Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Oils and fats

Along with carbohydrate and protein, fat is one of the three main macronutrients. In common use, ‘oil’ refers to a fat with short or unsaturated fatty acid chains that is liquid at room temperature. ‘Fat’ refers to those which are solid at room temperature. Some specific types of fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) are called ‘essential’ because they cannot be synthesised in the body from simpler components but must be obtained from specific foods. The health profile of fats differs; omega 3s (found in oily fish) are beneficial, but saturated fats (found in animal products and palm oil) are associated with heart disease. Fat production is often a cause of environmental concern. For example, butter production, as an animal product, is GHG intensive while plant-based palm oil has driven tropical deforestation, forest fires and CO2 release (e.g. in Indonesia and Malaysia). Soy production (to produce both oil and animal feed) is also associated with deforestation and attendant harms as well as with livestock-related impacts. Oils are increasingly produced for the biofuel sector.

Photo credit: Taryn, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
19 December 2016

This randomized controlled study looked at how obese Norwegian men were affected by a diet very high in the intake of total and saturated fat, as compared to one high in carbohydrates, while controlling for intake of energy, protein, and polyunsaturated fats and food types. 

Photo credit: Scion_cho, Junked, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
24 October 2016

A key ingredient in junk food is vegetable oil. 60% of this oil is from oil palm and soybean, production of which has been expanding in Southeast Asia and South America, resulting in widespread deforestation and biodiversity loss. In this article, the authors calculate the amount of current deforestation due to vegetable oil consumption (through junk food) and extrapolate vegetable oil demand to predict the deforestation future consumption patterns would cause by 2050.

3 February 2016

This ScienceDaily article describes how researchers at Wageningen University and Research Centre have shown that insect oils – currently extracted from insects alongside the desired edible proteins but discarded as a waste product – contain omega-3 fatty acids.

30 October 2015

In a joint project researchers from the University Halle-Wittenberg (Germany) looked at the direct medical treatment costs of nutrition-associated diseases related to the overconsumption of sugars, salt and saturated fatty acids. In all, the team identified 22 clinical endpoints with 48 risk-outcome pairs.

19 April 2015

This paper finds that consumption of high-fat yoghurt and cheese are linked to reduced risks of developing type 2 diabetes – reducing these risks by as much as a fifth. High meat consumption, on the other hand, is linked to a higher risk, regardless of the fat content of the meat. These results are in line with previous studies of eating habits that indicated a link between high consumption of dairy products and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

15 October 2014

Although there is no absolute consensus on the recommendation for total fat and dietary fat and saturated fat (SFA) intake between governing bodies and health organizations, there is a general sense of convergence. All guidelines currently suggest that total fat should not exceed 35% of daily calories. Although most guidelines propose a target for dietary SFA, there is no consensus on the value to aim for.

5 September 2014

Food taxes & subsidies are effective at improving diets, according to a systematic review carried out by Australian researchers and published in the journal Nutrition Reviews. The systematic review analyses evidence from research published between January 2009 and March 2012 looking at the effectiveness of food taxes and subsidies on consumption. Included in the review were only papers assessing a specific food tax and those which directly and prospectively observed consumer responses to a fiscal policy intervention.

20 March 2014

Chocolate company Mars has decided to join Unilever and Nestlé in their commitments to a sustainable palm oil sector. Mars signed up to the Roundtable on Sustianble Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2010 but now they join other companies in taking a step further, requiring all of their suppliers to have fully sustainable and traceable palm oil supply by the end of 2015. If this is not possible they will ensure that such plans are at least put into place by the end of 2015.

12 March 2014

This research shows that it is possible to modify plant seeds to produce omega 3 fatty acids. Through a process of  genetic modification,  the research modifies the plant Camelina sativa  (false flax) with genes from microalgae – the main producers of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA  and  EPA.  The oil extracted from the seeds can then be used as a more sustainable alternative to fish oils.

18 February 2014

This systematic review examines the most common persuasive techniques used to promote junk food to children on television. The study shows that the approaches most frequently used are: free toys, gifts, discounts and competitions, promotional characters and celebrities, and appeals to taste and fun to promote junk food to children. These persuasive techniques were found to be used more often when promoting unhealthy food. The study authors argue that a ban on junk food advertising to children under 16 would be an important measure to fight child obesity. NB: the study looks at which persuasive techniques were most commonly used – it doesn’t assess which are the most effective.

6 February 2014

The paper is a systematic review of literature describing seven dietary interventions  aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in overweight or obese children. It points out that in the context of the global obesity problem, dietary interventions can be used to promote healthy eating habits, but taking a narrow and restrictive focus can result in an increased preference for the restricted foods and be unlikely at achieving positive, long-term change.