A recently unearthed study has further complicated the relationships between certain kinds of diets and the risk of contracting heart disease. In the late 60s and early 70s, scientists followed a group of men who substantially reduced their intake of saturated fats. “The men were followed for an average of 39 months, and those on the polyunsaturated-rich diet lowered their cholesterol levels by an average of 13 percent. But they also were more likely to die, and in particular to die of a heart attack, than those who stuck with their usual diet, which consisted of about 15 percent saturated fat.”
What’s the Big Idea?
While diets high in saturated fats are known to increase cholesterol, exactly how cholesterol influences heart disease remains to be fully understood. Philip Calder, a professor of nutritional immunology at the University of Southampton, in England, says the link between cholesterol and heart disease may not be as strong as we think. “That possibility lends credence to other studies showing that assiduously sticking to a diet rich in fish oils, another heart-healthful fat, doesn’t necessarily protect people from heart attacks or strokes; and that those who carry extra pounds, even to the point of being slightly obese, may live longer than people who weigh less.”