A healthy approach to dietary fats: Understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion

Ann G. Liu, Nikki A. Ford, Frank B. Hu, Kathleen M. Zelman, Dariush Mozaffarian, Penny M. Kris-Etherton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

Consumers are often confused about nutrition research findings and recommendations. As content experts, it is essential that nutrition scientists communicate effectively. A case-study of the history of dietary fat science and recommendations is presented, summarizing presentations from an Experimental Biology Symposium that addressed techniques for effective scientific communication and used the scientific discourse of public understanding of dietary fats and health as an example of challenges in scientific communication. Decades of dietary recommendations have focused on balancing calorie intake and energy expenditure and decreasing fat. Reducing saturated fat has been a cornerstone of dietary recommendations for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction. However, evidence from observational studies and randomized clinical trials demonstrates that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates, specifically refined, has no benefit on CVD risk, while substituting polyunsaturated fats for either saturated fat or carbohydrate reduces risk. A significant body of research supports the unique health benefits of dietary patterns and foods that contain plant and marine sources of unsaturated fats. Yet, after decades of focus on low-fat diets, many consumers, food manufacturers, and restauranteurs remain confused about the role of dietary fats on disease risk and sources of healthy fats. Shifting dietary recommendations to focus on food-based dietary patterns would facilitate translation to the public and potentially remedy widespread misperceptions about what constitutes a healthful dietary pattern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
JournalNutrition Journal
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 30 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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