CholesterolHeart DiseaseNewsletter

The relationships between heart disease, cholesterol & dietary fat in Europe

heart disease in europe
In this post we are looking at some interesting findings from the latest European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics (2017).

Let’s start with a couple of definitions, as different data sources use different measures of heart disease:

- CHD = Coronary Heart Disease. This refers to the condition of narrowing or blocking of the coronary arteries. It can also be called Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). It can also be called Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD)…

- IHD = Ischemic Heart Disease. Ischemia is a general term that means lack of blood supply. IHD is used interchangeably with Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).

- CVD = Cardiovascular Disease. This is CHD/CAD/IHD – whichever term is used – plus strokes. It is thus all diseases (blockages) of the circulatory system.

Blood cholesterol & CVD

In 2010, I used the World Health Organization data for all 192 countries where average (mean) cholesterol levels and death rates from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death rates from all-causes were available. I showed that there was a relationship for men and women, with average cholesterol levels and CVD deaths and deaths from any cause – but that the relationship was inverse in every case…

Lower cholesterol was associated with higher deaths and higher cholesterol was associated with lower deaths. This was for total cholesterol. LDL-Cholesterol data were not available, but LDL-Cholesterol is the major part of total cholesterol and thus it would be highly UNlikely that the associations were anything other than inverse for LDL-Cholesterol and deaths. The charts can be seen in this open post (Ref 1).

Saturated fat & CHD

In 2015, I used European data for 44 countries to show that there was an inverse relationship between deaths from Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and saturated fat intake, as a percentage of dietary energy intake. Lower saturated fat was associated with higher deaths; higher saturated fat was associated with lower deaths. The charts can be seen in this open post (Ref 2).

It may be coincidental, but this can’t be repeated with more recent data as the data have not been updated. (Or it may be that the European data publishers don’t want people producing charts comparing heart disease and saturated fat intake!)

I was quite excited, therefore, to see that the most recent European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics (2017), contained information that could be used to examine the relationship between heart disease, cholesterol levels and dietary fat (Ref 3). The data unfortunately don’t report saturated fat separately, but the total dietary fat intake is still interesting.


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