Beneficial effect of dietary change on heart disease can take two years

March 29, 2001

Dietary fat intake and prevention of cardiovascular disease: systematic review

The theory that dietary fat causes heart disease remains central to "healthy eating" strategies. A review in this weeks BMJ shows modest, yet important, reductions in cardiovascular events, but only in those remaining on a diet for over two years.

Hooper and colleagues reviewed 27 trials, involving over 30,000 healthy adult participants to assess the effect of altering dietary fat intake on cardiovascular events. They found that cardiovascular deaths were reduced by 9% and cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks and strokes) were reduced by 16%. There was little effect on total mortality. Interestingly, virtually all protection from cardiovascular events occurred in trials of at least two years duration.

Despite only limited and inconclusive evidence for optimal intakes of total or individual fats, say the authors, these findings suggest that less total fat or less of any individual fatty acid fraction in the diet is beneficial. These results certainly support the view that dietary fat plays a central role in the development of cardiovascular disease, they conclude.

Lee Hooper, Research Associate, University Dental Hospital of Manchester, UK Email:


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