Current Evidence Supporting the Link Between Dietary Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease

Lipids. 2016 May;51(5):507-17. doi: 10.1007/s11745-015-4113-x. Epub 2015 Dec 30.


Lack of consensus exists pertaining to the scientific evidence regarding effects of various dietary fatty acids on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. The objective of this article is to review current evidence concerning cardiovascular health effects of the main dietary fatty acid types; namely, trans (TFA), saturated (SFA), polyunsaturated (PUFA; n-3 PUFA and n-6 PUFA), and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Accumulating evidence shows negative health impacts of TFA and SFA; both may increase CVD risk. Policies have been proposed to reduce TFA and SFA consumption to less than 1 and 7 % of energy intake, respectively. Cardiovascular health might be promoted by replacing SFA and TFA with n-6 PUFA, n-3 PUFA, or MUFA; however, the optimal amount of PUFA or MUFA that can be used to replace SFA and TFA has not been defined yet. Evidence suggests of the potential importance of restricting n-6 PUFA up to 10 % of energy and obtaining an n-6/n-3 ratio as close as possible to unity, along with a particular emphasis on consuming adequate amounts of essential fatty acids. The latest evidence shows cardioprotective effects of MUFA-rich diets, especially when MUFA are supplemented with essential fatty acids; namely, docosahexaenoic acid. MUFA has been newly suggested to be involved in regulating fat oxidation, energy metabolism, appetite sensations, weight maintenance, and cholesterol metabolism. These favorable effects might implicate MUFA as the preferable choice to substitute for other fatty acids, especially given the declaration of its safety for up to 20 % of total energy.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease risk; Chronic disease; Dietary lipids; Lipid profile; Saturated fatty acids; Unsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Trans Fatty Acids / metabolism*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Trans Fatty Acids