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WHO Recommendations on Fatty Acid Intake Challenged

As previously reported on this blog, the World Health Organization (WHO) released draft guidelines on saturated fatty acid and trans-fatty acid intake for adults and children in 2018. The draft guidelines recommend reducing total intake of saturated fat and trans-fatty acids, and consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids as a source of replacement energy. The objective of the recommendations is to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases.

A group of international researchers have called on WHO to take a different approach with respect to its recommendations for saturated fatty acid intake. In a British Medical Journal article, published July 3, the researchers said that the recommendations “fail to take into account considerable evidence that the health effects of saturated fat varies depending on the specific fatty acid and on the specific food source.”

The researchers suggest that since not all saturated fatty acids are equal and that the food matrix in which they exist is an important factor in determining their effect on cardiovascular disease, “[m]aintaining general advice to reduce total saturated fatty acids will work against the intentions of the guidelines and weaken their effect on chronic disease incidence and mortality,”

Noting that WHO guidelines have potential health implications for billions of people, the researchers stress that the guidelines on saturated fat “should consider different types of fatty acids and, more importantly, the diversity of foods containing saturated fatty acids that might be harmful, neutral, or even beneficial in relation to major health outcomes.”

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 197


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Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...