Timeline of fats

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This is a timeline of fats.

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  • Scientific development
  • What are some of the increasing regulations having been imposed across the world on the use of fats in food products?
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  • What are some notable or illustrative publications on the topic of fats?
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  • What are some recommendations on the use of fats expressed by competitive entities?
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  • Program launch

Big picture

Time period Development summary More details
20th century Dietary fat is recognized as a good source of energy and fat-soluble vitamins by the first part of the century.[1] Proteins and carbohydrates are known to be indispensable dietary components by the first decade.[1] During the first half of the century, higher-fat milk and dairy products were more costly.[2] Lipases and colipases are isolated and characterized.[2]
1940s Concern over the health impacts of trans fats first emerge around this time.[3]
1950s Research on trans fatty acids begin in the 1950s.[4] "By the late 1950s scientists had demonstrated a clear link between the intake of saturated fat and heart disease."[3] "It’s been known since the 1950s that eating a lot of saturated fats is associated with heart attacks and poor cardiovascular health. "[5] "In the late ‘50s, health advocates proposed reducing saturated fats, such as in butter and beef, from our diets, which propelled the use of margarine instead, a trend that snowballed in the 1980s."[6]
1980s An association between high intake of saturated fat and increased risk of heart disease is firmly established.[3]
1990s Evidence emerges indicating that trans fats carry a higher risk for heart disease than saturated fats.[3] Several studies conducted in this decade show a connection between trans fat and increased levels of bad cholesterol.[6]
2000s In the early decade, health agencies in various countries worldwide recognize the need to introduce regulations controlling the amount of trans fats used in manufactured foods.[3]

Numerical and visual data

Google Scholar

The following table summarizes per-year mentions on Google Scholar as of October 6, 2021.

Year "trans fat" "saturated fat" "fatty acid" "triglyceride"
1900 1 2 52 19
1910 0 4 123 9
1920 0 1 171 13
1930 1 6 261 21
1940 1 14 399 41
1950 0 14 811 80
1960 2 72 2,060 376
1970 1 157 5,520 1,980
1980 6 537 9,440 3,440
1990 17 1,240 16,700 5,380
2000 83 2,570 35,300 11,000
2010 1,460 6,330 116,000 30,100
2020 2,360 9,960 68,700 32,200
Fat gsch.png

Google Trends

The chart below shows Google Trends data for Fat (food), from January 2004 to October 2021, when the screenshot was taken. Interest is also ranked by country and displayed on world map.[7]

Fat gt.png

Google Ngram Viewer

The comparative chart below shows Google Ngram Viewer data for trans fat, saturated fat, fatty acid and triglyceride from 1800 to 2019.[8]

Fat ngram.png

Wikipedia Views

The chart below shows pageviews of the English Wikipedia article Fat, from July 2015 to September 2021.[9]

