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The Relationship Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease: What the Studies Say

Studies examining the impact of saturated fat in food on heart health suggest that diets high in this type of fat may be associated with increased cholesterol levels, which in turn may increase the risk of cardiac arrest. As the American Heart Association reports, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US, surpassing all types of cancer combined and chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and emphysema.

To address this public health concern, The Monday Campaigns is urging individuals to manage three key risk factors for heart disease, which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. While smoking is not food-related, both blood pressure and cholesterol can be influenced by one’s diet.

Registered dietitian Sharon Palmer suggests that pulses, soy, seeds, and nuts are among the top foods for promoting heart health. She explains that these plant-based foods are rich in fiber, which can lower LDL cholesterol levels, reduce chronic inflammation, and enhance the gut microbiome. Furthermore, nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats that have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, in addition to fiber and phytochemicals that offer heart-healthy benefits.

Samantha Cochrane, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, advises that the best way to support a healthy heart is to consume a variety of plant-based foods that provide essential nutrients, such as unsaturated fats, fiber, and phytochemicals. She also warns against consuming foods containing trans fats, which can cause inflammation and swelling in the body, and saturated fats found in animal products and tropical oils. Cochrane recommends checking the nutrition label for the term “partial hydrogenated fat” to avoid trans fats and being mindful of the amount of saturated fat in one’s diet. As she notes, making informed dietary choices is key to improving heart health.