Studies that have looked at whether consuming a diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) leads to reduced risk of heart disease have shown mixed results. But according to new findings from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, it makes a difference whether the MUFAs come from plant or animal products. In the first study to separately examine types of MUFA sources in relation to heart disease, researchers found that while MUFAs from plant-based foods such as olive oil and nuts do indeed lower risk, MUFAs from animal products such as red meats and dairy do not provide benefits.
The study was published on March 16 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“Previous studies did not differentiate the source of MUFAs. Animal products, such as red meats and high-fat dairy also contribute to MUFA intake, although these foods are also high in saturated fats. This might explain why there have been inconsistent findings regarding total MUFA intake in relation to coronary heart disease risk,” said lead author Dr. Qi Sun, assistant professor in the department of nutrition. “Overall, our data suggest that MUFAs from plant-based foods are beneficial and should be used in replacement of fats from animal sources.”