“Good Fats/Bad Fats”: new dietary recommendations for supporting heart health and reducing cardiovascular risk

We were interested to read the Personal Health column by Jane Brody in the New York Times earlier this month. The article was entitled New Thinking About How to Protect the Heart, but you might also give this advice column on cardiovascular health the title of “Good Fats/Bad Fats.”

The main reason for revisiting diet recommendations for people trying to reduce their risk of heart attack is a new focus on the importance of inflammation in assessing cardiovascular risk. It’s been found, for example, that even people with normal cholesterol levels have a heightened risk of heart attack if they have a high reading of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation that correlates with clots that block blood flow to the heart.

So, if it’s not just cholesterol levels that people should be watching in order to minimize cardiovascular risk, what kind of diet should they be following to support a healthy heart? The short answer is not entirely new: it’s the Mediterranean diet, which actually turns out to be quite high in fats–think olive oil, oily fish, nuts, seeds and certain vegetables. It’s just that these are sources of “good fats”–not the heart-unfriendly saturated fats (=solid at room temperature) derived from red meats and cheese. And guess what? These “good fats” are found not only to lower cholesterol ratios, but also to decrease inflammation levels.

Recent studies, from the last 10 years or so, are pretty clear in showing the value of the Mediterranean diet, which is not only tasty and easy to follow for most people, but also appears to reduce the rates of heart disease recurrence and cardiac death by 50 to 70%.

As cardiovascular research sorted out the role of inflammation markers and the good fat/bad fat distinction, there also emerged a better understanding of the potential of supplements to maintain heart health. Fish oil, with its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, is now widely recognized as a useful supplement for reducing cardiovascular risk. Other supplements, which incorporate elements of the Mediterranenan diet (such as olives), have also become available.

Here are a few entries from the NYBC catalog that are of special interest for this discussion:

Fatty Acids (see especially MaxDHA, and the ProOmega fish oil supplements)

C-1000 Ascorbic Acid plus Olea Fruit Extract This Vitamin C supplement from Jarrow has been enriched with an olive extract in a combination designed to support cardiovascular health.

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