saturated fats

Not all saturated fats are equal when it comes to heart health

Cardiovascular risk of diets rich in saturated fats found in meats and the benefits of plant-based and dairy alternatives

January 28, 2019

Science Daily/Elsevier

The type of saturated fats we eat can affect our risk of a heart attack, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cardiology. People whose diets contain relatively little palmitic and stearic acid -- saturated fats composed of 16 or more carbon atoms (longer-chain saturated fats) that are typically found in meats -- and eat plant-based proteins instead have decreased chances of myocardial infarction. Moreover, individuals who eat more saturated fats with 14 or fewer carbon atoms (shorter-chain saturated fats) that are typically found in dairy products have lower risk of myocardial infarction.

 

"Our analysis of the diets of large groups of individuals in two countries over time shows that the type of saturated fats we consume could affect our cardiovascular heath," explained lead investigator Ivonne Sluijs, PhD, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands.

 

The study investigated whether saturated fats with chains varying in length from 4 to 18 carbon atoms are associated with the risk of developing a myocardial infarction. Data from approximately 75,000 people in the UK and Denmark were analyzed. Of these two groups, nearly 3,500 people experienced myocardial infarction in the period between the study's initial outreach and follow-up 13 years later (in Denmark) and 18 years later (in the UK).

 

"We found that eating relatively little of the longer chained saturated fatty acids and consuming plant-based proteins instead was associated with a lowered risk. Substitution of those saturated fats with other energy sources such as carbohydrates did not affect the risk to develop myocardial infarction," said Dr. Sluijs. Although diets vary by nationality and other factors, the most frequently consumed saturated fat is palmitic acid, with 16 carbon atoms, followed by stearic acid, with 18 carbon atoms, both of which are found in meat products. Consumption of saturated fats that have shorter carbon atom chains and are present in dairy products is less prevalent.

 

Since the 1960s, when diets high in saturated fat were linked to elevated "bad" LDL cholesterol and coronary heart disease, dietary guidelines recommended restricting saturated fatty acids across the board. In recent years, research studies have raised some questions about what was considered established evidence. Inconsistent findings have pointed to the possibility that different types of saturated fats have different effects on cholesterol levels and the development of coronary heart disease. Despite the fact that their study's findings support this hypothesis, Dr. Sluijs and her fellow investigators recommend proceeding with caution before changing dietary guidelines:

 

"Our study only allowed us to draw conclusions on the level of associations between saturated fatty acids and the development of myocardial infarction. We do not know whether those fatty acids are actually the cause of differences between the occurrences of myocardial infarction we observed. To further explore this, we need experiments in which the consumption of saturated fatty acids is more controlled and, for instance, compared with consumption of unsaturated fatty acids," she noted.

 

"The study is applaudable for its large size, prospective cohort study design, and detailed assessment of diet and lifestyle factors. In addition, it is among the few studies that specifically examined individual saturated fatty acids in relation to coronary heart disease risk and compared with different macronutrients," commented Jun Li, MD, PhD, and Qi Sun, MD, ScD, both at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA, in an accompanying editorial. They also noted a few limitations of the study and thus called for cautious interpretation of the overall null results for the primary saturated fatty acids.

 

Dr. Li and Dr. Sun advise that shifts in fat intake should align with the recommended healthy dietary patterns, which emphasize limited intakes of red and processed meat and added sugars, lower salt intake, replacement of refined grains with whole grains, and higher consumption of fruits and vegetables.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190128105230.htm

Adolescents who consume diet high in saturated fats may develop poor stress skills

Rat study provides insights into impact of diet on brain functioning during critical developmental period

June 13, 2018

Science Daily/Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center

Adolescents who consume a diet high in saturated fats may develop poor stress coping skills, signs of post-traumatic stress disorder as adults.

 

"The teen years are a very critical time for brain maturation, including how well (or not) we'll cope with stress as adults," said Dr. Johnny Figueroa, Assistant Professor, Division of Physiology, Department of Basic Sciences and Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine. "The findings of our research support that the lifestyle decisions made during adolescence -- even those as simple as your diet -- can make a big difference in our ability to overcome every day challenges."

 

The study, "Exposure to an obesogenic diet during adolescence leads to abnormal maturation of neural and behavioral substrates underpinning fear and anxiety," investigated the impact of an obesogenic Western-like high-saturated fat diet on the development of brain areas involved in responding to fear and stress. Study findings demonstrate that the consumption of an obesogenic diet during adolescence has a profound effect on phasic and sustained components of fear in the adult rat. Notably, the rats that consumed the high-saturated fat diet exhibited more anxiety, problems with associative and non-associative learning processes and an impaired fear-startle response.

