The questionable role of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiovascular disease.


"A fat diet, rich in saturated fatty acids (SFA) and low in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), is said to be an important cause of atherosclerosis andcardiovascular diseases (CVD). The evidence for this hypothesis was sought by reviewing studies of the direct link between dietary fats and atherosclerotic vascular disease in human beings. The review included ecological, dynamic population, cross-sectional, cohort, and case-controlstudies, as well as controlled, randomized trials of the effect of fat reduction alone. The positive ecological correlations between national intakes of total fat (TF) and SFA and cardiovascular mortality found in earlier studies were absent or negative in the larger, more recent studies. Secular trends of national fat consumption and mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD) in 18-35 countries (four studies) during different time periods diverged from each other as often as they coincided. In cross-sectional studies of CHD and atherosclerosis, one group of studies (Bantu people vs. Caucasians) were supportive; six groups of studies (West Indians vs. Americans, Japanese, and Japanese migrants vs. Americans, Yemenite Jews vs. Yemenite migrants; Seminole and Pima Indians vs. Americans, Seven Countries) gave partly supportive, partly contradictive results; in seven groups of studies (Navajo Indians vs. Americans; pure vegetarians vs. lacto-ovo-vegetarians and non-vegetarians, Masai people vs. Americans, Asiatic Indians vs. non-Indians, north vs. south Indians, Indian migrants vs. British residents, Geographic Study of Atherosclerosis) the findings were contradictory. Among 21 cohort studies of CHD including 28 cohorts, CHD patients had eaten significantly more SFA in three cohorts and significantly less in one cohort than had CHD-free individuals; in 22 cohorts no significant difference was noted. In three cohorts, CHD patients had eaten significantly more PUFA, in 24 cohorts no significant difference was noted. In three of four cohort studies of atherosclerosis, the vascular changes were unassociated with SFA or PUFA; in one study they were inversely related to TF. No significant differences in fat intake were noted in six case-control studies of CVD patients and CVD-free controls; and neither total or CHD mortality were lowered in a meta-analysis of nine controlled, randomized dietary trials with substantial reductions of dietary fats, in six trials combined with addition of PUFA. The harmful effect of dietary SFA and the protective effect of dietary PUFA on atherosclerosis and CVD are questioned."


Dietary fats, carbohydrate, and progression of coronary atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women.



The influence of diet on atherosclerotic progression is not well established, particularly in postmenopausal women, in whom risk factors for progression may differ from those for men.


The objective was to investigate associations between dietary macronutrients and progression of coronary atherosclerosis among postmenopausal women.


Quantitative coronary angiography was performed at baseline and after a mean follow-up of 3.1 y in 2243 coronary segments in 235 postmenopausal women with established coronary heart disease. Usual dietary intake was assessed at baseline.


The mean (+/-SD) total fat intake was 25 +/- 6% of energy. In multivariate analyses, a higher saturated fat intake was associated with a smaller decline in mean minimal coronary diameter (P = 0.001) and less progression of coronary stenosis (P = 0.002) during follow-up. Compared with a 0.22-mm decline in the lowest quartile of intake, there was a 0.10-mm decline in the second quartile (P = 0.002), a 0.07-mm decline in the third quartile (P = 0.002), and no decline in the fourth quartile (P < 0.001); P for trend = 0.001. This inverse association was more pronounced among women with lower monounsaturated fat (P for interaction = 0.04) and higher carbohydrate (P for interaction = 0.004) intakes and possibly lower total fat intake (P for interaction = 0.09). Carbohydrate intake was positively associated with atherosclerotic progression (P = 0.001), particularly when the glycemic index was high. Polyunsaturated fat intake was positively associated with progression when replacing other fats (P = 0.04) but not when replacing carbohydrate or protein. Monounsaturated and total fat intakes were not associated with progression.


In postmenopausal women with relatively low total fat intake, a greater saturated fat intake is associated with less progression of coronary atherosclerosis, whereas carbohydrate intake is associated with a greater progression."


Low carbohydrate diets improve atherogenic dyslipidemia even in the absence of weight loss.


"Because of its effect on insulin, carbohydrate restriction is one of the obvious dietary choices for weight reduction and diabetes. Such interventions generally lead to higher levels of dietary fat than official recommendations and have long been criticized because of potential effects on cardiovascular risk although many literature reports have shown that they are actually protective even in the absence of weight loss. A recent report of Krauss et al. (AJCN, 2006) separates the effects of weight loss and carbohydrate restriction. They clearly confirm that carbohydrate restriction leads to an improvement in atherogenic lipid states in the absence of weight loss or in the presence of higher saturated fat. In distinction, low fat diets seem to require weight loss for effective improvement in atherogenic dyslipidemia."


Up-regulation of intracellular signalling pathways may play a central pathogenic role in hypertension, atherogenesis, insulin resistance, and cancer promotion--the 'PKC syndrome'


The modern diet is greatly different from that of our paleolithic forebears' in a number of respects. There is reason to believe that many of these dietary shifts can up-regulate intracellular signalling pathways mediated by free intracellular calcium and protein kinase C, particularly in vascular smooth muscle cells; this disorder of intracellular regulation is given the name 'PKC syndrome'. PKC syndrome may entail either a constitutive activation of these pathways, or a sensitization to activation by various agonists. The modern dietary perturbations which tend to induce PKC syndrome may include increased dietary fat and sodium, and decreased intakes of omega-3 fats, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chromium. Insulin resistancemay be both a cause and effect of PKC syndrome, and weight reduction and aerobic training should act to combat this disorder. PKC syndrome sensitizes vascular smooth muscle cells to both vasoconstrictors and growth factors, and thus promotes both hypertension and atherogenesis. In platelets, it induces hyperaggregability, while in the microvasculature it may be a mediator of diabetic microangiopathy. In vascular endothelium, intimal macrophages, and hepatocytes, increased protein kinase C activity can be expected to increase cardiovascular risk. Up-regulation of protein kinase C in stem cells may also play a role in the promotion of 'Western' fat-related cancers. Practical guidelines for combatting PKC syndrome are suggested."