How much fat and carbohydrates should you consume, according to the new WHO guidelines?

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WHO has updated its nutritional guidelines on the consumption of carbohydrates and fats. Advertisement by Catherine Falls/Getty Images
  • The World Health Organization has released new publications presenting the latest scientific thinking on the role of fats and carbohydrates in a healthy diet.
  • For adults, WHO still recommends limiting fat intake to 30 percent or less of your daily calories.
  • For carbohydrates, the new guidelines emphasize source rather than quantity.
  • The new guidelines also present new information for parents hoping to set their children on a lifelong, healthy relationship with food and nutrition.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released an updated dietary guide based on the latest research and evidence.

The new guidance comes in the form of several documents, including:

In general, WHO is focusing less on the quantity of fats and carbohydrates than it might have done in the past and looking more closely at quality.

Not everything WHO has to say is new. For example, the organization continues to recommend that adults limit their fat intake to 30 percent or less of their daily calories.

A person’s energy intake is measured as calories supplied by carbohydrates, proteins, fats and alcohol.

However, worldwide obesity has almost tripled since 1975, and overweight or obesity affects more than 340 million children and adolescents aged 5 to 19, with 39 million children under 5 overweight or obese in 2020. The WHO documents reflect a new emphasis on healthy eating throughout life.

For example, WHO guidelines state that children under the age of 2 should ingest mainly unsaturated fats. WHO strongly recommends consuming no more than 10% of their total calories from saturated fat, with 1% or less trans fatty acids.

Nutritionist Michelle Routhenstein, who was not involved in the WHO publications, said that previously she generally limited fat to 30% of energy intake.

And now, we’re really seeing that saturated fats are guilty of developing cardiovascular disease because they directly correlate with increased LDL and increased insulin resistance, which are cardiometabolic risk factors. she said.

The WHO denounces the unhealthiness of saturated fatty acids consumed in dairy products and fatty meat. Butter, ghee, lard, palm oil and coconut oil also contain saturated fat.

Trans fatty acids come mainly from industrially produced sources and animals such as cows, sheep and goats. Other ruminants include deer, elk, camel, giraffe and buffalo.

The new publications offer guidance on ways people can replace unhealthy saturated fats and trans fatty acids with plant-based polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids.

For carbohydrates, a similar shift in perspective is evident in the new WHO guidelines.

We’ve been more specific about where the [nutrients] from. They were more specifically interested in fiber which has more complex carbohydrates. We’re looking at dietary fiber primarily from whole grains and fruits and vegetables, which we know have a protective cardiovascular effect, Routhenstein said.

WHO now emphasizes the consumption of foods containing natural fibers such as whole grains, legumes and vegetables.

New recommendations for children

While the WHO has long recommended that adults eat 400 grams of fruit and vegetables a day, for the first time the publications are adding guidelines for children as well.

  • Children aged 2 to 5 should eat at least 250 grams of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Children aged 6 to 9 should eat at least 350 grams of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Children aged 10 and older should eat at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables a day.

Similarly, WHO is now addressing children’s need for fiber. He previously advised adults to consume 25 grams per day. Now:

  • Children ages 2 to 5 should consume at least 15 grams of fiber per day.
  • Children ages 6 to 9 should consume at least 21 grams of fiber per day.
  • Children ages 10 and older should consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day.

Fiber is found in foods ranging from broccoli to bananas and apples to avocados.

The obesity epidemic that used to be seen in children, that’s what’s driving it [the WHOs new emphasis]said pediatrician Dr. Daniel Ganjian, also not affiliated with WHO.

Dr. Ganjian also cited more and more research showing that the younger you start with healthy eating and healthy eating, the more likely you are [children] they need to be healthier for the rest of their lives.

He specifically referred to avoiding the development of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, even some types of cancer and diabetes.

As a nutritionist specializing in cardiovascular health, Routhenstein said, “There’s this new focus that we realize to prevent cardiovascular disease. We need to focus on the older generation because that’s where it starts.”

We need to look from a prevention perspective versus a treatment perspective, Routhenstein said.

Healthy attitudes towards eating

The parents are the main food producers in the house. So once the parents know and the child knows, and then what [the kid] start eating it, the body develops a habit and craves healthier foods instead of crunchy salty foods, said Dr. Ganjian.

She also stressed the importance of properly presenting healthy eating to children and said that calling overweight or obese children and telling them to start watching what you eat is not the best approach.

This approach is now known to produce more anxiety and eating disorders than a healthy attitude towards eating over the long term.

We need to take the discussion away from weight, or body image, and towards healthy eating. You always encourage healthy eating, said Dr. Ganjian.

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