The type of saturated fats we consume can put us at risk of a heart attack, according to a new study suggesting that eating plant-based proteins can decrease chances of the disease instead.
The study showed that people whose diets contain relatively little palmitic and stearic acid — saturated fats composed of 16 or more carbon atoms (longer-chain saturated fats) that are typically found in meats can affect our risk of a myocardial infarction or heart attack. Moreover, individuals who eat more saturated fats with 14 or fewer carbon atoms (shorter-chain saturated fats) that are typically found in dairy products have lower risk of heart attacks.
“Our analysis of the diets of large groups of individuals in two countries over time shows that the type of saturated fats we consume could affect our cardiovascular heath,” explained lead author Ivonne Sluijs, postdoctoral student at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
For the study data from approximately 75,000 people were analysed by the team among which nearly 3,500 people experienced heart attack. “We found that eating relatively little of the longer chained saturated fatty acids and consuming plant-based proteins instead was associated with a lowered risk. Substitution of those saturated fats with other energy sources such as carbohydrates did not affect the risk to develop myocardial infarction,” said Sluijs.
Although diets vary by nationality and other factors, the most frequently consumed saturated fat is palmitic acid, with 16 carbon atoms, followed by stearic acid, with 18 carbon atoms, both of which are found in meat products, as per the study published in the International Journal of Cardiology.
Shifts in fat intake should align with the recommended healthy dietary patterns, which emphasise limited intakes of red and processed meat and added sugars, lower salt intake, replacement of refined grains with whole grains, and higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, the team suggested.