Lipids and Health : bibliometric analysis of scientific data published in 2019

Nutrition is now recognised as an important health determinant, either as a risk factor or as a protective factor for various diseases, which are major public health issues: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, certain cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, etc.

In this context, French food manufacturers are encouraged by the public authorities to participate in improving the food supply by offering healthy and balanced products that take into account the reality of the population's nutritional status, in line with the challenges of the National Nutrition and Health Programme (PNNS).

The enhancement of lipids as nutrients of interest for health therefore represents a real economic challenge and a major interest for manufacturers in the fats sector.

As part of their innovation process, these industrialists ask ITERG to keep them informed of advances in scientific knowledge on the health effects of lipids.

In this respect, ITERG's Nutrition - Health & Lipid Biochemistry Team, with the support of the Information & Communication Watch Unit, is disseminating a watch on this new knowledge, focusing on various health topics1and different lipid and fat-soluble nutrients2of interest to manufacturers in the fats and oils sector

Thus, for the year 2019, nearly 3,600 publications appeared in connection with the various keywords monitored.

Across allnutrients (Fig. 1), the majority of publications dealt withobesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome (42% of publications) and cancer (19% of publications). Cardiovascular diseases accounted for 13% of the publications, the brain and the intestinal microbiota for 10% each. Finally, immunity accounted for 6% of publications.

Across all health topics (Fig. 2), vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids were the most referenced nutrients in 2019, with 405 and 397 publications respectively, far ahead of the other nutrients monitored (except for the generic term 'lipids', which alone accounted for almost 1,800 publications).

On thebasis of this bibliometric analysis, 372 bibliographic references were selected in order to assess the health effects highlighted by these publications.

Figure 3 shows the distribution of these references according to health effects, with the exception of vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 which together account for less than 10% of the selected references.

Figure 3: distribution of selected publications in 2019 according to their health effects
(+): articles showing favourable effects or relationships; (N): articles showing no effects or relationships.

For example, 99 of the selected publications on all health topics concerned omega-3 fatty acids: only 20% of them reported positive effects, while the remaining 80% did not show any significant effect.

The lack of effect does not, however, call into question the link between these nutrients and health but demonstrates the complexity of their mode of action and the impact of the experimental context of each of these studies on the results observed.

The results of this monitoring work show the need to continue nutritional studies to better define the impact of each of the lipid and fat-soluble nutrients of interest on health, taking into account their intake levels, alone or in combination with other nutrients, as well as the nutritional and physiological status of the consumer.

On the more specific question of omega-3 fatty acids, there is still too little work on alpha-linolenic acid4 , which shows the need to continue research into the value of vegetable oils for human health, following the example of the projects carried out by ITERG and its partners.

1 Cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, brain development, brain function in adults and the elderly, gut microbiota, cancer, immunity.

2 Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, Mediterranean diet and olive oil, vitamins D and E, polyphenols, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).

3 The bibliometric analysis is carried out via the PubMed database and the INTELLIXIR software. According to this analysis, the same article may deal with different lipid nutrients and different health effects.

4 Qhatever the health effect, publications dealing with omega-3 fatty acids of marine origin (EPA, DHA) are in the majority (at least 2/3 of the publications) compared with those dealing with alpha-linolenic acid, a precursor of omega-3 fatty acids of vegetable origin and found mainly in rapeseed and walnut oils, for example.