WHO Recommendations on saturated fats and trans-fats

Saturated fatty acids are found in foods from animal sources such as butter, milk, meat, salmon, and egg yolks, and some plant-derived products such as chocolate and cocoa butter, coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.

Trans-fatty acids can be industrially produced by the partial hydrogenation of vegetable and fish oils, but they also occur naturally in meat and dairy products from ruminant animals (for example, cattle, sheep, goats and camels).

Industrially-produced trans-fatty acids can be found in baked and fried foods, pre-packaged snacks and food, and in partially hydrogenated cooking oils and fats that are often used at home, in restaurants, or by the informal sector, such as street vendors of food.

Dietary saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids are of particular concern because high levels of intake are correlated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

WHO recommendations:

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that adults and children should consume a maximum of 10% of their daily calorie intake in the form of saturated fat (found in meat and butter) and 1% in trans fats.
  • Use heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) as replacement.
  • The recommendations are applicable to both adults and children.

The recommendations in these guidelines can be used by policymakers and programme managers to assess current intake levels of these fatty acids in their populations relative to a benchmark, with a view to develop measures to decrease the intake of saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids, where necessary, through a range of policy actions and public health interventions.

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