Fat wv.png

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Location
1551 Scientific development Adipose tissue – more specifically brown adipose tissue– is first identified by Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner.[10]
1769 Scientific development François Poulletier de la Salle first identifies cholesterol in solid form in gallstones.
1770s Reports from this time indicate that fish liver oils are used for the treatment of rickets, osteomalacia, general malnutrition, and eye conditions, thus linking, for the first time, fish liver oils and the factor termed “fat-soluble A.”[2]
1779 Scientific development Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovers that glycerol could be obtained from olive oil by heating it with litharge (lead monoxide).[11] Along with fatty acids, glycerol is one of the two main components of a fat molecule.[12] Sweden
1791 Scientific development Swiss scientist Jean Senebier reports in the Encyclopédie méthodique, Physiologie végétale a classification of oils. They are separated into essential and greasy oils.[13] Switzerland
1813 Scientific development The concept of fatty acid (acide gras) is introduced by Michel Eugène Chevreul,[14][15] though he initially uses some variant terms: graisse acide and acide huileux ("acid fat" and "oily acid").[16]
1815 Scientific development French chemist Michel-Eugène Chevreul demonstrates the chemical nature of fats and oils.[11] He also names the compound "cholesterine".[17][18] France
1815 Scientific development Henri Braconnot classifies lipids (graisses) in two categories, suifs (solid greases or tallow) and huiles (fluid oils).[19]
1823 Scientific development French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul develops a more detailed classification of lipids, including oils, greases, tallow, waxes, resins, balsams and volatile oils (or essential oils).[20][21] France
1827 Scientific development William Prout recognizes fat ("oily" alimentary matters), along with protein ("albuminous") and carbohydrate ("saccharine"), as an important nutrient for humans and animals.[22][23]
1844 Scientific development The first synthetic triglyceride is reported by Théophile-Jules Pelouze, who manages to produce tributyrin by treating butyric acid with glycerin in the presence of concentrated sulfuric acid.[24]
1847 Scientific development French pharmacist Theodore Nicolas Gobley discovers phospholipids in mammalian brain and hen egg, called by him as "lecithins".[25] France
1849 Scientific development French physiologist Claude Bernard reports that pancreatic juice is involved in the breakdown of fat to glycerine and fatty acids for subsequent absorption.[2] France
1854 Scientific development Triacetin is first prepared by French chemist Marcellin Berthelot.[26]
1856 Scientific development German pathologist Rudolf Virchow first describes lipid accumulation in arterial walls.[27] Germany
1869 Scientific development French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès invents the margarine. In the same year, he wins a prize offered by Napoleon III for a satisfactory butter substitute.[11][28] France
1869 Scientific development The word carbohydrate is first used.[13]
1890 Scientific development It is written that “fat stands between the two great nutrients, proteids [proteins] on the one hand and carbohydrates on the other, and we find that we can indulge in considerable latitude as to its use. When we wish to get our food in a more condensed form, we can use fats freely.”[2]
1901 Scientific development German chemist Wilhelm Normann experiments with hydrogenation catalysts and successfully induces the hydrogenation of liquid fat, producing semisolid fat, which came to be known as trans fat.[3] Germany
1903 Scientific development German chemist Wilhelm Normann patents the hydrogenation of liquid oils.[3] Germany
1905 Scientific development Pekelharing observes that mice could not grow optimally while consuming only a mixture of purified fat, carbohydrate, and protein.[2]
1911 Fat consumption The first food product developed that contains trans fat is Crisco vegetable shortening, introduced by Procter & Gamble.[3] United States
1912 Scientific development Jacob Rosenbloom and William J. Gies propose the substitution of "lipoid" by "lipin".[29]
1912 Scientific development American biochemist Elmer McCollum at the University of Wisconsin begins using rats instead of humans in his experiments rather than cows and sheep. He finds the first fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin A, and discovers that rats are healthier when they are fed butter rather than lard, as butter contains more Vitamin A.[30] United States
1913 Scientific development A “fat-soluble A” factor necessary to support life is identified. This factor is thought to cure xerophthalmia and rickets.[2]
1920 Scientific development Bloor introduces a new classification for "lipoids": simple lipoids (greases and waxes), compound lipoids (phospholipoids and glycolipoids), and the derived lipoids (fatty acids, alcohols, sterols).[31][32]
1923 Scientific development The word lipide, which stems etymologically from Greek λίπος, lipos 'fat', is introduced by French pharmacologist Gabriel Bertrand.[33]
