A group of 111 experts (Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group) investigated the relation between country-specific intakes of saturated fat, n-6 polyunsaturated fat and trans fat and mortality due to coronary heart disease. The analyses was done for 186 countries. In the majority of the countries an inadequate intake of n-6 polyunsaturated fat (ie. below 12En%) contributes more to coronary heart disease risk than excess intake of saturated fat (ie. more than 10En%).
In Western Europe, non-optimal intakes of n-6 PUFA, saturated fat, and trans fat were estimated to result in 81,500; 33,800 and 38,700 deaths from coronary heart disease per year, accounting for 10.9%, 4.5%, and 5.2% of from coronary heart disease mortality in Europe.
It is striking that inadequate intake of PUFA was determined to contribute to more than double to coronary heart disease deaths than excess saturated fat. This is in line with the intervention studies indicating that lowering saturated fat provides cardiovascular benefits only when replaced by PUFA.
In 80% of nations, n-6 PUFA–attributable coronary heart disease burdens were at least 2-fold higher than saturated fat attributable burdens. This suggests that focus on increasing healthful n-6–rich plant-based products may provide important public health benefits.
Plant-based foods and plant-based eating patterns are typically low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat and usually have a low energy density. The low fat content and the beneficial fat quality play a role in maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels and can subsequently contribute to a healthy heart.
Eating smaller amounts of animal foods, which are the main sources of saturated fat, and replacing these with legumes, nuts, oils and seeds, can improve the fat quality of the diet.