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NICE to update heart health guidance; omega-3s and sterols-stanols considered

By Sarah Hills , 01-Apr-2014

Guidance on the prevention of cardiovascular disease relating to sugar, salt and fats – including omega-3s – should be updated, the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has concluded. Plant sterols and stanols were also considered.

The ‘Prevention of cardiovascular disease’ guidance published in 2010 will be looked at again after it was decided there was sufficient new evidence.

The existing guidance, requested by the UK Department of Health, is aimed at those whose actions influence cardiovascular health, including government and industry.

Current recommendations include accelerating the reduction in salt intake. It also recommends encouraging the food industry to reduce substantially the amount of saturated fat in all products - and if necessary, consider supportive legislation.

Stakeholders that contributed to the review consultation included GOED (the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s), Unilever and Johnson & Johnson.

Omega-3 intake revision

GOED highlighted European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) dietary reference value for EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and new evidence to support and strengthen the 2010 guidance, which stated that: “A 'healthier' diet based on fruit, legumes, pulses, other vegetables, wholegrain foods, fish and poultry is consistently associated with lower levels of CVD risk factors.”

GOED told Nutraingredients: "Our goal is to increase consumption of omega-3s to adequate levels around the world and governmental recommendations are a key part of this.

"GOED believes it is important that the NICE guidelines reflect the totality of the evidence around omega-3s and cardiovascular disease. We would like to see stronger language advising consumers about the public health importance of eating fatty fish."

The Cochrane Heart Group also highlighted research relating to salt intake and cardiovascular events that had been overlooked previously.

Sterols and stanols

The 2010 guidance pointed out gaps in evidence relating to stanols and sterols. Specifically, what effect a regular daily intake of 2.5 g of stanols or sterols would have on the incidence of cardiac and stroke events.

In the recent consultation HEART UK, the cholesterol charity, along with Unilever and Johnson & Johnson drew attention to a recent European Atherosclerosis Society Consensus Panel paper. This concluded that consuming foods with added plant sterols and stanols can lead to significant reduction in blood levels of LDL (bad cholesterol).

The nutrients have won approved health claims to this effect in the European Union.

Unilever's pro.activ and Raisio's Benecol brands are the leaders in the global market for sterol-stanol products, which Euromonitor estimates to be worth €2.45bn.

A NICE spokeswoman could not give a timescale, but said that the committee responsible for the guidance will meet to consider the new scope and evidence. Then it will develop the updated recommendations, followed by further consultation.

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