Consumers have replaced saturated animal fats with healthier polyunsaturated vegetable oils, based on the understanding that such oils would reduce serum cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease.
Since 2012, Health Canada’s Food Directorate has allowed the food industry to use a label on the oils -- and foods containing the oils -- claiming “a reduced risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels.”
“This is important information for people buying certain foods because of the heart benefits when really, that’s not accurate,” said Richard Bazinet, lead author of the study. “While most of these foods are a good choice, there are a few notable exceptions.”
Bazinet said that claiming oils rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but relatively poor in omega-3 α-linolenic acid are healthy is misleading the consumer. Corn and safflower oil, which are rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but contain almost no omega-3 α-linolenic acid are not beneficial to cardiac health.
Replacing saturated fat with sources of safflower oil or safflower oil margarine did decrease serum cholesterol levels but significantly increased causes of cardiovascular and coronary artery disease.
“We suggest that the health claim be modified such that foods rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but poor in omega-3 α-linolenic acid be excluded,” the authors concluded.