Nutrition in the News

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