All saturated fats are not bad. New research shows that some may not play as big a role in heart arrhythmias or sudden cardiac death as previously believed. This news caught the attention of nutritionist Dr. Felicia Stoler and holistic pharmacist Dr. Sherry Torkos. In a presentation during Palm Oil Nutrition Week, Dr. Mahinda Abeywardena dispelled myths about how fatty acids may affect heart function, specifically in zero trans-fat diets.

There are many ways to achieve a zero trans-fat diet. For the food industry, the options include: high stearic interesterified, palm oil, high oleic sunflower oil, fish oil and monounsaturated fat. Using controlled studies, Dr. Abeywardena investigated the effects of these dietary fats on rats.

Cardiovascular blockage was induced, triggering ventricular reactions so researchers could study episodes of tachycardia events, ventricular fibrillation and ventricular fibrillation resulting in death.

While fish oil appeared to have the greatest cardiac protection, the incidence of tachycardia was also among the lowest in the palm fruit oil subjects.

The results contradicted a common myth about fats. “Saturated fat is not as bad from a lipid viewpoint,” commented Stoler. “In looking at the overall health benefits of red palm fruit oil, there are too many benefits to ignore.” Rather than assume a food is bad because it contains saturated fats, she commented that, “We need more data on humans about saturated fatty acid in diet and disease.”

Torkos was also impressed, adding that the “anti-arrhythmic and pro-arrhythmic actions of dietary saturated and unsaturated fatty acids do not share common mechanisms and effects.” Torkos found it interesting that Dr. Abeywardena did a study comparing coconut oil with lard and carbohydrate-resistant starch. He found that coconut oil increased ventricular fibrillation mortality more than the other two ingredients.

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Sri Lankan native, Dr. Abeywardena is the principal research scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. Despite the population’s average cholesterol levels, Sri Lanka ranks second highest in cardiovascular disease.

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Felicia Stoler is a member of Media Relations Inc.’s panel of highly respected third-party experts. She is compensated to express her own professional opinions, through the media, about certain products.

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