A Better Choice Than Low Fat

Modified fat more effective at lowering heart disease risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A diet low in fat seems like an easy way to reduce your risk of heart disease. It might be easy, but research suggests it isn't all that effective. Instead, a modified-fat diet may be the best way to go.

The reason is remains unclear, though investigators suspect it may be because a low-fat diet is harder to maintain long term.

"Follow a modified-fat diet to cut heart disease risk."

Lee Hooper, M.D., lead study author and a senior lecturer in research synthesis and nutrition at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in England, said she was surprised that such a large difference between the two diets was discovered.

A low-fat diet generally consists of more starches, fruits and vegetables and less fat from meat and dairy products, while a modified-fat diet consists of healthy fats found in fish, seeds, nuts and liquid vegetable oils. Both diets eliminate saturated fats from animal products and dairy.

The leading theory has been that saturated fat increases bad LDL cholesterol, which in turn raises the risk of heart disease. In this respect, the two diets should be similar, but Dr. Hooper said that is not the case.

The review clearly revealed that a modified-fat diet was more successful at lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease because saturated fats are replaced with non-saturated fats. This is especially true if is followed for at least two years, according to the study.

It also showed that cutting saturated fat under the modified-fat diet reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke and unplanned heart surgery by 14 percent. Researchers found no clear reduction in heart disease for individuals who followed a low-fat diet, possibly because many are replacing saturated fats with starches instead of non-saturated fats as in the modified far diet.

The review drew conclusions based on 48 previous trials conducted between 1965 and 2009, including more than 65,000 participants worldwide. Each of the studies had participants modify dietary fat or cholesterol for a minimum of six months by at least 30 percent. About 7 percent of the individuals studied had a cardiovascular event.

Dr. Hooper's study was published in the July issue of The Cochrane Library.

Information was provided by the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, an organization that disseminates research findings.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 16, 2011
Last Updated:
July 22, 2011