The results of a meta-analysis suggest there is no significant evidence to show that consumption of saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) or coronary heart disease (CHD).
“A reduction in dietary saturated fat has generally been thought to improve cardiovascular health,” says Ronald Krauss (Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, California, USA) and co-authors.
However, although some previous studies have demonstrated benefits of reducing amounts of dietary saturated fat, others have shown no effects of such diets on CVD risk.
To try and clarify the effects of saturated fat intake on CV risk, Krauss and team carried out a meta-analysis of 21 studies comprising 347,747 individuals. The saturated fat intake of the participants was measured and they were followed up for 5-23 years for incidence of CHD, stroke and CVD (CHD plus stroke).
The investigators found that compared with the lowest quintile of saturated fat intake, those in the highest quintile had pooled relative risk (RR) estimates for CHD, stroke and CVD of 1.07, 0.81 and 1.00, respectively, all of which were non-significant.
Further adjustment for age, gender and study quality did not alter the results.
“Our meta-analysis showed that there is insufficient evidence from prospective epidemiologic studies to conclude that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke or CVD,” conclude Krauss et al in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“However, the available data were not adequate for determining whether there are CHD or stroke associations with saturated fat in specific age and gender subgroups,” they add.
“Furthermore, there was insufficient statistical power for this meta-analysis to assess the effects on CVD risk of replacing specific amounts of saturated fat with either polyunsaturated fat or carbohydrate.”