Research reinforces dietary guidelines, say BHF

11 August 2015        

An image of some foods that are high in unsaturated fats

A study published this week in the British Medical Journal has supported previous research that suggests eating trans fats that are found in margarine and processed foods could  increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and type two diabetes.

The research also found no clear association between higher intakes of saturated fats and all cause mortality, coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiovascular disease (CVD), ischemic stroke or type two diabetes. However, the research did not find evidence that diets higher in saturated fat reduce cardiovascular risk either and concluded that the certainty of associations between saturated fat and all outcomes was “very low,”  meaning further research is needed. 

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The results of this review support existing guidance to avoid industrially produced trans fats. In the UK, industry action to remove these fats from manufactured foods means that our intakes are already below the recommended maximum 2% of food energy.

“While saturated fats were not robustly associated with total or deaths from coronary heart disease, this does not mean we should all go back to eating butter - the studies that this review is based on can’t show cause and effect. Rather, it highlights how difficult it is to understand the true relationship between diet and our health. 

Diets high in saturated fat are linked to raised cholesterol levels, a risk factor for coronary heart disease.  But when one nutrient is reduced it will be replaced by another and, depending on what this is, it can have positive or negative health consequences. 

“With the recent emphasis that we have had about the direct role of saturated fat on coronary heart disease, it’s easy to forget that we need to consider our whole diet to reduce our overall risk. There are many factors which cause coronary heart disease and no single food or nutrient is solely responsible for this. 

We will continue to recommend switching saturated fat for unsaturated fat. This is consistent with a traditional Mediterranean style diet, which is a style of eating associated with a lower rate of coronary heart disease.”

Eating a balanced diet can help you prevent heart disease, find out more about our advice on fats.