The Effect of Saturated Fat Intake With Risk of Stroke and Coronary Heart Disease: A Systematic Review of Prospective Cohort Studies

  •  Hilal Al Shamsi    
  •  Abdullah Almutairi    


BACKGROUND: A decline in saturated fat intake has generally been thought to improve cardiovascular health.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this review is to summarize the evidence presented in recent prospective epidemiologic studies related to the association of saturated fat intake and risk of stroke and coronary heart disease (CHD).

DESIGN: Sixteen prospective cohort studies identified by searches of the Medline and ProQuest databases are included in this review. The association of saturated fat intake with stroke and CHD risk is explored using the relative risk (RR), Hazard ratio (HR), and 95% confidence interval (CI) methods.

RESULTS: Over follow-up periods of 8 to 30 years, 22,773 of 668,082 participants of these 16 studies developed stroke or CHD. Saturated fat intake was associated with an increased risk of CHD (HR = 2.36, 95% CI 1.10–5.09) but not with stroke. Gender and age had no impact on the stroke rate, whereas the female gender was a risk factor for CHD (HR = 3.07, 95% CI 1.54–6.11). In addition, a subgroup analysis showed a positive association between smoking history and increasing risk of stroke and CHD.

CONCLUSION: This systematic review of prospective-cohort epidemiologic studies found that there is a weak to strong association between saturated fat intake and increased CHD risk but not significant evidence for concluding that saturated fat intake is associated with an increased risk of stroke. In addition, more research is needed to determine whether risk of stroke and/or CHD is potentially affected by specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat.

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