The ICC-Scientific Advisory Committee for Health (SACH) published an open letter addressing the World Health Organization (WHO) concerning its Trans Fat REPLACE Program. Commencing in 2019, the initiative aims to eliminate industrially produced trans-fatty acids by 2023. While the main goal appears creditable, certain components of the program, such as advocating for polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) seed oils, inesterified fats, and discouraging the use of coconut oil, have generated controversy and resistance.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), specifically omega-6 linoleic acid and omega-3 linolenic acid, are deemed essential fatty acids. However, their intake is considered healthy only under specific conditions: first, scientific evidence supports the benefits of omega-6 up to approximately 7% of total energy, exceeding which becomes unhealthy; second, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should not exceed 5:1 to avoid the risks of obesity and heart disease; third, PUFA oils, prone to oxidation at high heat, should not be used for frying. The World Health Organization's strong endorsement of PUFA oils relies on studies conducted primarily in developed countries, emphasizing PUFA consumption while discouraging saturated fat. In contrast, the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study across 18 countries, covering a wide range of income levels, concluded that fats, including saturated fatty acids, are essentially harmless.

While endorsing the primary aim of the WHO program to eliminate trans fats from the worldwide food supply, it's crucial to note that its additional objectives lack scientific evidence and may potentially deteriorate global health. There is no substantiated evidence indicating that coconut oil is detrimental to health or a causative factor in heart disease. Revered as the 'Tree of Life' in various cultures, the coconut stands as an exemplary model of sustainable development, offering diverse applications in both food and non-food realms. A staggering one billion individuals globally incorporate a varied and nutritious coconut-based diet into their daily lives, constituting a significant source of essential calories and nutrients.

Critics of coconut oil often rely on studies primarily conducted in Western countries, emphasizing the potential of saturated fat to raise LDL cholesterol. However, they overlook the fact that coconut oil simultaneously elevates HDL cholesterol, promoting a favorable LDL/HDL ratio. Moreover, a meticulous examination of existing literature reveals that, despite concerns surrounding LDL as a risk factor, there is no substantive evidence linking coconut oil consumption to heart disease. Detractors also dismiss the myriad beneficial properties of coconut oil, including its ability to reduce HbA1c and triglyceride levels, offering protection against heart disease. Additionally, coconut oil contributes to the improvement of abdominal adiposity, acting as a preventive measure against obesity. Its recognized anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties demonstrated therapeutic efficacy against mild COVID-19, and positive impact on cognitive performance in Alzheimer's patients further underscore its multifaceted health benefits. Comprising 65% medium-chain fatty acids, coconut oil demonstrates well-documented metabolic advantages associated specifically with these medium-chain fatty acids, distinguishing them from their long-chain counterparts.

ICC-SACH proposed policy suggestions involve: 1) endorsing the elimination of trans fat from the food supply, 2) refraining from promoting PUFA seed oils and interesterified fats as the primary substitutes for trans-fat, 3) advocating for the removal of coconut oil from the 'Not Recommended' list, 4) encouraging the WHO Trans Fat Replace program to endorse a diverse intake of various natural fats and oils, and 6) urging WHO to intensify its support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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