1929 Scientific development George and Mildred Burr report that dietary fatty acid is required to prevent a deficiency disease that occurred in rats fed a fat-free diet. They conclude that fatty acids are essential nutrients and show that linoleic acid preventa the disease and is an essential fatty acid. The Burrs surmise that other unsaturated fatty acids are essential and subsequently demonstrate that linolenic acid, the omega-3 fatty acid analog of linoleic acid, is also an essential fatty acid.[1] United States
1947 Literature English chemist Thomas Percy Hilditch publishesThe chemical constitution of natural fats, which would become famous. Hilditch claims that “unanimity has not yet been reached in the terminology to be adopted in classifying the various types of naturally occurring compounds in which fatty acids are present … even a collective title for the whole group is not completely settled“.[13] United Kingdom
1950 Scientific development Genetically obese mice are first described.[34]
1950–1970 In 1950, the food fat marketed in the United States is split approximately equally between animal fats (lard, tallow and butter) and edible vegetable oils. By 1970, edible vegetable oils would account for three-fourths of the total and animal fats only one-fourth.[35] United States
1956 Scientific development French physician Jean Vague becomes the first to show the importance of fat distribution in relation to various diseases, describing what he terms ‘android’ and ‘gynoid’ types of obesity.[36] France
1957 Scientific development Kummerow and colleagues[37] find that lipid extracts of tissue specimens from 24 human subjects who died of heart disease contain ≤12.2% trans fatty acids in their adipose tissue, 14.4% in the liver, 9.3% in heart tissue, 8.8% in aortic tissue, and 8.8% in atheroma.[38]
1964 Scientific development Konrad Bloch and Feodor Lynen share the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning some of the mechanisms and methods of regulation of cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism.[39]
1975 Policy Guidelines for voluntary nutrition labeling start taking effect in the United States. Foods are labeled on the basis of total, saturated (lauric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acids), and polyunsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol content. These standards are established based on the observed association between saturated fat intake and risk of cardiovascular disease.[2] United States
1976 Scientific development The Nurses' Health Study is incepted as a cohort study following 120,000 female nurses. The researchers would analyze data from 900 coronary events from the study's population during 14 years of followup, and would determine that a nurse's coronary artery disease (CAD) risk roughly doubled (relative risk of 1.93, confidence interval: 1.43 to 2.61) for each 2% increase in trans fat calories consumed (instead of carbohydrate calories). By contrast, for each 5% increase in saturated fat calories (instead of carbohydrate calories) there was a 17% increase in risk (relative risk of 1.17, CI: 0.97 to 1.41). The replacement of saturated fat or trans unsaturated fat by cis (unhydrogenated) unsaturated fats is associated with larger reductions in risk than an isocaloric replacement by carbohydrates.[40] The researchers would also report on the benefits of reducing trans fat consumption. Replacing 2% of food energy from trans fat with non-trans unsaturated fats more than halves the risk of CAD (53%). By comparison, replacing a larger 5% of food energy from saturated fat with non-trans unsaturated fats reduces the risk of CAD by 43%. This study provides the major evidence for the effect of trans fat on coronary artery disease.[40] United States
1976 Scientific development A summary of the lipid hypothesis describes it as: "measures used to lower the plasma lipids in patients with hyperlipidemia will lead to reductions in new events of coronary heart disease".[41]
1980 The United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Health and Human Services jointly release the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These reports emphasize a leading harmful role of saturated fats.[42] United States
1983 Scientific development Researchers show that the concentration of trans 18:1 and 16:1 fatty acids is 6.8% higher in the adipose tissue of individuals who died of ischemic heart disease compared with individuals who died of other causes.[43][44][38]
1984 The United Kingdom issues dietary guidelines similar to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued in 1980. Both guidelines recommend reducing overall fat consumption to 30% of total calories, and saturated fat to no more than 10% of calories. These values would remain essentially unchanged in subsequent iterations.[42] United Kingdom
1986 McDonald's replaces the saturated fats in some of its products with partially hydrogenated oils, the major source of trans fats.[45]
1987 Recommendation The report of National Cholesterol Education Program, Adult Treatment Panels suggests the total blood cholesterol level should be: < 200 mg/dL normal blood cholesterol, 200–239 mg/dL borderline-high, > 240 mg/dL high cholesterol.[46]
1990 Policy The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 becomes effective in the United States. It focuses on saturated fat (redefined as all saturated fatty acids) and calls for it to be labeled based on grams per serving and percentage of total energy. The labeling of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids is deemed optional. These standards are based on the association between saturated fat intake and risk of cardiovascular disease, but also on observed associations with certain forms of cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.[2] United States
