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Vegetable and nut oils win US support

Monday February 2nd, 2009

Experts have challenged new American guidance stating that omega-6 vegetable oils are "beneficial".

The new American Heart Association advice states that omega-6 oils, found in many nuts and seeds, can help with a healthy heart eating plan.

But European experts said the advantages of switching to the oils seem "weak".

Omega-6 oils are found in sunflower, flax, most nuts and soy-bean and are polyunsaturated fats. They are also found in poultry, eggs and cereals.

The American Heart Association report, published recently in Circulation, says that recent major medical trials show reduced rates of heart disease among people with high omega-6 diets.

Professor Heinz Drexel, of the VIVIT Research Institute at Feldkirch, Austria, speaking ro the European Society of Cardiology, said the report suggested that more than ten per cent of calories could be taken from omega-6 oils. It says the oils should provide at least five per cent of calories.

He said this was "somewhat discordant" with previous recommendations from a range of experts.

He said: "On balance, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.However, the effects of Omega-6 PUFAs (poly-unsaturated fatty acids) appear weak and require long-term interventions. Many studies in the past were not long enough for a nutritional intervention. Moreover, in the intervention studies other nutrients were changed along with the enrichment of omega-6 PUFAs."

Dr William Harris, of the American Heart Association, said: "Of course, as with any news about a single nutrient, it's important to remember to focus on an overall healthy dietary pattern – one nutrient or one type of food isn’t a cure-all.

"Our goal was simply to let Americans know that foods containing omega-6 fatty acids can be part of a healthy diet, and can even help improve your cardiovascular risk profile."

Harris WS, Mozaffarian D, Rimm E, et al. Omega-6 fatty acids and risk for cardiovascular disease. Circulation 2009; DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.191627

Tags: Europe | Heart Health | North America | Nutrition & Healthy Eating

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