Rationale: Evidence linking saturated fat intake with cardiovascular health is controversial. The associations of unsaturated fats with total and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality remain inconsistent, and data about non-CVD mortality are limited.
Objective: To assess dietary fat intake in relation to total and cause-specific mortality.
Methods and results: We analyzed data of 521 120 participants aged 50 to 71 years from the National Institutes of Health-American Association of Retired Persons Diet and Health Study with 16 years of follow-up. Intakes of saturated fatty acids (SFAs), trans-fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) were assessed via food frequency questionnaires. Hazard ratios and 95%CIs were estimated using the Cox proportional hazards model. Overall, 129 328 deaths were documented during 7.3 million person-years of follow-up. In the replacement of carbohydrates, multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios of total mortality comparing extreme quintiles were 1.29 (95% CI, 1.25-1.33) for SFAs, 1.03 (1.00-1.05) for trans-fatty acids, 0.98 (0.94-1.02) for MUFAs, 1.09 (1.06-1.13) for animal MUFAs, 0.94 (0.91-0.97) for plant MUFAs, 0.93 (0.91-0.95) for PUFAs, 0.92 (0.90-0.94) for marine omega-3 PUFAs, 1.06 (1.03-1.09) for α-linolenic acid, 0.88 (0.86-0.91) for linoleic acid, and 1.10 (1.08-1.13) for arachidonic acid. CVD mortality was inversely associated with marine omega-3 PUFA intake ( P trend <0.0001), whereas it was positively associated with SFA, trans-fatty acid, and arachidonic acid intake. Isocalorically replacing 5% of the energy from SFAs with plant MUFAs was associated with 15%, 10%, 11%, and 30% lower total mortality, CVD, cancer, and respiratory disease mortality, respectively. Isocaloric replacement of SFA with linoleic acid (2%) was associated with lower total (8%), CVD (6%), cancer (8%), respiratory disease (11%), and diabetes mellitus (9%) mortality.
Conclusions: Intakes of SFAs, trans-fatty acids, animal MUFAs, α-linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid were associated with higher mortality. Dietary intake of marine omega-3 PUFAs and replacing SFAs with plant MUFAs or linoleic acid were associated with lower total, CVD, and certain cause-specific mortality.
Clinical trial registration: URL: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov . Unique identifier: NCT00340015.
Keywords: cardiovascular diseases; diet; epidemiology; fatty acids; mortality.