Saturated fat and GI symbols
A reader recently sent in the following question: ‘I have noticed that many food products labelled as being low GI actually contain more than 10% saturated fats. Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of aiming for a healthy diet?’
I’ll answer this question in two parts. First of all, foods high in saturated fat will raise blood cholesterol levels, and may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease. Globally, most diabetes and heart associations recommend that people aim to have less than 10 per cent of their daily kilojoule intake from saturated fats – this is equivalent to eating no more than 22 grams of saturated fat for the day for the average adult in the developed world.
To help people select foods with a lower saturated fat content, food authorities allow a range of claims. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, to make a low in saturated fat claim, a food must not contain more than 1.5 grams of saturated fatty acids per 100 grams, and a drink must not contain more than 0.75 grams of saturated fatty acids per 100 grams. However, it is important that a balance of healthier fats are also consumed, so higher fat foods with a saturated fat content of less than 28% of total fat are also able to make certain claims. Importantly, the recommendation to consume less than 10% saturated fat is for the total diet – not specific foods.
As for low GI claims, there are numerous low GI claims and logos on foods and drinks, and they are currently not regulated in most countries. As such, there are no criteria to limit low GI claims to healthier foods and shoppers should beware. However, the GI Symbol Program, and its Glycemic Index Tested logo, has food-category specific nutrient criteria for saturated fat, and the cut-offs for each food category have been set to ensure only foods or drinks with reduced amounts of saturated fat are allowed to be part of the program (generally less than 20% of total fat) . This does not necessarily mean that they contain less than 1.5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams however, but it does mean that they are among the best choices within their particular food category. Therefore, to choose the healthiest lower GI alternatives within a food group, simply look for the Glycemic Index Tested logo. The amount of saturated fat will be shown on the product’s nutritional label.
If you are a food manufacturer or health professional and interested in finding out more about GI Limited’s healthy fats and saturated fat criteria for specific food products, please contact me.