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Fiona Haynes

Heart-Healthy Fats

By March 27, 2007

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A diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol significantly reduces the risk of a second heart attack, according to the findings of a study presented at the American College of Cardiology Conference on March 25th. Moreover, a Mediterranean-style diet, which focuses on fish, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, was found to be as effective as the more traditional low-fat diet promoted by the American Heart Association, which suggests we limit our daily intake of saturated fat to less than 7 percent of total calories.

The 202 participants, who had suffered heart attacks in the previous six weeks, were divided into three groups: 50 were placed on a low-fat diet; 51 on the Mediterranean diet; and the remaining 101 followed a regular diet, and were prescribed various heart-care medications and cholesterol-lowering drugs as needed. Those on the low-fat diet were required to keep total fat intake below 30 percent of calories, while those on the Mediterranean diet limited their fat intake to 40 percent or less. The Mediterranean dieters were counseled to eat three to five servings of fish a week compared to the two or more servings suggested by the American Heart Association.

Nearly four years later, 83 percent of those on the low-fat and Mediterranean diets had survived without any further heart problems compared to 53 percent of those following a regular diet plus medication. In all, eight people suffered a second heart attack, stroke or developed another heart-related problem in the low-saturated-fat groups, but no one died. In the regular-diet group, 40 people suffered a recurrence, developed a new problem, or died.

All the more reason to choose olive oil over butter, and salmon over steak.

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