Dietitians call for revision of NHMRC draft dietary guidelines: “Need for more emphasis on healthy unsaturated fat”

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th December 2011

A leading Australian dietitian believes the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)’s new Australian Dietary Guidelines is a “missed opportunity to promote healthy eating habits” in Australia.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the revised guidelines yesterday.

Criticism of Approach

Australian Dietitian and Nutritionist, Nicole Senior, who has previously been a consultant nutritionist to Unilever Australia, said the guidelines need to be revised so they place greater emphasis on the need to include healthy unsaturated fats in the diet.

Ms Senior said that while many Australians follow a ‘low-fat’ mantra of healthy eating, the nation is facing a growing health risk as a result of people not getting enough of the right type of fat in their diet.

Ms Senior said, “The proposed guidelines tell us to eat less saturated fats, but do not place enough emphasis on the importance of replacing these with the good unsaturated fats. If we don’t get the guidelines right we are missing one of the best opportunities to improve the health of Australians and we won’t get another opportunity like this for a long time.”

Heart Foundation view

The Heart Foundation of Australia states that it is not the amount of fat eaten that is linked to the incidence of coronary heart disease but the type of fat eaten – that is, saturated fat intake versus unsaturated fat intake.

Ms Senior said that Australians need to be aware that a heart-healthy diet does not mean cutting out fat altogether. She said that the dietary guidelines should recommend people eat less saturated animal fats and more unsaturated fats in vegetable and plant-based oils and spreads in order to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease.

DAA view

Dietitians Association of Australia CEO Claire Hewat said that the challenge for many people, when it comes to putting dietary recommendations into practice, is knowing what to replace “bad” saturated fats with.