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What are fats ?

Fat is a key nutrient. It is an essential part of our diet as it plays a vital role in the body. It not only supplies us with energy that is necessary to our metabolism, but it also supports many key body functions. For example, it helps to transport fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K. It also supports brain and heart function. Consuming fat also provides our body with fatty acids that it cannot produce by itself, such as omega 3 and omega 6. This is why those fatty acids are called ‘essential’ fatty acids.

Our body needs fat, but eating too much fat can have a negative health impact. It is important to recognise that it is not only the amount of fat that has an impact but also the type of fat, i.e. fat composition. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that excessive fat intake strongly influences the risk of heart diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke. This is because it affects blood lipids, thrombosis, blood pressure, arterial (endothelial) function, arrhythmogenesis and inflammation.

According to the World Health Organisation, no more than 30-35% of our daily energy intake should come from fat. Saturated fat should not represent more than 10%1.

1.Fats and fatty acids in human nutrition. Joint FAO/WHO expert consultation.2008