process known as hydrogenation) for use in margarine, snack foods and packaged baked goods.

Though the team didn’t find a clear association between saturated fats and increased risk of heart diseases, stroke or type 2 diabetes, lead author Russell De Souza suggested that the findings of their study do not advocate increase of the allowance for saturated fats in current dietary guidelines, which call for a limit of less than 10 per cent of energy as far as saturated fats are concerned and one per cent as far as trans fats are concerned.

For their study, the researchers analysed results of 50 observational studies assessing the association between saturated and/or trans fats and health outcomes in adults. They found that there is no clear association between higher intake of saturated fats and death for any reason, coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiovascular disease (CVD), ischemic stroke or type 2 diabetes.

They did find that consumption of industrial trans fats was associated with a 34 per cent increase in death for any reason, a 28 per cent increased risk of CHD mortality, and a 21 per cent increase in the risk of CHD.

One of the things that the researchers highlight is the inconsistencies in the studies analysed because of which they weren’t ablt to confirm an association between trans fats and type 2 diabetes and trans fats and ischemic stroke.

Researchers underline the fact that their findings are based on observational studies and that no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. However, the authors write that their analysis “confirms the findings of five previous systematic reviews of saturated and trans fats and CHD.”

De Souza, a registered dietitian, added that dietary guidelines for saturated and trans fatty acids “must carefully consider the effect of replacement foods.

“If we tell people to eat less saturated or trans fats, we need to offer a better choice. Unfortunately, in our review we were not able to find as much evidence as we would have liked for a best replacement choice, but ours and other studies suggest replacing foods high in these fats, such as high-fat or processed meats and donuts, with vegetable oils, nuts, and whole grains.”