Fat: The New Health Paradigm
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Fat: The New Health Paradigm

Consumers are making new choices, switching away from carbs to food containing fat such as red meat, butter and eggs. This trend offers powerful investment ideas, according to a study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute. 

Over the last 50 years, general nutritional wisdom has recommended a moderate consumption of fat. We have been told to dramatically lower our consumption of saturated fats (contained in butter, lard, milk, red meat, coconut oil…) and cholesterol (found in eggs, poultry, beef…). We have also been advised to increase our intake of polyunsaturated fats (contained in soybean, sunflower, corn, cottonseed oil…) and carbohydrates (found in pasta, bread, sugar…). But fat is a complex topic and these recommendations have been debated and questioned over the past 30 years. Some experts believe that these dietary recommendations – closely followed by the US population – are the main cause behind the country's high obesity levels and the rapidly growing number of people suffering from metabolic syndrome.  

Global fat consumption (1961 vs. 2011)

Global fat consumption (1961 vs. 2011) 

Source: FAOSTAT 

Changing Medical Evidence

Medical research is, however, gradually moving away from the recommendations just mentioned, according to the report "Fat: The New Health Paradigm," issued by the Credit Suisse Research Institute. This report is based on more than 400 medical research papers and books written by academics and industry experts, as well as two in-house surveys of doctors, nutritionists and consumers. Eating cholesterol, for instance, has basically no impact on the level of cholesterol in the blood or on potential heart diseases, and the link between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk has not been proved. "But we found that 40 percent of nutritionists and 70 percent of general practitioners surveyed believe that eating cholesterol-rich foods has damaging cardiovascular effects. This is not true, according to the extensive research that has become available in recent years," said Giles Keating, Vice Chairman of Investment Strategy & Research and Deputy Global Chief Investment Officer for Private Banking & Wealth Management. A high intake of vegetable oils (containing omega-6 polyunsaturated fats) has not been proved to be as beneficial as earlier thought, and trans-fats have been shown to have negative effects on our health. In short, saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are not behind the high rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome in the US. The two leading culprits are the higher intakes of vegetable oils and the increase in carbohydrate consumption.  

Perceived effects of cholesterol intake on the heart

Perceived effects of cholesterol intake on the heart 

Source: Credit Suisse Proprietary Consumer Survey

Evolving Consumer Habits

Medical research now recommends favoring food containing more natural unprocessed fats and rich in saturated and monounsaturated fats such as organic dairy, grass-fed meats, natural oils and nuts. "Natural unprocessed fats are healthy and are integral to transforming our society into one that focuses on developing and maintaining healthy individuals. Natural foods high in monounsaturated and saturated fats are one of the preferred sources of energy for our bodies to use and store. Omega-3 has strong protective properties for our heart and brain," said Stefano Natella, Global Head of Equity Research and an author of the study. Not only are the medical perceptions about fat changing, so are consumers' buying patterns. Some consumers are clearly making new choices. "We believe that consumers are at a turning point and this has distinct implications for investors," he said. Healthy living and changing lifestyles have proved to be powerful investment themes in recent years for both companies and industries in their reach.

Watch the video to find what the scientific data really says about fat consumption:

Exposing Myths about Fat

Fat Consumption on the Rise

Global fat consumption per capita is likely to soar by 23 percent over the next 15 years and protein consumption by 12 percent, while the intake of carbohydrates is set to decline by 2 percent. Total demand for fat will increase at a much faster pace, 43 percent by 2030 or 1.9 percent annually, given the continued growth of the global population. The winners will be eggs, dairy, red meat and fish. The consumption of red meat is, for example, expected to grow 23 percent over the next 15 years, while egg consumption is forecast to increase 4 percent per year as the (false) cholesterol-cardiovascular risk link will gradually disappear from people's minds. The new medical evidence will probably have a neutral impact on poultry and vegetable oils, while demand for carbohydrates, particularly sugar, will be losing out.

Potential key drivers behind the demand for various fat-containing food products

Potential key drivers behind the demand for various fat-containing food products 

Source: Credit Suisse 

Food Habits Evolve Across the Globe

China has already experienced a massive food consumption boom with the per capita food intake doubling between 1961 and 2011. It is expected to rise by an additional 13 percent by 2030, with meat and milk consumption up by 29 percent and 55 percent respectively. In the US, meat consumption is forecast to continue to rise with red meat in the lead. American egg consumption should reach nearly one a day and butter should gain in popularity as consumers learn about its benefits. European diets are also likely to contain more red meat, eggs, poultry and dairy products. Fish consumption is forecast to slow to 12 percent as consumption already stands at a relatively high level and availability is more constrained. Indian diets are on the other hand likely to remain light on meat, fish and eggs. The Indian consumption of milk is, however, likely to increase by 50 percent by 2030 and that of butter or ghee (clarified butter, often made from buffalo milk, typically used in South Asia) by 55 percent. In Australia, the annual intake of eggs should nearly double to 210 per person, while butter consumption should grow by 35 percent over the next 15 years. These evolving food habits are good news. The correction of a major nutritional mistake – the shift away from carbohydrates to fat – is finally underway on a global basis and bodes well for the future.  

Regional estimates of the percentage of total fat per capita

Regional estimates of the percentage of total fat per capita 

Source: FAOSTAT, Credit Suisse estimates