The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in their roles as technical agencies of the United Nations (UN), are charged with providing science-based guidance on food and nutrition to national governments and the international community. The process used to do this involves periodic and systematic reviews of scientific evidence, which often culminates with the convening of joint expert consultations to review the state of scientific knowledge, deliberate on the issues and translate this knowledge into a definition of requirements and corresponding nutrient-based recommendations. The overall goal of these recommendations is to support health and nutritional well-being of individuals and populations. The topics covered during the recent past include energy, protein and amino acids, fats and oils, most of the vitamins and minerals and carbohydrates, with the objective of providing guidance on nutritional requirements and recommended dietary intakes.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Fats and Fatty Acids in Human Nutrition (hereafter Expert Consultation) was the most recent expert meeting convened, and was held in Geneva from 10 to 14 November 2008. The Expert Consultation was the third to be held on the subject of fats in human nutrition, the first expert consultation on this topic being held in 1977 (FAO, 1978) and the second in 1993 (FAO, 1994). The timeliness of this Expert Consultation is also tied to the clear recognition of the increasing global burden of nutrition-related chronic disease. Recent work of FAO and WHO in connection with this includes the 2002 Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases (WHO, 2003), the 2001 Expert Consultation on Human Energy Requirements (FAO, 2004) and its companion 2002 Expert Consultation on Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition (WHO, 2007), one 2002 Technical Workshop on Food Energy – Methods of Analysis and Conversion Factors (FAO, 2003), and several Scientific Updates; one by FAO/WHO in 2006 on Carbohydrates in Human Nutrition (Nishida et al., 2007) and another by WHO on Trans Fatty Acids (Nishida and Uauy, 2009). These integrated efforts provide, to varying degrees, the scientific basis that guides strategies, programmes and projects of FAO and WHO and their Member Countries.

During the past fifteen years, the changes in diets and lifestyles resulting from industrialization, urbanization, economic development and market globalization have increased rapidly and particularly in the developing countries where major socioeconomic changes are occurring. Whereas general improvement in the standard of living has been observed, this has often been accompanied by unhealthy dietary patterns and insufficient physical activity to maintain an optimal energy balance and a healthy weight. The net result has been increased prevalence of diet-related chronic diseases in all socio-economic groups and which now represent the main cause of deaths and disability worldwide

PMID: 21812367

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