The WHO 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.

In a BMJ review published last week, Astrup et al note that the 2018 WHO draft guidelines on dietary saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids recommend reducing total intake of saturated fat and replacing it with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. They add, however, 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.

“Maintaining 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,” Astrup and colleagues warn.

“We strongly recommend,” they add, “more food based translation of how to achieve a healthy diet and reconsideration of the draft guidelines on reduction in total saturated fatty acids.”

Concluding, the authors stress that a food based translation of the recommendations for saturated fat intake would avoid unnecessary reduction or exclusion of foods that are key sources of important nutrients.

REFERENCE: Astrup et al: WHO draft guidelines on dietary saturated and trans fatty acids: time for a new approach? https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l4137