Scientists call for greater transparency, “more credible and consistent information” needed on dietary fat

April 27, 2022 — Dietary fats are shrouded in insufficient information as a new study aims to shed light on their impact on nutritional and environmental sustainability.

Led by Wageningen University and Research and Charles University in Prague, the researchers aim to develop a framework for predicting what the implications of changes in oil production and trade might be for poor and undernourished people. and on the global environment.

“We highlight several key factors we need to weigh to guide better choices about nutrition, human health and the global environment. Unfortunately, the information needed is scarce,” said Douglas Sheil, lead author and professor at Wageningen University and Research. NutritionInsight.

“An important message is that enough fat is needed to fight world hunger and that is an important goal in itself.”

The study comes as industry and consumers grapple with changes in oil trade and production due to the war in Ukraine. It has led to an increase in the prices of vegetable oils and repercussions on the global environment. “Because they’re relatively interchangeable, we’re seeing price increases for all vegetable oils,” Sheil notes.

Planetary health is increasingly important to consumers.Call for more transparency
Efforts to guide and improve the nature of production required to achieve better health and environmental outcomes remain undermined by inadequate information, notes Sheil. Meanwhile, global demand for edible oils and fats is expected to double over the next three decades, he predicts.

“There are environmental costs and consequences from all sources, and these need to be carefully assessed. We know a lot about palm oil, for example. Yet we know little about the true costs of replacing sunflower or rapeseed, which tend to be grown in less biologically rich biomes but are also much less productive in terms of area,” he concludes.

“Consumers would like to make good choices, but currently their information is partial and often biased – coming from those with vested interests. I would like to have much more credible and consistent information about the origins of what we consume,” Sheil notes.

“These systems must be transparent and fair. They are needed as much for European or American crops as for crops grown in the tropics. We need nuance to recognize that they are rarely the problem, but rather where and how they are grown,” he adds.

“We have to recognize that, for example, there is a lot of good Asian palm oil that should be encouraged and a lot of bad European olive oil that should be improved,” Sheil concludes.

Countering Beliefs
While taking into account the nutritional and environmental consequences, the study, published in Borders, aims to explain the importance of fats in a healthy diet, rather than considering all fats as bad. He also points out that it is not possible to provide simple conclusions about oils and fats. Not without missing the overview.

“In the heated debates about oils and fats, where many argue that fats should be excluded from diets, we forget that as humans we are ‘fat hunters’. About 25-30% of our daily energy needs come from fat. Without fat, we die,” says Erik Meijaard, professor at Charles University and lead author of the study.

When it comes to balancing the planet and human health, the need to make conscious choices in terms of fat sources, whether animal or plant-based, is emphasized.The study highlights the need for balance and education on the consumption of fats and oils.

Animal fats have been accused of being harmful to the body, studies that have proven to be contradictory if consumed in healthy amounts. However, animal fats such as dairy, lard, tallow and other sources have been shown to have a greater negative impact on the environment than vegetable fats.

However, vegetable fats also have implications. Geographic areas that have a “fat gap” – differences between what should be eaten as part of a healthy diet and what is actually eaten – are highly dependent on the import of vegetable fats such as coconut oil. palm, coconut and groundnut.

Previous research conducted on mice has shown that the presence of vitamin E in palm oil can help boost immunity and liver health.

What is the next step ?
The steps required to achieve the desired balance of fat and oil consumption should generate the information needed to guide informed choices. Although perfection is elusive, vast improvements are possible. “Especially if consumers demand it and it makes business sense,” Sheil says.

In January 2021, the World Health Organization published a global protocol for laboratories measuring trans fats with the aim of informing policy decisions, monitoring changes and tracking compliance with national policies.

By Beatrice Wihlander

This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirstsister site of, NutritionInsight.

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