Health Canada has recently approved new claims for vegetable oil companies. The approved claim allows companies to state that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats including omega-6 vegetable oils will help lower cholesterol.
Many nutritional experts say these claims are incorrect.
The findings from a recent analysis of the Sydney Diet Heart Study have promoted experts to caution Canadians that not all polyunsaturated vegetable oils are the same.
Since the 1960s, consumers have been advised to avoid saturated fats like butter and to opt instead for vegetable oils with their cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Turns out, this advise may have been flawed.
“People just ran with the ball that polyunsaturates are good for you, so therefore each individual one must be good for you. That turns out not to be true,” nutrition professor Richard Bazinet, who studies fatty acids at the University of Toronto said. Bazinet adds that the recent study in the British Medical Journal that suggests omega-6s may actually increase heart attack risk, should prompt a re-evaluation of Health Canada’s approved claims.
So where does this leave consumers the next time they are in the grocery aisle?
According to Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Centre for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, “we should lower the intake of omega-6 rich oils such as corn oil, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed oil, including soybean, and increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet, which can be obtained from oils that are rich in omega-3s such as flaxseed oil, canola oil.”
Consumers shouldn’t be left with the message from a health claim that omega-6 fatty acids lower the risk of heart disease, Simopoulos stressed in calling the approval of the health claim in Canada a mistake.
Health Canada is said to be reviewing these findings.