Dietary Fat and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Recent Controversies and Advances

Annu Rev Nutr. 2017 Aug 21:37:423-446. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064614. Epub 2017 Jun 23.


Health effects of dietary fats have been extensively studied for decades. However, controversies exist on the effects of various types of fatty acids, especially saturated fatty acid (SFA), on cardiovascular disease (CVD). Current evidence supports that different types of dietary fatty acids have divergent effects on CVD risk, and the effects also depend strongly on the comparison or replacement macronutrient. A significant reduction in CVD risk can be achieved if SFAs are replaced by unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids. Intake of industrially produced trans fat is consistently associated with higher CVD risk. Both n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with lower CVD risk, although the effects of fish oil supplementation remains inconsistent. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans place greater emphasis on types of dietary fat than total amount of dietary fat and recommend replacing SFAs with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids for CVD prevention.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; diet; fat; monounsaturated fatty acids; polyunsaturated fatty acids; saturated fatty acids; trans fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diet therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Fish Oils
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Risk
  • Trans Fatty Acids / adverse effects


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fish Oils
  • Trans Fatty Acids