Eating healthy fats, not saturated fats, could lower cardiovascular risks

Eating healthier fats, like avocados and nuts, instead of saturated fats commonly found in many meats, could lower cardiovascular disease risk as much as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The AHA issued the new advisory June 15 as a way to warn people against developing atherosclerosis, which leads to heart attacks, strokes and other cardiac diseases. They recommend that saturated fat should make up less than 10 percent of one's daily calories.

“This important paper reaffirms the scientific evidence that saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol, a leading cause of atherosclerosis,” said Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D. a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, in an AHA statement. “Furthermore, replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease.”

Research has showed that cardiovascular disease was lowered by 30 percent when vegetable oil replaced saturated fat in a diet, a similar decrease to that in patients on statin drugs. Though encouraging, simply consuming healthier fats can’t replace statins completely, according to Frank Sacks, MD, the lead author on the advisory and a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention in the department of nutrition at Harvard University.

“That statin is only going to go part of the way,” he said. “You’re going to mess up the effect of the statin if you’re eating all unhealthy foods.”