Unsaturated fats could help lower your death risk

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It is known that eating unsaturated fats is good for our health.

These fats help reduce heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and have other health benefits when they replace saturated fats in the diet.

In a study from Harvard University, scientists showed that eating more unsaturated fats is associated with lower death risk.

They tested 126,233 people from two large long-term studies—the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

These people answered survey questions every 2-4 years about their diet, lifestyle, and health for up to 32 years.

During the 32 years, 33,304 people died. The researchers examined the link between types of fats in the participants’ diets and overall deaths among the group during the study period.

They found that different types of dietary fat are linked to death differently.

Trans fats had the worse impact on health. Every 2% more eating of trans fat was associated with a 16% higher chance of premature death.

More eating of saturated fats was also linked with greater death risk. When compared with the same number of calories from carbohydrates, every 5% more eating of saturated fat was linked to an 8% higher risk of death.

Conversely, unsaturated fats were linked to between 11% and 19% lower death compared with the same number of calories from carbohydrates.

The team also found among the unsaturated fats, both omega-6, found in most plant oils, and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and soy and canola oils, were linked to a lower risk of early death.

The health impacts of specific types of fats depended on what people were replacing them with.

For example, people who replaced saturated fats with unsaturated fats had a lower risk of death, as well as a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and respiratory disease.

The findings for heart disease are consistent with many earlier studies showing reduced LDL (“bad”) cholesterol when unsaturated fats replace trans fats or saturated fats.

People who replaced saturated fats with carbohydrates had only a slightly lower death risk. In addition, replacing total fat with carbohydrates was associated with modestly higher death.

The team says this was not surprising because carbohydrates in the American diet tend to be primarily refined starch and sugar, which have a similar influence on death risk as saturated fats.

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The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine and conducted by Wang DD et al.

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