 

Startle reflexes, which are studied in humans and lab animals, have a prominent role in anxiety and PTSD research. In this study, consumption of an obesogenic diet during adolescence reduced the extinction of fear memories -- a major impairment observed in people suffering from PTSD. In addition to not properly learning fear associations, the rats on the high-saturated fat diet incorrectly assessed the level of threat. This suggests that obesity and associated metabolic alterations may predispose individuals to PTSD-related psychopathology.

 

Researchers reported that the animals in the high-saturated fat diet group exhibited alterations in the structure of brain regions associated with PTSD, including the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Notably, the group found that the left-brain hemisphere seems to be more vulnerable to the effects of high-saturated fat diet consumption and obesity-related metabolic alterations. Understanding the neural networks that predispose obese adolescents to developing anxiety and stress-related disorders may help target metabolic measures to alleviate the burden of mental illness in this growing population.

 

Figueroa said the study leaves other questions open for further investigation, such as replicability in human subjects and if the alterations seen in the brain structures are permanent or whether the effects can be reversed. Study limitations include lack of clarity on how the high-saturated fat diet impacts the adult brain, and whether the effects of the obesogenic diet on the fear response are related to deficits in fear memory consolidation, retrieval and expression.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180613113738.htm

Diet shown to reduce stroke risk may also reduce risk of depression

February 25, 2018

Science Daily/American Academy of Neurology

People who eat vegetables, fruit and whole grains may have lower rates of depression over time, according to a preliminary study.

 

The study found that people whose diets adhered more closely to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were less likely to develop depression than people who did not closely follow the diet. In addition to fruit and vegetables, the DASH diet recommends fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limits foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar. Studies have shown health benefits such as lowering high blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL), along with lowering body weight.

 

"Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke," said study author Laurel Cherian, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications, so we wanted to see if diet could be an effective way to reduce the risk of depression."

 

For the study, 964 participants with an average age of 81 were evaluated yearly for an average of six-and-a-half years. They were monitored for symptoms of depression such as being bothered by things that usually didn't affect them and feeling hopeless about the future. They also filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods, and the researchers looked at how closely the participants' diets followed diets such as the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet.

 

Participants were divided into three groups based on how closely they adhered to the diets. People in the two groups that followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not follow the diet closely. The odds of becoming depressed over time was 11 percent lower among the top group of DASH adherers versus the lowest group. On the other hand, the more closely people followed a Western diet -- a diet that is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables -- the more likely they were to develop depression.

 

Cherian noted that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression; it only shows an association.

 

"Future studies are now needed to confirm these results and to determine the best nutritional components of the DASH diet to prevent depression later in life and to best help people keep their brains healthy," said Cherian.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180225191804.htm

With Fat: What's Good or Bad for the Heart, May Be the Same for the Brain

May 18, 2012

Science Daily/Brigham and Women's Hospital

It has been known for years that eating too many foods containing "bad" fats, such as saturated fats or trans fats, isn't healthy for your heart. However, according to new research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), one "bad" fat -- saturated fat -- was found to be associated with worse overall cognitive function and memory in women over time. By contrast, a "good" fat -- mono-unsaturated fat was associated with better overall cognitive function and memory.

 

The research team analyzed data from the Women's Health Study -- originally a cohort of nearly 40,000 women, 45 years and older. The researchers focused on data from a subset of 6,000 women, all over the age of 65. The women participated in three cognitive function tests, which were spaced out every two years for an average testing span of four years. These women filled out very detailed food frequency surveys at the start of the Women's Health Study, prior to the cognitive testing.

 

"When looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did," explained Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, BWH Department of Psychiatry.

 

Women who consumed the highest amounts of saturated fat, which can come from animal fats such as red meat and butter, compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts, had worse overall cognition and memory over the four years of testing. Women who ate the most of the monounsaturated fats, which can be found in olive oil, had better patterns of cognitive scores over time.

 

"Our findings have significant public health implications," said Okereke. "Substituting in the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory."

 

Okereke notes that strategies to prevent cognitive decline in older people are particularly important. Even subtle declines in cognitive functioning can lead to higher risk of developing more serious problems, like dementia and Alzheimer disease.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120518081358.htm

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