Changes in policies on food subsidies for saturated fats led to a drastic fall in heart disease deaths in Poland, claims a new study.
In 1991 the Polish government cut subsidies for saturated fats from dairy and animal sources.
Elevated levels of saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chance of developing heart disease.
Saturated fats are found in a wide range of common foods, including meat products, hard cheese, cream and palm oil.
A recent study examined how the policy changes in Poland on diet impacted death rates from heart disease, the world's number one killer.
Published in this week's British Medical Journal, the Study found that by 2002, deaths from coronary heart disease had dropped by over a third in the 45-64 age group - a 38 per cent drop for men and 42% for women.
Over a similar period (to 1999), people were consuming 7 per cent less saturated fat, while consumption of polyunsaturated fats had risen by 57 per cent.
The sharp drop in deaths cannot simply be explained by the effect of any polyunsaturated fat, say the authors, but is likely to be related to the type consumed.
Rapeseed and to a lesser extent soya bean oil made up most of the rising numbers of polyunsaturated fats available in Poland in the 1990s - both of which contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, also thought to reduce heart problems, says the BMJ report.
Looking at fruit consumption, the researchers found that although consumption of imported fruit rose during the 1990s - from 2.8kg/year per person in 1990 to 10.4kg/year by 1999 - the increase was not enough to influence death rates by more than 1 or 2 per cent.
These results support a body of evidence that suggests partly replacing polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats in the diet, while maintaining a low intake of trans fatty acids, can reduce the risk of death from heart disease.