Dietary fats and coronary heart disease

J Intern Med. 2012 Jul;272(1):13-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2012.02553.x.


The relation of dietary fat to risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) has been studied extensively using many approaches, including controlled feeding studies with surrogate end-points such as plasma lipids, limited randomized trials and large cohort studies. All lines of evidence indicate that specific dietary fatty acids play important roles in the cause and the prevention of CHD, but total fat as a percent of energy is unimportant. Trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have clear adverse effects and should be eliminated. Modest reductions in CHD rates by further decreases in saturated fat are possible if saturated fat is replaced by a combination of poly- and mono-unsaturated fat, and the benefits of polyunsaturated fat appear strongest. However, little or no benefit is likely if saturated fat is replaced by carbohydrate, but this will in part depend on the form of carbohydrate. Because both N-6 and N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential and reduce risk of heart disease, the ratio of N-6 to N-3 is not useful and can be misleading. In practice, reducing red meat and dairy products in a food supply and increasing intakes of nuts, fish, soy products and nonhydrogenated vegetable oils will improve the mix of fatty acids and have a markedly beneficial effect on rates of CHD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronary Disease / diet therapy*
  • Coronary Disease / etiology*
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Trans Fatty Acids / adverse effects*


  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Trans Fatty Acids
  • Cholesterol