1990 Scientific development Mensink and Katan demonstrate the plasma cholesterol-raising effect of industrially produced trans-octadecenoic acids in human volunteers.[47]
1990 Scientific development A Dutch study reports that the trans fatty acids do have an adverse effect on serum cholesterol.[48] Netherlands
1990 Scientific development An Institute of Medicine report determines that trans fats have "no deleterious effects" on human health.[45] United States
1991 Recommendation The U.K. Committee on Medical Aspects of Health (COMA) recommends that trans fatty acids be limited to 2% of the caloric (energy) intake.[48] United Kingdom
1993 Recommendation Health advocacy groups start calling for fast food chains to stop frying with partially hydrogenated oil.[6]
1993 Policy The United States FDA requires that saturated fat and cholesterol be listed on food labels.[6] United States
1994 Statistics A study estimates that over 30,000 cardiac deaths per year in the United States are attributable to the consumption of trans fats.[49]
1996 Literature F. D Gunstone publishes Fatty acid and lipid chemistry.[50]
1997 Statistics The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that fat consumption by humans in the United States can exceed 100 g/day.[51] United States
1998 Literature Caroline M. Pond publishes The Fats of Life.[52]
2000 Statistics The global consumption of oils and fats ia 116.4 million tons. The largest volumes are for soybean oil (26.4 mt), palm oil (22.8 mt), rape seed oil (14.5 mt) and sunflower oil (9.4 mt).[53] Worldwide
2001 Scientific development One study finds that risk of diabetes is higher for those in the highest quartile of trans fat consumption.[54]
2002 Recommendation The Institute of Medicine of the [[w:National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine National Academies]] publishes a report recommending that the consumption of trans fatty acids be as low as possible.[4]
2003 Recommendation A report by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends limiting the saturated fatty acids to less than 10% of daily energy intake and less than 7% for high-risk groups.[55]
2003 Scientific development A meta-analysis finds a significant positive relationship between saturated fat and breast cancer.[56]
2003 Scientific development A randomized crossover study comparing the effect of eating a meal on blood lipids of (relatively) cis and trans-fat-rich meals shows that cholesteryl ester transfer (CET) is 28% higher after the trans meal than after the cis meal and that lipoprotein concentrations are enriched in apolipoprotein(a) after the trans meals.[57]
2003 Scientific development A study published in Archives of Neurology suggests that the intake of both trans fats and saturated fats promotes the development of Alzheimer disease.[58]
2003 Policy Denmark pioneers the banning of industrially-produced trans fats in food.[59] Denmark
2004 Scientific development A review concludes that "no lower safe limit of specific saturated fatty acid intakes has been identified" and recommends that the influence of varying saturated fatty acid intakes against a background of different individual lifestyles and genetic backgrounds should be the focus in future studies.[60]
2004 Recommendation The European Food Safety Authority produces a scientific opinion on trans fatty acids, surmising that "higher intakes of TFA may increase risk for coronary heart disease.[61]
2004 Literature F. D. Gunstone publishes The Chemistry of Oils and Fats: Sources, Composition, Properties, and Uses.[62]
2004–2005 Scientific development An analysis of samples of McDonald's French fries collected finds that fries served in New York City contain twice as much trans fat as in Hungary, and 28 times as much as in Denmark, where trans fats are restricted. For Kentucky Fried Chicken products, the pattern is reversed: the Hungarian product containing twice the trans fat of the New York product. Even within the United States, there is variation, with fries in New York containing 30% more trans fat than those from Atlanta.[63]
2006 (January 1) Policy The first direct regulation of trans fat by the United States FDA is a requirement that it be labeled in amounts above 0.5g per serving, which takes effect on January 1.[64] United States
2006 Research A study indicates that the intake of saturated fat has a negative effect on the mineral density of bones. The study suggests that men may be particularly vulnerable.[65]
2006 Policy New York City passes a law banning artificial trans fats in all restaurant foods.[5] United States
2006 Policy Argentina starts requiring trans fat content labeling.[66] Argentina
2007 Scientific development A study funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board[67] claims that replacing natural palm oil by other interesterified or partial hydrogenated fats cause adverse health effects, such as higher LDL/HDL ratio and plasma glucose levels. However, these effects could be attributed to the higher percentage of saturated acids in the IE and partially hydrogenated fats, rather than to the IE process itself.[68][69]
