Ann Nutr Metab 2009;54(suppl 1):15–24

Foods with a High Fat Quality Are Essential for Healthy Diets

Zevenbergen H. · de Bree A. · Zeelenberg M. · Laitinen K. · van Duijn G. · Flöter E.
Unilever Research and Development, Vlaardingen, The Netherlands
email Corresponding Author

 goto top of outline Key Words

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Fat modification
  • Growth and development
  • Hydrogenation
  • Interesterification
  • Margarine
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Saturated fat

 goto top of outline Abstract

Fat is generally a highly valued element of the diet to provide energy, palatability to dry foods or to serve as a cooking medium. However, some foods rich in fat have a low fat quality with respect to nutrition, i.e., a relative high content of saturated (SFA) as compared to unsaturated fatty acids, whereas others have a more desirable fat quality, i.e., a relative high content of unsaturated fatty acids as compared to SFA. High-fat dairy products and fatty meats are examples of foods with low fat quality, whereas vegetable oils (tropical oils such as palm and coconut oil excluded) are products with a generally high fat quality. The aim of this paper is to explore the nutritional impact of products made of vegetable oils, e.g. margarines and dressings, and how they can be designed to contribute to good health. Since their first industrial production, the food industry has endeavored to improve products like margarines, including their nutritional characteristics. With evolving nutrition science, margarines and cooking products, and to a lesser extent dressings, have been adapted to contain less trans fatty acids (TFA), less SFA and more essential (polyunsaturated, PUFA) fatty acids. This has been possible by using careful fat and oil selection and modification processes. By blending vegetable oils rich in the essential PUFAs α-linolenic acid (vegetable omega–3) or linoleic acid (omega–6), margarines and dressings with both essential fatty acids present in significant quantities can be realized. In addition, full hydrogenation and fat rearrangement have enabled the production of cost-effective margarines virtually devoid of TFA and low in SFA. Dietary surveys indicate that vegetable oils, soft margarines and dressings are indeed often important sources of essential fatty acids in people’s diets, whilst providing negligible amounts of TFA and contributing modestly to SFA intakes. Based on empirical and epidemiological data, the public health benefit of switching from products with a low fat quality to products with a high fat quality can be predicted. For example, switching from butter or palm oil to a soft margarine shows a substantial improvement in the nutritional quality of the diet. These simple, practical dietary adaptations can be expected to contribute to the healthy growth and development of children and to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.

Copyright © 2009 S. Karger AG, Basel

 goto top of outline References
  1. WHO: Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. WHO Technical Report Series 916. Geneva, WHO, 2003.
  2. Lloyd-Williams F, O’Flaherty M, Mwatsama M, Birt C, Ireland R, Capewell S: Estimating the cardiovascular mortality burden attributable to the European Common Agricultural Policy on dietary saturated fats. Bull World Health Organ 2008;86:535–541A.
  3. Lichtenstein AH, et al: Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation 2006;114:82–96.
  4. Shapouri S, Rosen T: Global diet compositions: factors behind the changes and implications of the new trends. Food Security Assessment 2007;GFA-19:28–36.
  5. Shetty PS: Nutrition transition in India. Public Health Nutr 2002:5:175–182.
  6. FAO: Oilseeds, oils and oilmeals: FAO Food Outlook – No.4, Dec 2005, pp 22–25. (accessed April 23, 2009).
  7. United States Department of Agriculture: Oilseeds: world markets and trade: Circular Series June 2008, FOP 6-08. (accessed April 23, 2009).
  8. Jeyarani T, Reddy SY: Physicochemical evaluation of vanaspati marketed in India. J Food Lipids 2005;12:232–242.
  9. Bockisch M: Refining; in Bockisch M (ed): Fats and Oils Handbook. Campaign, AOCS Press, 1998, pp 613–718.
  10. Flöter E, Bot A: Developing products with modified fats; in Williams C, Buttriss J (eds): Improving the Fat Content of Foods. Boca Raton, CRD Press, 2006, pp 411–427.
  11. Bockisch M: Modification of fats and oils; in Bockisch M (ed): Fats and Oils Handbook. Campaign, AOCS Press, 1998, pp 446–612.
  12. Korver O, Katan MB: The elimination of trans fats from spreads: how science helped to turn an industry around. Nutr Rev 2006;64:275–279.
  13. Elmadfa I, Kornsteiner M: Dietary fat intake – a global perspective. Ann Nutr Metab 2009;54(suppl 1):8–14.

