Few years ago ‘fat’ was a bad word and we were told to banish it. Now, health experts and researchers around the world are talking about different types of fats. The truth is that your body needs some fats. They supply energy. But you need to know your fats and which ones to choose.
According to a Harvard publication, “The worst type of dietary fat is the kind known as trans-fat. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere indicates that trans-fats can harm health in even small amounts: for every 2% of calories from trans-fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%. Similarly, a diet rich in saturated fats can drive up total cholesterol, and tip the balance toward more harmful LDL cholesterol, which prompts blockages to form in arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body. For that reason, most nutrition experts recommend limiting saturated fat to under 10% of calories a day.”
The latest study conducted by researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health adds something new to the earlier findings. This study suggests not all fats are enemies of your heart. Unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), found in foods such as walnuts and tofu - may significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), the study has claimed.
The associations between dietary saturated fats and CHD remain controversial, but few studies have compared saturated with unsaturated fats and sources of carbohydrates in relation to CHD risk. Wellness Institute - Cleveland Clinic, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, sought to investigate associations of saturated fats compared with unsaturated fats and different sources of carbohydrates in relation to CHD risk. "We followed 84,628 women (Nurses' Health Study, 1980 to 2010), and 42,908 men (Health Professional Follow-up Study, 1986 to 2010) who were free of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer at baseline," researchers said.
"Diet was assessed by a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire every 4 years," they wrote in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. During 24 to 30 years of follow-up, researchers documented 7,667 incident cases of CHD.
Higher intakes of PUFAs and carbohydrates from whole grains were significantly associated with a lower risk of CHD comparing the highest with lowest quintile for PUFAs, researchers said. Replacing 5 per cent of energy intake from saturated fats with equivalent energy intake from PUFAs, monounsaturated fatty acids, or carbohydrates from whole grains was associated with a 25 per cent, 15 per cent, and 9 per cent lower risk of CHD, respectively, they said. Replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates from refined starches/added sugars was not significantly associated with CHD risk.
Dr. Shikha Sharma, Wellness Expert and Founder of Nutrihealth, makes another point, “When we switch to unsaturated fats, there are two types - one is poly-unsaturated fats and the other is mono-unsaturated fats. Mono-unsaturated fats are healthier and can help improve your heart condition. However, unsaturated fats alone can’t control heart diseases. An overall healthy lifestyle is required.”
"Poly unsaturated fats are further divided into omega 3 and omega 6. We now know that omega 3 is very healthy for the heart, and can protect against many heart diseases. So flax seeds, walnuts, and all your other dry fruits are very rich in omega 3, and can protect against heart diseases. The body needs a balanced ratio, and ideally it should be 1 is to 10, 1 for omega 3 and 10 represents omega 6. Actually, all fats are important for the body in the right ratio. But the focus these days is more on omega 3 and mono unsaturated fats such as olive oil and mustard oil, " adds Dr. Ritika Samaddar, Nutritionist at Max Hospital in New Delhi.