2007 Scientific development A study finds that each 2% increase in the intake of energy from trans unsaturated fats, as opposed to that from carbohydrates, is associated with a 73% greater risk of ovulatory infertility.[70]
2007 Program launch The American Heart Association launches its "Face the Fats" campaign to help educate the public about the negative effects of trans fats.[71] United States
2008 Policy Switzerland bans trans fats.[72] Switzerland
2008 Policy Calgary becomes the first city in Canada to ban trans fats from restaurants and fast-food chains.[73] Canada
2009 Literature Frank Gunstone publishes Oils and Fats in the Food Industry.[74]
2010 Recommendation A conference of the American Dietetic Association takes place, at which concerns are expressed that a blanket recommendation to avoid saturated fats could drive people to also reduce the amount of polyunsaturated fats, which may have health benefits, and/or replace fats by refined carbohydrates — which carry a high risk of obesity and heart disease.[75] United States
2010 Statistics According to the FDA, the average American consumes 5.8 grams of trans fat per day (2.6% of energy intake).[76] United States
2012 Recommendation The Conseil Supérieur de la Santé in Belgium publishes a science-policy advisory report on industrially produced trans fatty acids that focuses on the general population. Its recommendation to the legislature is to prohibit more than 2 g of trans fatty acids per 100 g of fat in food products.[77] Belgium
2012 Scientific development An observational analysis of subjects of an earlier study finds a strong relation between dietary trans fat acids and self-reported behavioral aggression and irritability, suggesting but not establishing causality.[78]
2013 Scientific development A team of Dutch scientists confidently write that "the detrimental effects of industrial trans fatty acids on heart health are beyond dispute".[45] Netherlands
2014 Policy It becomes obligatory in Israel to mark food products with more than 2% (by weight) fat.[79] Israel
2014 Policy From December, all food products produced in the European Union are legally required to indicate the specific vegetable oil used in their manufacture, following the introduction of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation.[80] European Union
2015 Recommendation The United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recommends that Americans eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible, because most foods that are rich in cholesterol are also high in saturated fat and thereby may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.[81][82] United States
2015 Scientific development According to a study, trans fats are one of several components of Western pattern diets which promote acne, along with carbohydrates with high glycemic load such as refined sugars or refined starches, milk and dairy products, and saturated fats, while omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce acne, are deficient in Western pattern diets.[83]
2015 Scientific development A study argues that "greater dietary trans fatty acid consumption is linked to worse word memory in adults during years of high productivity, adults age <45".[84]
2017 Scientific development A review by the American Heart Association estimates that replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat in the American diet could reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 30%.[85] United States
2017 Policy Health Canada announces complete ban of trans fats in the country.[86] Canada
2018 Program launch The World Health Organization launches a plan to eliminate trans fat from the global food supply. They estimate that trans fat leads to more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease yearly.[87]
2018 Statistics The 2018 Dutch Nutrition Survey reports that in this year, trans fatty acids only provided ∼0.3% of the daily energy requirement, as opposed to 5–10% several decades ago.[38]
2018 Literature Vinood B. Patel publishes The Molecular Nutrition of Fats, which presents the nutritional and molecular aspects of fats by assessing their dietary components, their structural and metabolic effects on the cell, and their role in health and disease.[88]
2019 Policy The Ministry of Health of Singapore announces that partially-hydrogenated oils (PHOs) will be banned.[89] Singapore
2010 (April 15) Recommendation A British Medical Journal editorial calls for trans fats to be "virtually eliminated in the United Kingdom by next year".[90] United Kingdom
2016 Literature Michelle Phillipov publishes Fats: A Global History.[91]
2020 Policy The Saudi Minister of Health announces the ban of trans fat in all food products in the country due to their health risks.[92] Saudi Arabia
2020 (August 19) Policy The President of Romania promulgates a law that limits trans fats to 2 grams per every 100 grams of fat, max. The food producers not conforming would be fined with a sum ranging between 10,000 and 30,000 lei.[93][94] Romania
2021 Scientific development A review finds that diets high in saturated fat are associated with higher mortality from all-causes and cardiovascular disease.[95]
2021 Scientific development Foods in the EU intended for consumers are required to contain less than 2g of industrial trans fat per 100g of fat.[96]

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External links


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