Higher fat diets show same positive effects on LDLs as low fat diet

University Park, Pa. Three diets high in monounsaturated fats from either olive oil, peanut oil, or peanuts and peanut butter had the same favorable effects on low density lipoproteins (LDLs, the "bad" cholesterol) as a low-fat diet in a laboratory study led by a Penn State researcher.

The study was the first to evaluate and compare LDL susceptibility to oxidation when the test subjects ate an average American diet, a low-fat diet or a higher monounsaturated fat diet. Oxidation of LDLs is thought to play an important role in the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Increasing LDL's resistance to oxidation is thought to delay the progression of the disease.

Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition and leader of the study, says, "Results from this study suggest that Americans may be able to eat the same amount of fat as they are used to without adversely affecting some cardiovascular disease markers as long as they change the type of fats they consume."

The study is detailed in a paper, "Low Fat and High Monounsaturated Fat Diets Decrease Human Low Density Lipoprotein Oxidative Susceptibility in Vitro," published in the current (June) issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Kris-Etherton's co-authors are Rebecca L. Hargrove, who earned an M.S. degree in nutrition at Penn State; Dr. Terry Etherton, distinguished professor and head of the dairy and animal sciences department; Dr. Thomas A. Pearson, adjunct professor in the Penn State Department of Nutrition and professor of community and preventive medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center; and Dr. Earl H. Harrison, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Research Center.

The study compared the standard American diet (35 percent calories from fat) with a low fat diet (25 percent calories from fat), and three higher monounsaturated fat (35 percent calories from fat) diets containing either olive oil, peanut oil or peanuts and peanut butter.

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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