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Global confusion around fats

Recent reports published in the latest Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism suggest that many people are confused about the health consequences of fats consumed.

These reports include the recommendations of a group of 40 international experts from 25 countries who collaborated at an International Expert Meeting (IEM) earlier this year to help reduce the confusion and help consumers make healthier choices with respect to their fat intake. The recommendations included:

  • Improving the fat composition of the diet and thereby contributing significantly to reducing the population risk of cardiovascular disease by making simple dietary changes.
  • Providing people with important information on the nutrient content of food products on pack in a clear, usable, understandable way, including energy content per portion size and fat quality.
  • Using simple language when communicating with the public, eg, good/healthy fats and bad/unhealthy fats, and using consistent, scientific and coherent language when communicating with health experts.

Dr Sarah Jarvis was one of the UK representatives who attended the meeting. She comments: "The IEM was a very successful collaboration. Based on recent international scientific consensus we were able to agree on guidelines for an optimal fat quality of the diet and develop an approach to help disseminate this advice widely.

"I feel confident that these recommendations will help create a better understanding in the UK of the need for essential fats in the diet and reducing the intake of bad fats."

Although, in the UK we are eating about the right amount of fat, we are eating the wrong type of fat. Saturated fatty acid intake in our diets is around 20% higher than official government recommendations (13% of food energy versus the recommended 11% of food energy).

Simple dietary changes can make a big difference. These changes include replacing full-fat dairy (eg, full-fat milk and cheese) and fatty meat products with lower fat or lean choices, and substituting fats/oils of animal origin, generally saturated fats (like lard and butter) with those of vegetable origin, rich in essential unsaturated fats (such as sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, soybean oil and products made of these oils like margarines). 

The international event was the first step of a global campaign to help consumers to make healthier choices about their fat intake and was followed by approximately 20 events worldwide where the messages of the IEM were disseminated.

Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism