Author Archives: The Nutrition Source

Healthy Heart Score uses lifestyle behaviors to estimate cardiovascular disease risk

stethescope_graph_smallAn overall healthy lifestyle may prevent more than 80% of coronary artery disease (1) and 50% of ischemic strokes. (2) Yet most lifestyle behaviors aren’t included in existing prediction tools.

The Healthy Heart Score was created by a team from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health to fill this gap. It estimates cardiovascular disease risk in seemingly healthy individuals. The Healthy Heart Score is a simple tool that can be used to identify individuals at high risk for cardiovascular disease due to unhealthy lifestyle habits. Its use is intended to complement, not replace, existing primary prevention risk scores, since different calculators may be most appropriate for different populations. Continue reading

Dietary linoleic acid and risk of coronary heart disease

SONY DSCSwapping saturated fat and carbohydrates for linoleic acid – the main polyunsaturated fat found in vegetable oil, nuts, and seeds – lowers risk of coronary heart disease, according to a new study by Harvard School of Public Health researchers.

We talked to lead author Maryam Farvid, a visiting scientist and Takemi fellow in the Department of Nutrition, about the study to find out more.

1. Your research shows that by reducing the amount of saturated fat and carbohydrates we eat, and replacing those calories with foods rich in linoleic acid – such as vegetable oil, nuts, and seeds – we can reduce our risk of developing coronary heart disease. What’s so special about linoleic acid? And should consumers focus on reducing saturated fat and carbohydrates equally, or should we reduce one more than the other?

 Replacing either saturated fat or carbohydrate with vegetable oils and seeing significant benefits indicates that reduction in saturated fat or carbohydrate is not the only reason for the beneficial effects of linoleic acid. Instead, linoleic acid itself plays a special role in support of heart health. Randomized clinical trials have shown that replacing saturated fat with linoleic acid reduces total and LDL cholesterol. There is also some evidence that linoleic acid improves insulin sensitivity and blood pressure.

2. Lately there’s been a lot of talk about healthy and unhealthy fats, with saturated fat being debated in the media. What can readers learn from your research about polyunsaturated versus saturated fats? Continue reading

How to choose healthy fats

SONY DSC1. Use liquid vegetable oils for cooking and baking. Olive, canola, and other plant-based oils are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Try dressing up a salad or roasted vegetables with an olive oil-based vinaigrette.

2. Avoid trans fat. Read labels to find foods without trans fats. You should also scan the ingredient list to make sure it does not contain partially hydrogenated oils.

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Saturated or not: Does type of fat matter?

Saturated fat has long been considered detrimental to health, so when a recently published research paper suggested there is no evidence supporting the recommendation to limit saturated fat consumption, media outlets reported extensively on the subject.

Even after errors in the paper were identified and corrected, popular media coverage touted the benefits of saturated fat despite nutrition experts’ warnings. This media coverage – often based on sensationalizing study results – surrounding saturated fat may be detrimental to public health, as it contributes to a haze of confusion rather than offering sound scientific clarification.

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Dietary fat and heart disease study is seriously misleading

The journal Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a paper suggesting there is no evidence supporting the longstanding recommendation to limit saturated fat consumption. Media reporting on the paper included headlines such as “No link found between saturated fat and heart disease” and articles saying “Saturated fat shouldn’t be demonized” springing up on social media.

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