In a new study from the University of Oxford, researchers examined more than 100,000 individuals and found a potential link between eating saturated fat from meat and developing heart disease.
They found that saturated fat from meat may be linked to a higher risk than other food sources.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Eating higher amounts of saturated fat is linked to elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, which increases risk of cardiovascular disease.
There is some evidence that different types of foods rich in saturated fat, particularly meat and dairy, may have differing associations with heart disease.
In the study, the team examined how saturated fat from various foods relates to heart disease, stroke, and total cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke combined).
They included 114,285 UK Biobank participants who were free of cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. The researchers tracked participants for around 8.5 years.
The team found there were no clear associations between total saturated fat and heart disease outcomes.
However, consuming 5% higher total energy from saturated fat from meat was linked to 19% and 21% elevated risks of total cardiovascular disease and heart disease, respectively—but the associations did not remain significant after accounting for BMI.
Researchers also found that associations of saturated fat from dairy with heart disease went in the opposite direction, but this association was not clear after accounting for BMI.
These results suggest that differences in BMI may be responsible, in part, for the association between heart disease and saturated fat from meat.
It is not possible to determine whether this is because of a specific impact of saturated fat from meat on BMI or because those with a higher BMI consume more meat.
In addition, it is difficult to fully disentangle whether part of the effect of saturated fat on heart disease may be through higher LDL cholesterol in this cohort because cholesterol-lowering medication use is high in UK adults.
They recommend following the dietary guidelines advice to consume less than 10% of daily energy from saturated fat.
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The study was presented at ESC Congress 2021. One author of the study is Dr. Rebecca Kelly.
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