Dietary fats and cardiometabolic disease: mechanisms and effects on risk factors and outcomes

Nat Rev Cardiol. 2019 Oct;16(10):581-601. doi: 10.1038/s41569-019-0206-1.


The effect of dietary fats on cardiometabolic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes mellitus, has generated tremendous interest. Many earlier investigations focused on total fat and conventional fat classes (such as saturated and unsaturated fats) and their influence on a limited number of risk factors. However, dietary fats comprise heterogeneous molecules with diverse structures, and growing research in the past two decades supports correspondingly complex health effects of individual dietary fats. Moreover, health effects of dietary fats might be modified by additional factors, such as accompanying nutrients and food-processing methods, emphasizing the importance of the food sources. Accordingly, the rapidly increasing scientific findings on dietary fats and cardiometabolic diseases have generated debate among scientists, caused confusion for the general public and present challenges for translation into dietary advice and policies. This Review summarizes the evidence on the effects of different dietary fats and their food sources on cell function and on risk factors and clinical events of cardiometabolic diseases. The aim is not to provide an exhaustive review but rather to focus on the most important evidence from randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies and to highlight current areas of controversy and the most relevant future research directions for understanding how to improve the prevention and management of cardiometabolic diseases through optimization of dietary fat intake.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Food
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Loss


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Lipids
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human