A century ago, dietary fat was mainly seen as a source of energy. In 1929, George and Mildred Burr introduced the concept of essential fats: certain fats, i.e. linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid, need to be provided by the diet to prevent deficiencies. Although essential fats were initially considered of marginal nutritional importance for humans, clinical deficiency symptoms were recorded for the first time in the 1960s. Beyond the fact that essential fats can prevent deficiencies, research over the past decades has shown that they also play a major role in preventing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases. This has resulted in an increased interest in the quality of the dietary lipid supply as a major determinant of long-term health and well-being, which is also reflected in recent diet guidelines. This paper will give an overview of key aspects of present recommendations on dietary fats.
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