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22 April 2009

Saturated Fats and Health: Facts and Feelings

Organizers: M. Paques, S. Oude Elferink, Y. Verbeek, Friesland Foods, the Netherlands; P. Huth, PJH Nutritional Sciences, USA; and K. Dewettinck, University of Ghent, Belgium.

Co-chairs: Koenraad Duhem, CNIEL, France; R. Feinman, SUNY Downstate, New York, USA.

While they currently have a poor image, especially in relation to cardiovascular health, saturated fat from plants and animals has been an important ingredient in many Western and non-Western diets for centuries. Recent evidence, in fact, suggests that the role of saturated fatty acids needs to be re-examined. While some studies show that long-chain saturated fatty acids raise LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, the so-called "bad" cholesterol), the predictive power of LDL cholesterol level for CVD risk is limited and alternative measures including LDL particle size, LDL (glyc)oxidation state, triglyceride levels HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels and inflammatory markers may be more important. Some of these markers are actually improved by the consumption of saturated fat or the substitution of saturated fat for carbohydrate.

In addition, recent research shows that saturated fatty acids cannot be considered as a single group. In the human body, each saturated fatty acid has a specific functions depending on its chain length. Finally, it is important to realize that we are not eating individual fatty acids, but complex foods. Does scientific knowledge, for example, warrant a limit on full-cream dairy products because of their saturated fat content?
The presentations:

Does Current Scientific Data Warrant Aggressive Lowering of Saturated Fat in our Diets?
Bruce German, Department of Food Science and Technology, USA.

The recent history of public recommendations for dietary intakes of macronutrients have targeted total fat, cholesterol and saturated fat intake as the principle means to improve human health. Such recommendations have been translated into a long term agricultural objective of eliminating these components from human foods. Agricultural change requires changes at many points over many years to eliminate these components from human foods. Once accomplished, such changes would be equally difficult to reverse. The relation between dietary intake of fats and health is intricate. Is it possible evolution found benefits to saturated fatty acids that current recommendations do not consider?

Is saturated fat consumption a major dietary risk factor for CHD - what is the evidence?
Darius Mozaffarian, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard University, USA

Review of RCTs and observational studies of saturated fat consumption and lipid risk factors and risk of clinical CHD events. Evaluation of whether effects on CHD risk depend on the particular replacement nutrient, e.g., PUFA, MUFA, trans, or carbohydrate. Review of evidence for potential differences depending on population groups (e.g. men, women, elderly).

High Carbohydrate Versus High Saturated Fat Diets and Health: "You are not what you eat, but what your body does with what you eat"
J. S. Volek, University of Connecticut, Neag School of Education, USA.

High carbohydrate diets, not the saturated fat, are the culprit in many western health problems.

The Impact of Dairy on Health.
Paul Elwood, Cardiff University , Department of Epidemiology, UK.

Review of epidemiological and intervention studies with regard the health effects of dairy, including studies with low fat and full cream products.

The Role of Saturated Fatty Acids in our Body is Strongly Linked to their Chain Length. Each Saturated Fatty Acid has its own Merits.
Phillipe Legrand, Agrocampus-INRA , France.

Short discussion of each saturated fatty acid and its role. Specific emphasis on myristic acid and its relation to elongation of omega-3 fatty acids.

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