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Australian Dietary Guidelines submission

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Dear reviewers of the Dietary guidlines

I wish to make a general comment on the topic of fat nutrition in the hope of having fats presented in a different way from simply saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated. Within the poly group there is already a distinction made by identifying omeaga 6 and omega 3 fats as being essential among the many other poly fats that the body is capable of generating. However, no distinction is usually made in the case of saturated fats, for example with respect to their tendency to influence the serum level of HDL or LDL. A general recommendation to "limit the intake of saturated fat" would be unfortunate considering that the dominant fat in chocolate, stearic, has been shown not to influence serum cholesterol. Myristic and palmitic fatty acids, on the other hand, seem to raise LDL cholesterol more than HDL although this action varies depending on the amount of cholesterol already in the diet.

The fatty acids which are now known to raise HDL more than LDL, and therfore to have a positive effect on risk to artery and heart health are lauric, capric and caprylic. Between them these make up two-thirds of the fatty acids in coconut oil. They are generally referred to as medium-chain fatty acids. There is a ground-swell of case studies world-wide, and a steady stream of papers in the medical literature supporting the health-giving role of coconut oil in the diet. The history behind the long-held belief that coconut oil was "artery clogging" and so forth has been laid to rest. That belief came about due to lack of distinction between different forms of cholesterol and the zealous marketing strategy of the soy industry in the USA. There have been serious negative health outcomes, especially when soy oil was partially hydrogenated to produce margarine and in the process formed trans fats. Trans is the one form of "saturaated" fat that is undoubtedly dangerous to health. Any implied association between trans and natural saturated fats must be avoided.

Given the increasing interest by Australians in Asian recipes which contain some form of coconut oil. either as cooking oil or as coconut cream I submit that the new guidelines should make it clear that these forms are in no way to be avoided and indeed should be recommended. Hundreds of millions of imhabitants of the tropical world have for many generations used coconut as a staple food. Its rejection in "the West" on the basis of superficial analysis of population diet and health data in the 1950s combined with laboratory experiments that did not distinguish between LDL and HDL has had a very unfortunate impact for decades on diet and health in The West. The new guidelines provide an opportunity to move on from that episode of misunderstanding of the effect of medium-chain saturated fats on human health.

It would be desirable in discussing fats in the diet that a clear distinction is made between medium-chain and long-chain saturated fats, rather in the way that a disticntion is made between carbohydrates of low and hig glycemic index.

Mike Foale

Page reviewed: 3 January, 2013