Replacing Some Carbs with Healthy Fats Is Good for Blood Cholesterol Levels

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A recent analysis added to our understanding of the relationship between type of dietary fat and blood cholesterol levels. Dietary changes that raise blood levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and lower “bad” (non-HDL) cholesterol can decrease risk for cardiovascular disease. (Non-HDL cholesterol is a combination of LDL and other lipids.) The study, which combined information from eight observational studies conducted in European countries, estimated the result of replacing five percent of calories from carbohydrates with the same number of calories from fats. The analysis found that replacing dietary carbohydrates with mono- or polyunsaturated fats had favorable effects on blood cholesterol concentrations—but replacing carbs with saturated fats did not. Specifically:

Replacing carbs with total fat or monounsaturated fatty acids was associated with higher HDL, with no change in non-HDL;

Replacing carbs with polyunsaturated fatty acids was associated with lower non-HDL, with no change in HDL; and

X Replacing carbs with saturated fats was associated with higher non-HDL, with no change in HDL.

While this study does not prove cause and effect, its findings are in line with other research from randomized controlled trials which showed that including more total fat in place of carbs in one’s diet is not bad for cholesterol in-and-of-itself, and choosing unsaturated fats (from foods like plant oils, nuts, and seeds) in place of refined carbohydrates is actually good for heart health.

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