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Atherosclerosis. 2002 Aug;163(2):385-98.

Protective effect of dietary monounsaturated fat on arteriosclerosis: beyond cholesterol.

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Unidad de Lípidos y Arteriosclerosis, Hospital Universitario Reina Sofia, Avenida Menéndez Pidal s/n, 14004 Cordoba, Spain.


The consumption of diets enriched in monounsaturated fat has been related to a lower rate of coronary heart disease. It is well known that this dietary model decreases LDL-cholesterol plasma levels when replacing a saturated fat enriched diet. For this reason, a high monounsaturated fat diet is now being advocated to prevent cardiovascular disease, especially in Mediterranean countries. However, some expert panels-the Joint Task Force of European and other Societies on Coronary Prevention and the International Task Force for Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease-recommend replacing dietary saturated fat by complex carbohydrates, limiting the intake of total fat to <30% of the energy and monounsaturated fat to no more than 10-15% of total calories, reaching a similar effect on LDL-cholesterol plasma levels to a high monounsaturated fat diet. The most appropriate nutritional model to prevent arteriosclerosis should be supported by research into other biological effects of both diets. Therefore, it is interesting to review the non-lipid effect of monounsaturated fat, starting with its influence on other cardiovascular risk factors, such as carbohydrate metabolism and blood pressure. Moreover, substantial evidence of the effect of dietary monounsaturated fat on a wide range of healthy benefits beyond cholesterol, which have been investigated in recent years, such as lipoprotein oxidation, coagulation, fibrinolysis and endothelium, will be discussed. Furthermore, many observational epidemiological studies suggest that a high intake of monounsaturated fat is associated with reduced coronary risk and this will be analyzed in accordance with the clinical evidence to discuss the best dietary model to prevent coronary artery disease.

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