Moderate consumption of fats, veggies, fruits may be best for health

August 29, 2017

Two studies published in The Lancet suggest that a diet that includes a moderate intake of fat and fruits and vegetables is associated with lower risk of death. Both reports were produced from a major global study led by researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Canada. The data are from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study that followed more than 135,000 people from 18 low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries. The study asked people about their diet and followed them for an average of seven and half years.

The researchers found that higher fat consumption was associated with lower mortality. In fact, this association was seen for all major types of fats (saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats), with saturated fats being associated with lower stroke risk. Total fat and individual types of fat were not associated with risk of heart attacks or death due to cardiovascular disease. The researchers pointed out that, while this may appear surprising to some, these new results are consistent with several observational studies and randomized controlled trials conducted in Western countries during the last two decades.

“A decrease in fat intake automatically led to an increase in carbohydrate consumption and our findings may explain why certain populations such as South Asians, who do not consume much fat but consume a lot of carbohydrates, have higher mortality rates,” said Mahshid Dehghan, the lead author for the study and an investigator at PHRI.

The second paper from the study assessed fruit, vegetable, and legume consumption and related them to deaths, heart disease, and strokes. The study found current fruit, vegetable, and legume intake globally is between three to four servings per day, but most dietary guidelines recommend a minimum of five daily servings. However, the researchers found the lowest risk of death in those who consumed three to four servings or the equivalent to 375–500 g of fruits, vegetables, and legumes per day, with little additional benefit for intake beyond that range. Additionally, fruit intake was more strongly associated with benefit than vegetables.

Previous research has shown that eating fruits, vegetables and legumes decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and deaths, but most studies were conducted mainly in North America and Europe with a few from other parts of the world.

Fat study abstract

Fruit, veggie study abstract