    External Resources

  14. Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries in Europe: CIAA agreed reference values for GDAs. (accessed April 23, 2009).
  15. Health Council in The Netherlands: Richtlijnen goede voedselkeuze. (accessed March 27, 2009).
  16. Paturi M, Tapanainen H, Reinivuo H, Pietinen P (eds): The National FINDIET 2007 Survey. (accessed April 27, 2009).
  17. Holick MF, Chen TC: Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(suppl): 1080S–1086S.
  18. Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults: Executive Summary of the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). JAMA 2001;285:2486–2497.
  19. Keys A, Anderson JT, Grande F: Prediction of serum cholesterol responses of man to changes in fats in the diet. Lancet 1957;ii: 959.

    External Resources

  20. Mensink RP, Zock PL, Kester ADM, Katan MB: Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:1146–1155.
  21. Allender S, Peto V, Scarborough P, Boxer A, Rayner M: Coronary Heart Disease Statistics. London, British Heart Foundation, 2007.
  22. Carroll MD, Lacher DA, Sorlie PD, Cleeman JI, Gordon DJ, Wolz M, et al: Trends in serum lipids and lipoproteins of adults, 1960–2002. JAMA 2005;294:1773–1781.
  23. Judd JT, Baer DJ, Clevidence BA, Muesing RA, Chen SC, Weststrate JA, et al: Effects of margarine compared with those of butter on blood lipid profiles related to cardiovascular disease risk factors in normolipemic adults fed controlled diets. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:768–777.
  24. Hendriks HFJ, Weststrate JA, van Vliet T, Meijer GW: Spreads enriched with three different levels of vegetable oil sterols and the degree of cholesterol lowering in normocholesterolaemic and mildly hypercholesterolaemic subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr 1999;53:319–327.
  25. Cleghorn CL, Skeaff CM, Mann J, Chisholm A: Plant sterol-enriched spread enhances the cholesterol-lowering potential of a fat-reduced diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003;57:170–176.
  26. Puska P: Fat and heart disease: yes we can make a change – the case of North Karelia (Finland). Ann Nutr Metab 2009;54(suppl 1):33–38.

    External Resources

  27. Pietinen P, Vartiainen E, Seppänen R, Aro A, Puska P: Changes in diet in Finland from 1972 to 1992: impact on coronary heart disease risk. Prev Med 1996;25:243–250.
  28. Vartiainen E, Puska P, Pekkanen J, Tuomilehto J, Jousilahti P: Changes in risk factors explain changes in mortality from ischaemic heart disease in Finland. Br Med J1994;309:23–27.

 goto top of outline Author Contacts

H. Zevenbergen
Unilever Research and Development, PO Box 114
NL–3130 AC Vlaardingen (The Netherlands)
Tel. +31 10 4606 506, Fax +31 10 4605 726, E-Mail

 goto top of outline Article Information

Published online: July 30, 2009
Number of Print Pages : 10
Number of Figures : 3, Number of Tables : 1, Number of References : 28

 goto top of outline Publication Details

Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (Journal of Nutrition, Metabolic Diseases and Dietetics)

Vol. 54, No. Suppl. 1, Year 2009 (Cover Date: July 2009)

Journal Editor: Elmadfa I. (Vienna)
ISSN: 0250-6807 (Print), eISSN: 1421-9697 (Online)

For additional information:

Copyright / Drug Dosage / Disclaimer

Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or, in the case of photocopying, direct payment of a specified fee to the Copyright Clearance Center.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in goverment regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.