Eating Healthy Fats May Prevent Heart Disease Deaths

You probably already know that heart disease is the leading killer of Americans. Over 600,000 people in the United States die as a result of heart disease each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. These scary statistics raise the question: What can be done to prevent this?

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, one important prevention factor may be the consumption of more healthy fats.

This study specifically highlights the importance of polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, which can be found in fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil. The researchers involved in the study found that 10.3 percent of heart disease deaths in 2010 could be traced back to an insufficient intake of these types of fats.

To arrive at their conclusions, researchers analyzed heart disease data from 186 countries in 2010. The number of heart disease deaths traced back to not eating enough polyunsaturated omega-6 fats was 711,800 — and that’s a huge number, indeed.

Along with the heart-healthy benefits of polyunsaturated omega-6 fats, the researchers claimed that these fats may be even more beneficial if people eat them instead of refined carbohydrates. This makes a lot of sense, as all of those processed baked goods certainly aren’t doing our hearts any favors. 

One important point of this study is that it takes some of the blame for heart disease away from saturated fats — long touted to be an enemy of the human heart. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, stated:

“Policies for decades have focused on saturated fats as the priority for preventing heart disease, but we found that in most countries, a too-little intake of healthy fats was the big problem, bigger than saturated fat.”

It has become increasingly clear that saturated fats from healthy sources, such as organic coconut oil, grass-fed meats, and organic dairy products, are not the heart-stopping culprits we once thought they were. In fact, as we previously reported, recent research has found no link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease.

While the current study did attribute 3.6 percent of worldwide deaths to saturated fat consumption, the type of saturated fat in question was not clear. While whole, natural sources of saturated fat offer a lot of health benefits, processed red meats, as well as many other processed, chemically-laden saturated fat sources, have been linked to a number of health ills.  

butter heart meltingA study that focuses on the correlation between specific types of saturated fat and heart disease risk would certainly be informative, and would help to answer a lot of questions. We await further comprehensive research on this topic.

One type of fat that the current study did find to be dangerous, however, is trans fat. Just under 540,000 deaths in 2010 were attributed to an excess amount of dietary trans fats. Trans fats are “fake” fats, which are created by heating vegetable oils to a very high temperature through a process of hydrogenation. These fats, found in many processed baked goods, are highly hazardous to your health. It is best to avoid them completely. 

So, based on the research, it seems we could all benefit from increasing the amount of wild-caught fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), raw nuts, and organic olive oil on our plates. A salad made with fresh, organic greens, some raw almonds, and a portion of baked salmon, with a bit of olive oil drizzled on top, is both delicious and healthy. 

What are your favorite recipes based around these nutritious ingredients?

—The Alternative Daily


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