Trans Fats Linked to Heart Disease, Early Death

The consumption of trans fats is tied to a higher chance of disease and dying sooner, according to a systematic review.

Aug 14, 2015
Kerry Grens

WIKIMEDIA, KAGOREating trans fats—the kinds produced by partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils or found naturally in meat—is linked with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and dying sooner. Saturated fats, on the other hand, which come from meat, butter, eggs, and some vegetable oils, did not have such associations. Both findings were published this week (August 12) in The BMJ.

“This result will be surprising to some since recommendations to lower saturated fat are still widely circulated, but there seems to be little basis for that—at least this study didn’t find any,” George Bray, a member of the American Board of Obesity Medicine who was not part of the study, told MedPage Today.

In their systematic review, the authors noted that dietary guidelines recommend limiting saturated and trans fats to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. To clear up the confusion, they pooled the results of several studies looking at links between the consumption of either saturated or trans fats and various conditions.

Saturated fats, it turned out, were not associated with stroke, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, or early death, “but the evidence is heterogeneous with methodological limitations,” the authors noted in their report.

Trans fats were tied to a 34 percent increase in the risk of early death, and a 21 percent increase in coronary heart disease. The industrial trans fats were especially problematic when it came to the risk for coronary heart disease and death by coronary heart disease (42 percent and 18 percent increased risks, respectively). Trans fats from animal meat were not tied to coronary heart disease.

“Trans fats have no health benefits and pose a significant risk for heart disease, but the case for saturated fat is less clear,” McMaster University’s Russell de Souza, the lead author of the study, said in a press release. “That said, we aren’t advocating an increase of the allowance for saturated fats in dietary guidelines, as we don’t see evidence that higher limits would be specifically beneficial to health.”