FDA allows qualified health claim for olive oil

Allison Gandey

November 03, 2004

Rockville, MD - For the first time, the US Food and Drug Administration is backing evidence that the monounsaturated fat from olive oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Because the data remain inconclusive, the regulator says it will exercise discretion in monitoring the use of this new claim on products that contain olive oil.

"With this claim, consumers can make more informed decisions about maintaining healthy dietary practices," Dr Lester Crawford, acting FDA commissioner, said in a statement to the press. "Since CHD is the number-one killer of both men and women in the US, it is a public-health priority to make sure that consumers have accurate and useful information on reducing their risk."

The new health claim will state that there is limited but not conclusive evidence suggesting that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil should replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories consumed in a day. The new labeling will specify how many grams of olive oil are contained in one serving of a product.

"Olive oil's taste and versatility has led to its record use in America in recent years, but even so, its health benefits have been undervalued," Bob Bauer, president of the North American Olive Oil Association, said in a news release. Bauer's association first applied for the health claim in August 2003.

This is the third time the FDA granted a qualified health claim for conventional food. In March, the agency said "supportive but not conclusive research" shows eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day might reduce heart disease risk. In September, it issued a similar qualified claim for the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

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