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EVIDENCE SUPPORTING A LOW FAT DIET FOR HEART HEALTH

For many decades we have been told that diets that are low in saturated, trans-fats and cholesterol are the best type of diet for a healthy heart. This way of eating is recommendation by many organisations including the American Heart Association (ADA), Heart Foundation of South Africa (HSFSA) and by the South African Department of Health as seen in the South African Food based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG). What does this diet entail and what does the evidence say?

CHARACTERISTICS OF A LOW FAT DIET

  • Fat intake of ≤30% of total energy
  • Saturated fat intake of ≤10% of total energy
  • Polyunsaturated intake of 6 – 10% of total energy (omega-6 providing 5-8% of energy and omega-3, 1-2% of energy)
  • The intake of trans-fatty acids should be less than 1% of Total Energy.
  • Remainder of the energy from total fat should be provided by MUFA.

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?

In the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial, 49 000 women were assigned to receive either the low-fat, high-carbohydrate compared to the usual diet. After 8 years of follow up results showed that those in the low-fat group lost weight, had a small but significant reduction in LDL cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure. Hooper et al (2001) reviewed 27 studies, on the intake of dietary fats on cardiovascular disease risk. They concluded that “reduction or modification of intake of dietary fat reduces the incidence of combined cardiovascular events by 16%”. The type and amount of fat that influenced CVD risk factors was assessed by Schwab et al (2014). They found that “partial replacement of saturated fat (SFA) with polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) or monounsaturated fat (MUFA) lowers fasting serum/plasma total and LDL cholesterol concentrations.” This was further supported in the male population with partial replacement of SFA with PUFA.

This way of thinking is in line with evidence presented by the HSFSA and SAFBDG. They also recommend the following guidelines dietary guidelines for healthy eating and promoting heart health.

  • “Enjoy a variety of foods.
  • Make high Chicken, fish, meat or eggs can be eaten every day. Choose lean or lower fat options with less bad (saturated) fats.
  • Try to have low-fat milk, maas or yoghurt every day.
  • Eat dried beans, split peas, lentils or soya at least twice a week. They are a good source of protein, low in fat and high in fibre.
  • Try to eat 5 vegetables and fruit every day. Remember to eat vegetables and fruit from the different colour groups (red, green, yellow and orange).
  • Eat less salt and avoid foods high in salt. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and cancer
  • Use fat sparingly; choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats.
  • Eat less sugar and avoid food or drinks high in sugar.”

Foods that are promoted by the HSFSA are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), added sugar and higher in fibre… So look out for the Heart mark when choosing foods at your local supermarket. They also recommend the intake of the heart smart foods such as pilchards, walnuts, avocado, beans, oats, flaxseed, olive oil, soft tub margarine, strawberries and low fat yoghurt. These foods contain beneficial nutrients such as good fats, fibre and vitamins A, C, E all of which promote heart health. Apart from dietary factor the HSFSA also recommend that you include exercise daily and don’t smoke.

CONCLUSION

There is enough evidence that a low fat diet supports heart health. Make sure that you are including the right type of fat in your diet: limit saturated and trans fat and include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat sources.

WHERE DOES FUTURELIFE® FIT IN?

FUTURELIFE® products can be included in a diet that aims to achieve a low-fat intake. Most of our products are high in omega-3, which is a polyunsaturated fat. Our products are also enriched with a variety of vitamins and minerals and are high in fibre and low-GI, making you feel fuller for longer.

REFERENCES

  1. Prentice RL, Caan B, Chlebowski RT. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of invasive breast cancer: the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled dietary modification trial. JAMA. 2006;295(6):629-642. Available at http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=202338
  2. Schwab U, Lauritzen L, Tholstrup T, Haldorsson TI, Riserus U,Uusitupa I, Becker W. Effect of the amount and type of dietary fat on cardiometabolic risk factors and risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer: a systematic review. Food Nutr Res 2014; 58: 25145.Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4095759/
  3. Naude CE, Schoonees A, Senekal M, Young T, Garner P, Volmink J. Low Carbohydrate versus Isoenergetic Balanced Diets for Reducing Weight and Cardiovascular Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 2014 July DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100652 Available at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0100652
  4. Smuts CM, Wolmarans P. The importance of the quality or type of fat in the diet: a food-based dietary guideline for South Africa. S Afr J Clin Nutr 2013;26(3)(Supplement):S87-S99 Available at http://sajcn.co.za/index.php/SAJCN/article/view/750/1081

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