Trans Fats—Not Saturated Fats—Linked to Increased Risk of Early Death

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saturated fatsAccording to a study conducted by researchers at McMaster University, trans fats, but not saturated fats, are associated with a greater risk of death and coronary heart disease.

“For years everyone has been advised to cut out fats. Trans fats have no health benefits and pose a significant risk for heart disease, but the case for saturated fat is less clear,” says the study’s lead author, Russell de Souza.

Current dietary guidelines recommend that saturated fats be limited to 10% or less and trans fats to less than one percent of energy to reduce the risk of stroke or heart disease.

For the study, researchers analyzed the results of 50 observational studies that assessed the link between the health outcomes in adults, saturated fats, and trans fats. The team found no direct link between a higher consumption of saturated fats and death, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, or type 2 diabetes. Researchers did find that consumption of industrial trans fats was associated with a 34% increase in death, a 28% increased risk of mortality from coronary heart disease, and a 21% increase in the risk of coronary heart disease.

The team stresses that their results are based on observational studies, so no decisive conclusions can be made about cause and effect. According to de Souza, dietary guidelines for trans fats and saturated fats must consider the effect of replacement dietary options.

“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,” states de Souza.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Trans fats, but not saturated fats like butter, linked to greater risk of early death and heart disease,” ScienceDaily web site, August 11, 2015;
de Souza, R.J., et al., “Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies,” BMJ 2015; 351: h3978,


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About the Author, Browse Leah's Articles

Leah Shainhouse is a Registered Dietitian with the College of Dietitians of Ontario and a member of the Dietitians of Canada. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Honors, in Nutritional Sciences from the University of British Columbia and went on to complete her dietetic training and Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition at McGill University. Leah has a strong desire to help shape the lives of individuals through a healthy lifestyle. She enjoys working with people to help... Read Full Bio »