Ridding your diet of saturated and trans fats could add years to your life, according to a recent study that linked consumption of good fats to reduced risk of death.
Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, this study looked at the association between “good” and “bad” types of fat on mortality risk. When it comes to heart health, replacing “bad” fats like saturated and trans fats with unsaturated or “good” fats is widely recommended. Many studies show that good fats help protect against heart disease, while saturated and trans fats increase cardiovascular risk. However, the health effects of good versus bad fats remain controversial, and evidence on dietary fats and mortality risk is both limited and inconsistent.
To help settle the debate, researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which have tracked the health of U.S. health professionals since the 1980s. The analysis included more than 126,000 men and women who were followed for up to 32 years, all of whom periodically reported their dietary fat intake as well as other health and lifestyle information.
After more than three decades of follow-up, there were a total of 33,304 deaths. However, risk of death varied significantly by dietary fat intake.
Researchers found that participants consuming the highest levels of saturated and trans fats had 8–13% greater risk of death than those with the lowest. In comparison, participants consuming the highest levels of unsaturated fats had 11–19% lower risk of death than those with little consumption of good fats. Most notably, researchers estimated that replacing just 5% of daily calorie intake from saturated fats with unsaturated fats would reduce risk of death by up to 27%.
Findings add to a wealth of evidence that show unsaturated fats are simply better for our health. Findings also support current guidelines that recommend cutting out bad fats and replacing them with heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Authors hope that findings highlight the importance of choosing healthier fats and drive future efforts to improve Americans’ diets and health.