How to balance Dietary fats and human nutrition

A new study from Wageningen University and Research and Charles University in Prague considers both nutritional and environmental consequences in order to shed new light on dietary oils and fats. Instead of considering all these fats to be simply bad for our health, we emphasize the importance of fats in healthy diets, especially among malnourished people, and the need to make wise decisions between plant and animal sources of fat. refers to human and planetary health.

Choosing the right sources of oils and fats involves a complex balance of nuanced and changing problems. Although recent studies indicate that saturated animal fats are not as unhealthy as is often claimed, the environmental impacts of animal fats from dairy, lard, tallow, and other sources are often much greater than those from plants. But even among vegetable fats our choices have important implications. Palm oil, coconut oil and peanut oil are important and affordable oils in parts of the world with the largest “fat voids”: the difference between how much we consume and what we should consume in a healthy diet.

But the other side is that crop expansion has been negatively affected by tropical forests and biodiversity. Most soybeans, rapeseed, and sunflowers are grown in the richest, warmest parts of the world, and are associated with excessive nitrogen flows and some significant changes in the Earth’s system, such as the expansion of soybeans in the world. South American forests and savannas.

The study published in Frontiers in Nutrition is very current, as the war in Ukraine and its impact on the production of Russian and Ukrainian sunflower oil has led to significant increases in the prices of vegetable oils. The new study provides a framework for predicting the implications of changes in oil production and trade on the poor and malnourished and the global environment.

Douglas Sheil, a senior author and professor at Wageningen University and Research, said: and that avoiding the palm oil saves forests. The constructive answers require a more nuanced reflection on the specific implications of the specific commodity in a particular context. Fats are essential for health, and any source of edible oils can What I found especially surprising in our study is how any effort to guide and improve the nature of the production required to achieve better health and environmental results is still undermined by inadequate information. global demand for dietary oils and fats is likely to double over the next three decades. ”

Professor Erik Meijaard, lead author of the study and visiting professor at Charles University, said: “In the heated debates over oils and fats, where many argue that fats should only be excluded from diets, that, as humans, we really are fat hunters. About 25-30% of our daily energy needs come from fats, and without fats, we die. So it becomes important where we get our fats: from animals or plants, and what animals and plants, and what the impacts of our choices are.”

The study highlights that any simple conclusions about oils and fats are likely to lose the image. Saturated fats are not necessarily unhealthy. Palm oil is not necessarily bad. Wise decisions need to be made about production, trade and consumption in the broader context of how different oils and fats affect the health of overweight and malnourished people and the health of the planet.


Meijaard Erik, Abrams Jesse F., Slavin Joanne L., Sheil Douglas. Dietary Fats, Human Nutrition and the Environment: Balance and Sustainability. Frontiers in Nutrition. Vol 9. 2022.

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