Press Release •  10/10/2016

Switching type of dietary fat Americans consume could decrease healthcare costs by more than $25 billion annually

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New study shows decreased risk of heart disease from replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats nets significant healthcare savings

INDIANAPOLIS – October 10, 2016 – A new study finds substituting monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) for saturated fats in the diet could save the U.S. $25.7 billion in heart-disease related healthcare costs annually. The results, recently published by the Journal of Medical Economics, show both the public and private sectors would benefit, with Medicare saving $9.4 billion, private insurers saving $7.9 billion, and patients saving $2.2 billion through reduced out-of-pocket costs each year. The study also estimates as much as $1.2 billion in productivity could be saved annually from fewer lost work days.

The findings are based on a growing body of research demonstrating the benefits to heart health of replacing saturated fats with MUFAs, and come at a time when experts estimate healthcare costs will continue to increase faster than overall inflation and employee wages. Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show one-in-six healthcare dollars is spent on cardiovascular disease.

“To put our results in perspective, we found the reduction in heart disease that would result from Americans substituting MUFAs for saturated fats in their diet could lead to a healthcare cost savings that is four times the size of CDC’s annual budget,” said John Cawley, Ph.D., Cornell University, Department of Policy Analysis and Management, and Department of Economics. “Moreover, decreased heart disease risk is associated with reduced job absenteeism, which benefits both employers and workers.”

Dow AgroSciences provided a research grant to support this study. “Clearly, healthy food choices can play a critical role in cardiovascular disease risk,” said David Dzisiak, commercial leader, oils and grains, Dow AgroSciences. “As an agriculture innovator, we have the opportunity to help improve the nutrition of food by breeding better plants that, in turn, make healthier ingredients.”

Researchers at Dow AgroSciences have used their expertise in plant science to breed better canola and sunflower seed oil profiles. The resulting Omega-9 Canola Oil provides foodservice operators and packaged food companies a functional, healthier alternative to oils that are hydrogenated or high in saturated fats.

According to the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Americans today overconsume saturated fats and obtain only 12 percent of calories from MUFAs. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend reducing saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of calories and replacing saturated fats with heart-healthy unsaturated fats like MUFAs.

About the Study

This economic modeling study was designed to estimate the healthcare cost savings of reductions in heart disease associated with changing from a diet high in saturated fats to a diet higher in monounsaturated fats. The study uses data from the 2000-2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a comprehensive source of data on medical care utilization and expenditures for a nationally representative sample of Americans. The calculation of medical cost savings is based on a 2015 Journal of American College of Cardiology study that found replacing 5 percent of energy from saturated fats with equivalent energy from MUFAs was associated with a 15 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

About MUFAs

A growing body of evidence suggests that dietary MUFA, especially as a substitute for saturated fat, helps reduce risk factors for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. A diet high in MUFA has been associated with a positive impact on cardiovascular health, including a reduction in blood pressure, a reduction in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides (fat in blood) and total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio, plus improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

About Dow AgroSciences

Dow AgroSciences discovers, develops, and brings to market crop protection and plant biotechnology solutions for the growing world. Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, Dow AgroSciences is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company and had annual global sales of $6.4 billion in 2015. Learn more at Follow Dow AgroSciences on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+, or subscribe to our News Release RSS Feed