British scientists found that saturated fats, a type of fats found in animal products, are not damaging to the cardiovascular system and do not raise the risk of stroke and heart disease on the long run as some studies had shown.
Instead trans fats, which are heavily used by the food industry to give foods a pleasant taste and a prolonged shelf life, may boost risk of death from all causes and heart disease, the new study shows.
So, taking into account the new findings, we may conclude that butter, an animal product rich in saturated fats is a lot healthier than margarine, a food item loaded with artificial trans fats. But that is a conclusion at odds with what some experts and studies had taught us for decades – that margarine is good for health and reduces risk of heart disease.
Yet, the new study is consistent with previous findings about trans fats. That they are unhealthy, have no nutritional value, and may boost the risk of many diseases including death from all causes.
U.K. researchers also found that trans fats, which are a common ingredient in processed foods, fast-food menus, and snacks, boosted the risk of dying by any cause by one third. On the other hand, no such link was discovered in animal products, which are rich in saturated fats. These fats are not linked with a high risk of stroke, diabetes or heart disease, neither do they boost mortality risk.
U.S. health authorities have recommended people for years to cut down on dietary fat intake and saturated fats if they want a healthy heart and low cholesterol. That’s why low-fat dietary products became so popular over the course of years. The FDA advises to maintain the daily intake of saturated fat to 10 percent of total energy.
Yet, the latest study questions the widespread belief that saturated fats may be damaging to heart health. Dr. Russell de Souza, senior author of the study and nutrition expert at the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University in Canada explained that his team found clear evidence that trans fats were hazardous for our health. Yet, he admitted that whether more saturated fats were beneficial remains “less clear.”
Dr. de Souza also said that he and his fellow researchers do not advocate for people to raise their saturated fat intake. There’s a threshold that shouldn’t be ignored if we want to stay healthy and any exaggeration is not good. Also, the research team said that they didn’t find evidence that more of those fats may be beneficial either.
But they did found that trans fats were linked to a 34 percent increased risk of death from all causes and 28 percent higher risk of death from heart disease.
The study was recently published in the British Medical Journal.
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