Washington - Nov. 1

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that producers of olive oil could say on their labels that there was "limited and not conclusive" evidence that people could reduce the risk of coronary disease by replacing saturated fats in their diets with olive oil.

It is only the third time that the agency has approved such a qualified health claim for a food label. The other two foods approved for such health claims were walnuts and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and tuna.

Until last year, the only health claims that food producers were permitted to make were those for which there was "significant scientific agreement," like calcium's role in preventing osteoporosis.

Producers will now be able to say on their labels: "Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day."

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Scientists in Chicago say they have uncovered why a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil seems to cut the risk of developing breast cancer.

The key is an ingredient of olive oil called oleic acid, they say.

Northwestern University laboratory tests on breast cancer cells showed the acid sharply cut levels of a gene thought to trigger the disease.

Cancer charities said the study, in Annals of Oncology, was interesting, but more research was needed.

The researchers found that oleic acid cut activity levels of a gene called Her-2/neu, which occurs at high levels in over a fifth of breast cancer patients and is associated with highly aggressive tumours with a poor prognosis.

Not only did oleic acid suppress activity of the gene, it also boosted the effectiveness of a breast cancer drug called herceptin, which has helped to prolong the lives of many patients.

Lead researcher Dr Javier Menendez said: "Our findings underpin epidemiological studies that show that the Mediterranean diet has significant protective effects against cancer, heart disease and ageing."

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Regulating your intake of trans-fatty acids

The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee strongly advises that healthy Americans over age 2 limit their intake of trans fat to less than 1 percent of total calories.

On the basis of current data, the American Heart Association recommends that consumers follow these tips: • Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain, high-fiber foods, and fat-free and low-fat dairy most often.
• Keep total fat intake between 25 and 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils most often.
• Use naturally occurring, unhydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower or olive oil most often.
• Look for processed foods made with unhydrogenated oil rather than partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oils or saturated fat.
• Use soft margarine as a substitute for butter, and choose soft margarines (liquid or tub varieties) over harder stick forms. Look for ”0 g trans fat” on the Nutrition Facts label.
• French fries, doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pies and cakes are examples of foods that are high in trans fat. Don't eat them often.
• Limit the saturated fat in your diet. If you don't eat a lot of saturated fat, you won't be consuming a lot of trans fat.
• Limit commercially fried foods and baked goods made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Not only are these foods very high in fat, but that fat is also likely to be very hydrogenated, meaning a lot of trans fat.
• Commercial shortening and deep-frying fats will continue to be made by hydrogenation and will contain saturated fat and trans fat. That's just one more reason to eat fried fast food infrequently.

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