Intake of food rich in saturated fat in relation to subclinical atherosclerosis and potential modulating effects from single genetic variants

Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 12;11(1):7866. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-86324-w.


The relationship between intake of saturated fats and subclinical atherosclerosis, as well as the possible influence of genetic variants, is poorly understood and investigated. We aimed to investigate this relationship, with a hypothesis that it would be positive, and to explore whether genetics may modulate it, using data from a European cohort including 3,407 participants aged 54-79 at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Subclinical atherosclerosis was assessed by carotid intima-media thickness (C-IMT), measured at baseline and after 30 months. Logistic regression (OR; 95% CI) was employed to assess the association between high intake of food rich in saturated fat (vs. low) and: (1) the mean and the maximum values of C-IMT in the whole carotid artery (C-IMTmean, C-IMTmax), in the bifurcation (Bif-), the common (CC-) and internal (ICA-) carotid arteries at baseline (binary, cut-point ≥ 75th), and (2) C-IMT progression (binary, cut-point > zero). For the genetic-diet interaction analyses, we considered 100,350 genetic variants. We defined interaction as departure from additivity of effects. After age- and sex-adjustment, high intake of saturated fat was associated with increased C-IMTmean (OR:1.27;1.06-1.47), CC-IMTmean (OR:1.22;1.04-1.44) and ICA-IMTmean (OR:1.26;1.07-1.48). However, in multivariate analysis results were no longer significant. No clear associations were observed between high intake of saturated fat and risk of atherosclerotic progression. There was no evidence of interactions between high intake of saturated fat and any of the genetic variants considered, after multiple testing corrections. High intake of saturated fats was not independently associated with subclinical atherosclerosis. Moreover, we did not identify any significant genetic-dietary fat interactions in relation to risk of subclinical atherosclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis* / epidemiology
  • Atherosclerosis* / etiology
  • Atherosclerosis* / genetics
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Fats