More research needed into fat guidelines

17 March 2014        

Cakes

A study we helped to fund suggests there’s not enough evidence to back the current UK guidelines on the types of fat we eat. But we think more research is needed before suggesting any major changes.

At the moment guidelines generally encourage us to swap out saturated fats – found in foods like dairy products – for unsaturated fats found in products such as margarine or sunflower oil.

But this analysis, by researchers including BHF Professor John Danesh from the University of Cambridge, of 72 separate studies suggests this change does not impact on our risk of developing heart disease.

More research needed

We know there are good biological reasons for encouraging a Mediterranean-style diet, where we eat more unsaturated than saturated fat, that lower our levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol.

But it's difficult to get clear conclusions from studies, like those analysed here, which involve observing people's behaviour or measuring certain chemicals in the blood. We would need to closely control what people are eating and doing to ensure other factors don't affect the results.

Our Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said:

“This analysis of existing data suggests there isn’t enough evidence to say that a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. But large scale clinical studies are needed, as these researchers recommend, before making a conclusive judgement.”

What do we recommend?

We encourage people to think about everything they’re eating, not one particular element such as fat.

Professor Pearson adds: “Alongside taking any necessary medication, the best way to stay heart healthy is to stop smoking, stay active, and ensure our whole diet is healthy – and this means considering not only the fats in our diet but also our intake of salt, sugar and fruit and vegetables.”

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