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Original Investigation
August 2016

Association of Specific Dietary Fats With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Nutrition, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 4Channing Division for Network Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(8):1134-1145. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2417
Abstract

Importance  Previous studies have shown distinct associations between specific dietary fat and cardiovascular disease. However, evidence on specific dietary fat and mortality remains limited and inconsistent.

Objective  To examine the associations of specific dietary fats with total and cause-specific mortality in 2 large ongoing cohort studies.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cohort study investigated 83 349 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (July 1, 1980, to June 30, 2012) and 42 884 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (February 1, 1986, to January 31, 2012) who were free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and types 1 and 2 diabetes at baseline. Dietary fat intake was assessed at baseline and updated every 2 to 4 years. Information on mortality was obtained from systematic searches of the vital records of states and the National Death Index, supplemented by reports from family members or postal authorities. Data were analyzed from September 18, 2014, to March 27, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Total and cause-specific mortality.

Results  During 3 439 954 person-years of follow-up, 33 304 deaths were documented. After adjustment for known and suspected risk factors, dietary total fat compared with total carbohydrates was inversely associated with total mortality (hazard ratio [HR] comparing extreme quintiles, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.81-0.88; P < .001 for trend). The HRs of total mortality comparing extreme quintiles of specific dietary fats were 1.08 (95% CI, 1.03-1.14) for saturated fat, 0.81 (95% CI, 0.78-0.84) for polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), 0.89 (95% CI, 0.84-0.94) for monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), and 1.13 (95% CI, 1.07-1.18) for trans-fat (P < .001 for trend for all). Replacing 5% of energy from saturated fats with equivalent energy from PUFA and MUFA was associated with estimated reductions in total mortality of 27% (HR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.70-0.77) and 13% (HR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.82-0.93), respectively. The HR for total mortality comparing extreme quintiles of ω-6 PUFA intake was 0.85 (95% CI, 0.81-0.89; P < .001 for trend). Intake of ω-6 PUFA, especially linoleic acid, was inversely associated with mortality owing to most major causes, whereas marine ω-3 PUFA intake was associated with a modestly lower total mortality (HR comparing extreme quintiles, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.93-1.00; P = .002 for trend).

Conclusions and Relevance  Different types of dietary fats have divergent associations with total and cause-specific mortality. These findings support current dietary recommendations to replace saturated fat and trans-fat with unsaturated fats.

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