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Dietary Fats and Risk of Sudden cardiac Death in Women

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By David Liu, PHD

Wednesday Aug 28, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that women eating too much saturated fatty acids may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD).

The study led by Stephanie E Chiuve of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and colleagues showed that those who had highest intake of saturated fatty acids were 44 percent more likely to suffer sudden cardiac death, compared with those who had the lowest intake.

Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were inversely associated with the risk of sudden cardiac death in previous research. But whether or not other fats are associated with sudden cardiac death and high intake of omega-6 fatty acids may reduce the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids remained unclear, the researchers wrote in their report.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study of 91,981 women aged 34 to 59 years. During a 30-year follow-up, 385 sudden cardiac death were recorded.

In addition to the positive link between saturated fat intake and risk of sudden cardiac death, highest intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids was associated with 43 percent reduced risk of sudden cardiac death, compared to those who had the lowest intake.

Intake of Both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids was significantly correlated with a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death and omega 6 did not modify the association between omega 3 fatty acids and sudden cardiac death.

Also, monounsaturated fatty acids, the major fat found in olive oil and trans fat, found in many processed foods, were not correlated with sudden cardiac death risk.

After adjustment for coronary heart disease and its risk factors, saturated fatty acids were no longer associated with risk of sudden cardiac death.  However, the link still remained significant between polyunsaturated fatty acids and sudden cardiac death.

The researchers concluded "Intake of PUFAs as a proportion of fat was inversely associated with SCD risk, independent of traditional CHD risk factors. These results support dietary guidelines to improve dietary fat quality by replacing intake of SFAs with n−6 and n−3 PUFAs."

It should be pointed out that trans fat has been associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease, a major heart disease, even though in the current study it was not linked to sudden cardiac death risk.

WC Willet, who was also an author of the current study, published a review on dietary fats and coronary heart disease in the Journal of Internal Medicine saying "trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have clear adverse effects and should be eliminated."
As one possible protective measure, one may take some vitamin D supplements to reduce risk of sudden cardiac death.  

A study in European Heart Journal found that vitamin D deficiency was storngly associated with increased risk of sudden cardiac death and cardiovascular disease events and had a borderline associations with stroke and fatal myocardial infarction.

The study was conducted by Drechsler C of University of Würzburg in Würzburg, Germany and colleagues.

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