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NMU 113 – FDA approves MUFA Heart Claim

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 113 (November 27, 2018)

with Dr. James Meschino


Topic: FDA Approves Label Claim Indicating Edible Oils High in Monounsaturated Fat (i.e. Olive oil) May Reduce Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

Source: U.S. Food & Drug Administration (November 19, 2018)


We’ve all heard news reports that olive oil is good for us, based on various studies published over the years, but the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had been reluctant until recently to allow manufacturers of edible oils high in the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, to put a claim on their packaging to espouse their health benefits. Well on November 19, 2018, the FDA officially gave the green light to manufacturers of edible oils, containing high levels of oleic acid, to place a label claim on their products which can now state:

“Supporting but not conclusive evidence suggests that daily consumption of about 1.5 tablespoons (20 gm) of oils containing high levels of oleic acid (at least 70%), may reduce risk of coronary heart disease.”

This claim is based on the fact that 6 out of 7 studies reviewed by the FDA showed that subjects randomly assigned to consume diets containing oils with high levels of oleic acid as a replacement to fats and oils high in saturated fat experienced a modest lowering in total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) compared to those whose ate a more Western-style diet higher in saturated fat. To better understand this, it’s important to know that there are 4 families of fats, that are found naturally in foods. They include:

  • Saturated fat
  • Polyunsaturated fat
  • Monounsaturated fat
  • And a special type of Polyunsaturated fat known as Omega-3 fats. We all know that Omega-3 fats from fish, fish oil and flaxseed oil provide a multitude of health benefits.

We also know that foods high in saturated fat increase cholesterol levels, make our blood sticky and increase inflammation in the body, all of which increase risk of heart and vascular disease. The most common polyunsaturated fat found in most vegetable oils is linoleic acid, which is a controversial fat, as some studies show that it increases inflammation in the body as well as cancer risk and may increase the stickiness of our blood. An alternative to linoleic acid is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid, found in high amounts in olive oil, canola oil, avocados and many nuts. Numerous studies have suggested that oleic acid can suppress inflammation, may help reduce cancer risk compared to polyunsaturated fats like linoleic and arachidonic acid, and is beneficial for heart health. As such, many manufactures of sunflower seed, safflower seed and soybean oil have created technologies to increase the amount of oleic acid and reduce the amount of linoleic acid in their edible oil products. This has largely been due to consumer demand for higher levels of oleic acid in the edible oils they consume.

After reviewing the key studies on fats and heart disease, the FDA finally granted permission for these companies to display this heart health benefit claim on their label and packaging. Edible oils that now qualify for this reduced heart disease health claim include the following:

  • Olive Oil
  • High Oleic Acid Sunflower (seed) Oil
  • High Oleic Acid Safflower (seed) Oil
  • High Oleic Acid Canola Oil
  • High Oleic Acid Soybean Oil
  • High Oleic Acid Algal Oil

The health claim is intended to inform consumers, that according to credible evidence, these products may reduce risk of coronary heart disease when substituted for other fats in the diet, especially foods high in saturated fat, such as butter, coconut oil, palm oil, creamy salad dressing, lard, etc. Not only does oleic acid from these oils help to lower cholesterol, but other studies show that compared to saturated fat ingestion oleic also increases insulin sensitivity – helping to prevent and better manage diabetes and pre-diabetes, it reduces inflammatory chemicals released into the bloodstream, it helps to prevent important steps in narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and it improves blood circulation to the heart and other internal organs. For many years I have recommended that individuals substitute high oleic acid foods and oils for foods high in saturated fats and trans-fats, and the evidence continues to show the importance of adhering to this simple health strategy. I hope you’ll take this take this into consideration when you’re making salad dressings, sautéing or browning foods, or adding an edible oil to any dish.

I have provided the references for this information in the text below.


1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration November 19, 2018.


2. 2015 Review of Health Benefits of Oleic Acid (monounsaturated fat)


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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