Original Article| Volume 6, ISSUE 3, P216-234, May 2012

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Fatty acids in cardiovascular health and disease: A comprehensive update

Published:April 16, 2012DOI:


      Research dating back to the 1950s reported an association between the consumption of saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and risk of coronary heart disease. Recent epidemiological evidence, however, challenges these findings. It is well accepted that the consumption of SFAs increases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), whereas carbohydrates, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) do not. High-density lipoprotein (HDL)-C increases with SFA intake. Among individuals who are insulin resistant, a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet typically has an adverse effect on lipid profiles (in addition to decreasing HDL-C, it also increases triglyceride and LDL particle concentrations). Consequently, a moderate fat diet in which unsaturated fatty acids replace SFAs and carbohydrates are not augmented is advised to lower LDL-C; compared with a low-fat diet, a moderate-fat diet will lower triglycerides and increase HDL-C. Now, there is some new evidence that is questioning the health benefits of even MUFAs and PUFAs. In addition, in a few recent studies investigators have also failed to demonstrate expected cardiovascular benefits of marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids. To clarify the clinical pros and cons of dietary fats, the National Lipid Association held a fatty acid symposium at the 2011 National Lipid Association Scientific Sessions. During these sessions, the science regarding the effects of different fatty acid classes on coronary heart disease risk was reviewed.


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