Dietary strategies aimed solely at lowering saturated fat intake may be less effective in reducing cardiovascular disease (CVD) than recommendations for a plant-centered diet, according to a study presented during Nutrition 2021, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.
Yuni Choi, PhD, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues used data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study (5,115 Black and White adults enrolled in 1985 to 1986) to compare associations of a low-saturated fat diet versus a plant-centered diet with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) concentration and risk for incident CVD, coronary heart disease (CHD), and stroke.
The researchers found that during 32 years of follow-up, there were 280 cases of CVD, 135 cases of CHD, and 92 cases of stroke. CVD and CHD were predicted by LDL-C, but stroke was not. The A Priori Diet Quality Score (APDQS) for a more plant-centered diet was associated with a lower risk for each CVD outcome, but the Keys score, which measures diets low in saturated fat, was not. For each one-standard deviation increment for the APDQS, adjusted hazard ratios were 0.81 for CVD (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.68 to 0.96), 0.78 for CHD (95 percent CI, 0.61 to 1.00), and 0.71 for stroke (95 percent CI, 0.52 to 0.98).
“Our findings show that it is important to view diet quality from a holistic perspective,” Choi said in a statement. “Targeting just single nutrients such as total or saturated fat doesn’t take into account the fats that are also found in healthy plant-based foods such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, and dark chocolate — foods that also have cardioprotective properties and complex nutrient profiles.”
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