Lack of healthy fats found to increase mortality in heart failure patients

For many years, some people have avoided fat like the plague, believing that it is at the heart of many of the health problems afflicting modern society. Recently, however, increasing numbers of people are starting to re-think that approach as the truth about the role that healthy fats play in our diet comes to light.

Now, a study from researchers at the Juntendo University School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan, shows that having enough healthy fats in the diet is particularly important in cases of heart failure.

The researchers looked at 267 patients with acute decompensated heart failure who were admitted to the cardiac ICU at the Juntendo University Hospital over the two-year period ending in March 2014. Blood samples were taken from these individuals following an overnight fast, and the researchers examined their levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, hemoglobin, and albumin, among others. The patients had a median age of 73, and just over half were men. The patients were then followed up with until December 2015.

The researchers found that levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) were significantly lower among the group of patients who died before the end of the study – the non-survivor group – than in those who survived. The non-survivor group also noted a significantly lower geriatric nutritional risk index.

Eating the right balance of fats is vital

Lower levels of PUFAs such as DHA, AA, and DGLA were associated with long-term mortality among these heart failure patients across various nutritional statuses. The researchers say that those with low levels of PUFAs on admission showed as much as 50 percent mortality in the follow-up period, and they believe the shortage of these fats could be due to a poor diet or the exhaustion of the nutrients because of heart failure. Therefore, they suggest that patients who are at risk of heart failure make an effort to consume enough essential fatty acids.

However, it’s important to ensure they are focusing on the right kinds of fats. Omega-3 PUFAs like DHA and EPA have anti-inflammatory, antiarrhythmic and anti-atherogenic effects that can be extremely useful to heart failure patients. When it comes to Omega-6 PUFAs, however, the story is a lot more complicated, and the researchers believe that further research is needed in this area. Their findings were published in the August edition of the Nutrients journal.

Past studies have also demonstrated the positive effects that omega-3 PUFAs can have on heart health. In fact, a 2009 study estimated that as many as 96,000 premature deaths in the U.S. could be prevented each year by optimizing omega-3 fatty acid levels.

In addition, the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee said that large-scale epidemiological studies showed that people at risk of coronary heart disease could benefit from consuming marine and plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids.

In fact, the connection between omega-3 essentially fatty acid consumption and heart health is so strong that a blood test known as the omega-3 index was designed to determine a person’s risk of dying from coronary heart disease based on their omega-3 blood levels.

It is important to be careful not to consume more omega-6 fatty acids than the omega-3 variety. If this ratio is too high, it could raise the risk of heart disease as well as inflammation. This means you should cut down on foods like soybean, corn, and sunflower oil while increasing your intake of foods like salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, spinach and flaxseed oil.

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