Background: In the Seven Countries Study associations between intake of individual fatty acids and dietary cholesterol were studied in relation to serum cholesterol and 25-year mortality from coronary heart disease. All analyses concern only intercohort comparisons.
Methods: In the baseline surveys carried out between 1958 and 1964, risk factors for coronary heart disease were measured among 12,763 middle-aged men constituting 16 cohorts in seven countries. In 1987 and 1988 equivalent food composites representing the average food intake of each cohort at baseline were collected locally and analyzed in a central laboratory. The vital status of all participants was verified at regular intervals during 25 years of follow-up.
Results: Of the individual saturated fatty acids, the average population intake of lauric and myristic acid was most strongly related to the average serum cholesterol level (r > 0.8, P < 0.001). Strong positive associations were observed between 25-year death rates from coronary heart disease and average intake of the four major saturated fatty acids, lauric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acid (r > 0.8, P < 0.001); the trans fatty acid elaidic acid (r = 0.78, P < 0.001); and dietary cholesterol (r = 0.55, P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Interpreted in the light of experimental and clinical studies, the results of these cross-cultural analyses suggest that dietary saturated and trans fatty acids and dietary cholesterol are important determinants of differences in population rates of coronary heart disease death.