Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background There is controversy about associations between total dietary fatty acids, their classes (saturated fatty acids [SFAs], monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids), and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Specifically, the relevance of food sources of SFAs to CHD associations is uncertain. Methods and Results We conducted a case-cohort study involving 10 529 incident CHD cases and a random subcohort of 16 730 adults selected from a cohort of 385 747 participants in 9 countries of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study. We estimated multivariable adjusted country-specific hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs per 5% of energy intake from dietary fatty acids, with and without isocaloric macronutrient substitutions, using Prentice-weighted Cox regression models and pooled results using random-effects meta-analysis. We found no evidence for associations of the consumption of total or fatty acid classes with CHD, regardless of macronutrient substitutions. In analyses considering food sources, CHD incidence was lower per 1% higher energy intake of SFAs from yogurt (HR, 0.93 [95% CI, 0.88-0.99]), cheese (HR, 0.98 [95% CI, 0.96-1.00]), and fish (HR, 0.87 [95% CI, 0.75-1.00]), but higher for SFAs from red meat (HR, 1.07 [95% CI, 1.02-1.12]) and butter (HR, 1.02 [95% CI, 1.00-1.04]). Conclusions This observational study found no strong associations of total fatty acids, SFAs, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, with incident CHD. By contrast, we found associations of SFAs with CHD in opposite directions dependent on the food source. These findings should be further confirmed, but support public health recommendations to consider food sources alongside the macronutrients they contain, and suggest the importance of the overall food matrix.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Heart Assoc

Publication Date





coronary heart disease, dietary guidelines, nutritional epidemiology, primary prevention, saturated fat, Cohort Studies, Coronary Disease, Dietary Fats, Europe, Fatty Acids, Food, Humans, Incidence, Nutrients