Severe heart attacks linked to bad fat intake

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Trans fats Trans fat

A diet rich in saturated and trans fatty acids increases the risk
of severe heart attacks, research from Canada has found.

The work from the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute shows too much fat can increase the severity of a heart attack by disrupting heart rhythm and increasing the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. The study presents yet more damning evidence of the negative impact the fats can have on consumers. Numerous studies have already shown that trans fatty acids raise serum levels of LDL-cholesterol, reduce levels of HDL-cholesterol, can promote inflammation, can cause endothelial dysfunction, and influence other risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). This condition causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion ($202 billion) per year. In April, the 15th​ European Congress on Obesity saw the results of Danish researchers looking into the fat content in fast food - one of the biggest sources of trans fats available to consumers. Seventy-four samples of French fries and fried chicken bought in McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets in 2005 and 2006 were analysed across 35 countries. Trans fat levels ranged from 15per cent of the total fat content to 29 per cent. The study, announced this week, is yet another nail in the coffin for "bad fats" in food. Dr Peter Light, researcher from the Canadian institute, said: "We know saturated and trans fats cause cholesterol build-up in the arteries, but it can also accumulate in the heart cells and affect the way the cells conduct electricity and contract properly.​" Light notes that intracellular saturated fats can cause an excessive build-up of calcium within the heart cells. This abnormal calcium level disrupts the heart's electrical flow, causing heart cells to dangerously hyper-contract, without a normal rest period in between beats. Light's research reportedly shows that "good" fats such as polyunsaturated and fish oils do not have this effect. He said: "The more saturated fat you have circulating in your heart cells at the time of a heart attack, the more severe the attack may be​. "By controlling the amount of saturated and trans fats in our diet, we can likely reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and reduce the incidence of damage if we have a heart attack." ​ has not seen the full results of the study prior to publication. Saturated fats are animal products that tend to be solid at room temperature and melt when heated, like lard and butter. Trans fats are artificially created hydrogenated oil. These are used for cooking or in packaged products to increase their shelf life, such as crackers, cookies, croissants, snack foods, and French fries.

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