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A clipboard holding a piece of paper with the heading "LDL Cholesterol Level" and five levels of cholesterol measurements (optimal, near optimal, borderline high, high, very high) displayed underneath.

Different Fatty Acids May Affect Heart Health

Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids can affect one’s risk for heart disease differently. However, it is unclear whether specific saturated fatty acids have different effects. To find out, ARS-supported scientists at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston, MA, placed older women who had elevated serum cholesterol on three diets for 5 weeks. One diet was enriched with oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, while the other two contained saturated fatty acids with slightly different structures, either palmitic or stearic. Half the fat in each diet was from the fatty acid.

The research showed that blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, were similar in the women who consumed the stearic and oleic acid diets – both were significantly lower than in the women who consumed the palmitic acid diet. This information will enable women to make healthier dietary choices.

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