Dietary fatty acids and mortality risk from heart disease in US adults: an analysis based on NHANES

Sci Rep. 2023 Jan 28;13(1):1614. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-28738-2.


We investigated the association of dietary intake of major types of fatty acids with heart disease mortality in a general adult cohort with or without a prior diagnosis of myocardial infarction (MI). This cohort study included US adults who attended the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1988 to 2014. Heart disease mortality was ascertained by linkage to the National Death Index records through 31 December 2015. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of fatty acid intake for heart disease mortality. This cohort included 45,820 adults among which 1,541 had a prior diagnosis of MI. Participants were followed up for 532,722 person-years (mean follow-up, 11.6 years), with 2,313 deaths recorded from heart disease being recorded. Intake of saturated (SFAs) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) was associated with heart disease mortality after adjustment for all the tested confounders. In contrast, a 5% higher calorie intake from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) was associated with a 9% (HR, 0.91; 95% CI 0.83-1.00; P = 0.048) lower multivariate-adjusted risk of heart disease mortality. Sub-analyses showed that this inverse association was present in those without a prior diagnosis of MI (HR,0.89; 95% CI 0.80-0.99) but not in those with the condition (HR, 0.94; 95% CI 0.75-1.16). The lack of association in the MI group could be due to a small sample size or severity and procedural complications (e.g., stenting and medication adherence) of the disease. Higher PUFA intake was associated with a favourable lipid profile. However, further adjustment for plasma lipids did not materially change the inverse association between PUFAs and heart disease mortality. Higher intake of PUFAs, but not SFAs and MUFAs, was associated with a lower adjusted risk of heart disease mortality in a large population of US adults supporting the need to increase dietary PUFA intake in the general public.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dietary Fats* / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction* / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Prospective Studies


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