Food Innovation Online Corp
  • English
  • Español
  • 简体中文
  • Nederlands

You are here

Benefits Vegetable Oils for Heart Health Questioned

Benefits vegetable oils for heart health questioned

Replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid lowers blood cholesterol, but may not curb heart disease risk or help you live longer.

April 20, 2016
A study published in The BMJ shows that replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid lowers blood cholesterol, but may not curb heart disease risk or help you live longer.

The findings question the widely held belief that vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid are good for heart health. The traditional “diet-heart hypothesis” predicts that replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid will reduce cardiovascular deaths by lowering blood cholesterol levels.

A team of U.S. researchers, led by Christopher Ramsden at the National Institutes of Health and University of North Carolina, set out to re-examine this hypothesis by analyzing recovered data from a large randomized controlled trial that took place 45 years ago. The Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE) followed 9,423 participants from state mental hospitals and a nursing home for up to 4.5 years.

The trial tested whether replacing saturated fat with vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid (corn oil) reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and death by lowering blood cholesterol levels. The control group ate a diet high in saturated fat.

As expected, the diet enriched with linoleic acid lowered cholesterol levels, but this did not translate to improved survival. In fact, participants who had greater reduction in blood cholesterol had higher, rather than lower, risk of death.

Full Publication in theBMJ

(Free Access)

Christopher E Ramsden et al.; Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73)

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1246 (Published 12 April 2016)
In 2013, the researchers examined unpublished data from a similar trial—the Sydney Diet Heart Study—and found that the risk of death from coronary heart disease was higher in those who replaced saturated fat with vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid. To test their findings further, the team reviewed and analyzed the results of all similar randomized controlled trials—and failed to find any reduction in death from coronary heart disease or other causes.

After emphasizing limitations of available data, they reason that collective findings from controlled trials “do not provide support for the central diet-heart tenet that the serum cholesterol lowering effects of replacing saturated fat with linoleic acid translate to reduced risks of coronary heart disease and death.”

Additionally, they conclude that findings from the MCE “add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid.”