The non-profit is not a fan of butter or coconut oil.
Credit: Photo: Paula Daniƫlse/Getty

The American Heart Association (AHA) has told us to mind our saturated fat to lower our risk of heart disease since 1961. More recently, fat has come back into vogue and so AHA decided to revisit the science. They released their findings on Thursday.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally, and accounts for about one in every three deaths in the United States. The AHA has been recommending reducing saturated fat intake since 1961, and their current stance stays with that trend.

The AHA recommends replacing saturated fats like butter or coconut oil with unsaturated fat options — like monounsaturated or polyunsaturated—to lower your risk of heart disease and improve your cholesterol. But leaning more heavily on polyunsaturated fats (corn and soybean oils) can lower your risk of heart disease even further and have a greater improvement on your cholesterol than if you were to mostly rely on monounsaturated fat (canola, avocado, olive oils) as your replacement for saturated fat.

Research trials found that by reducing saturated fat intake, and replacing it with a healthy choice like polyunsaturated vegetable oil, it could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30 percent, which is comparable to some cholesterol-lowering medications. While this result is encouraging, be sure to talk to a doctor before changing your medication.

Other studies have found that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates did not lower the risk of heart disease, but the carbs used in these studies were often refined or processed. Less rigorous research suggests that replacing saturated fats with whole grains instead though can contribute to lowering the risk of heart disease.