The study from JAMA Internal Medicine, Association of Specific Dietary Fats With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality, gathered information on the dietary habits of more than 120,000 men and women from July 1980 to June 2012.
It reported that diets containing relatively high levels of saturated fat were associated with higher mortality, compared to diets richer in unsaturated fats.
The findings contradict a controversial report released by the National Obesity Forum last month that advised people to eat more fatty foods, reduce carbohydrate intake and stop counting calories.
Dr Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at the Institute of Food Research, said the study’s findings were consistent with public health recommendations in the UK.
‘Conventional dietary advice’
“Recently, a number of books and opinion pieces have popularised the idea that conventional dietary advice has been shown to be wrong,” said Johnson.
“This study should do much to redress the balance. There is nothing in these results consistent with the notion that ‘butter is back’.”
Tom Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at Kings College London, said the high number of participants in the study was a particular strength of the latest research.
But he added: “The limitation is that it is an observational study, so there could be residual confounding [evidence].
‘Risk of heart disease’
“It was the first study to identify that processed fats containing trans-fatty acids – which come from a type of oil called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – were strongly linked to an increased risk of heart disease, but also this shows it is also related to cancer.
“What this study also shows is cutting fat out and eating a lot more refined carbohydrates – sugar and refined starches – is associated with an increased risk of dying.”
The UK food industry has been particularly active in reducing fat levels in food and removing trans fat content by reformulation over the past few years.