Replacing saturated fats with omega-3 fatty acids may improve heart health

Published on

24 March 2010

Reducing intakes of saturated fats in the diet and consuming polyunsaturated fats instead may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease up to 19 percent, according to a new study.

The study analyzed eight trials, which provided data on 13,614 participants and 1,042 coronary heart disease events (1). For every 5 percent increase in polyunsaturated fat consumption, the researchers reported a 10 percent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

The study supports the widely supported theory that saturated fats are detrimental to heart health. The findings suggest that polyunsaturated fats would be a preferred replacement for saturated fats for better heart health, the researchers commented.

The study may have implications for recommended daily intakes of omega-3 fatty acids with current guidelines from the U.S. Institute of Medicine (IoM) stating a range between 5 and 10 percent from polyunsaturated fats. The findings also suggest that an upper limit of 10 percent energy consumption from polyunsaturated fats may be too low, as the participants in these trials who reduced their risk were consuming about 15 percent energy from polyunsaturated fats.

However, few weeks ago, a meta-analysis reported contradictory evidence (2): data from almost 350,000 subjects obtained from 21 studies indicated that dietary intakes of saturated fat are not associated with increases in the risk of either coronary heart disease (CHD) or cardiovascular disease (CVD).


  1. Mozaffarian D. et al. Effects on Coronary Heart Disease of Increasing Polyunsaturated Fat in Place of Saturated Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS Medicine. 2010; 7(3).
  2. Siri-Tarino P.W. et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 91:535 – 546.

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