Saturated fat as compared to unsaturated fats and different sources of carbs in relation to coronary heart disease presented by Frank Hu, MD, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health, Professor of Medicine-Harvard Medical School

Dr. Frank Hu is a professor of nutrition, epidemiology, and medicine at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. In this presentation, he discusses the relationship between saturated and unsaturated fats, sources of carbohydrates, and risk of cardiovascular disease. There have been recent sensationalist headlines on the role of fat in the diet and its relationship to cardiovascular disease. Professor Hu attempts to clear the confusion here.

A recent paper by Professor Hu and his colleagues compared saturated and unsaturated fats and sources of carbohydrates in relation to cardiovascular disease risk. The paper found that common characteristics of a healthful diet include:

  • Higher intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts
  • Moderate intake of alcohol among adults
  • Lower consumption of red and processed meat
  • Low intake of sugar-sweetened foods and drinks
  • Low intake of refined grains

In conclusion, there is strong evidence that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats (especially PUFAs) reduces LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular risk. There is also strong evidence that replacing saturated fat with overall carbohydrates does not lower cardiovascular risk.

When making recommendations to lower saturated fat intake, healthcare professionals should emphasize replacing saturated fats (meat and dairy) with healthier unsaturated fat-rich foods like nuts, olive oil, fatty fish, and fiber-rich whole grains.

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