Book Review : Handbook of Lipids in Human Function, 1st Edition

Review Handbook of Lipids in Human Function, 1st Edition

Fatty Acids

Publisher AOCS/Elsevier. Release date December 2015





Editor(s): Watson, R.R.  &   De Meester ,F.D.

Print Book ISBN :9781630670368

EBook ISBN :9781630670351

Pages: 842 with 29 chapters and 67 contributors.

Cost AOCS members $ 165.75 USD


This book sets out to review the current research in human and animal models that define the roles and research status of fatty acids in major areas of health and disease. The areas covered include cardiovascular disease, failing cognition, mood, diabetes and obesity. The majority of the authors are relative newcomers from various institutions around the world. This makes for a new and fresh critical look at many of the issues that give rise to controversies such as saturated fat, trans fats omega-3/omega-6 ratio and antioxidants.



The preface by the editors in this substantial book by AOCS summarizes the perceived need for this type of comprehensive research orientated book. They comment that the time is right to stop and take a close look at the concept that non-essential nutrients such as cholesterol, saturated fats and glucose, which make up a major proportion of our daily energy intake, are primary risk factors of chronic degenerative disease. The book initially presents current research relating to health issues whose impact may be modified by adopting personalized diets and lifestyle. They emphasize focusing on the whole of diet and not individual nutrients.

The large volume of material is presented in 29 stimulating chapters and brings together the research and work of an international team of experts. The book is designed to bridge the gap between traditional approaches to dietary interventions and leading edge integrated health strategies.

New and interesting material around genetic influences are a theme of the book.

Addressing cardiovascular and neurological diseases as well as cancer, obesity, inflammatory conditions, and lung disease, the authors correlate lipid sources with specific conditions, providing important insights into preventative as well as response-based actions designed to positively impact health outcomes.


Cardiovascular disease”

The Chapter by Poledne on the effects of individual saturated fatty acids is very timely and most interesting and matches the recent article in Inform magazine (March 2016) with its conclusions. He describes how the recent dietary guidelines arising out of 30 years of research still maintain advice on keeping saturates low. There is a good discussion about why epidemiological data are so inconsistent mainly due to dietary records being inaccurate. Chowdhury et. al. (famous now because of media misinterpretation) point out that not all saturated and omega-6 fats are bad. This chapter is one of the longest in the book at around 100 pages whilst the majority are between 20-30 pages.



Inflammation and its causes is a theme that runs through several chapters but one by Lawrence approaches the whole subject of dietary fats and inflammation. He points out that saturated fatty acids such as lauric, myristic and palmitic are directly related to pro-inflammatory status, whilst in contrast long chain PUFA contribute to an anti-inflammatory status.


Alzheimer’s disease


Researchers from Germany in an informative chapter review the history of this disease from its first description in 1907 by Alois Alzheimer to a deep understanding of the deterioration processes so distressing to a growing population around the world. Mett et al.  informative chapter discusses how glycerophospholipids and other lipids are related to the amyloid precursor protein (APP) which has been the subject of most investigation of this cruel disease.



Mood and cognition/brain function

This area is closely related to the section on cognitive decline and is all about the vital role of lipids in brain structure and function.

There are 4 chapters on this related topic.


Diabetes and obesity

Type 2 diabetes is a fast growing problem for the western world. Several chapters are devoted to the causes and potential solutions

The recommended readership for this book includes food scientists, lipidologists, health researcher’s clinicians and nutritionists. Industry will find it hard but not impossible to assimilate the messages contained in the various chapters, as they seem to have become accustomed to comprehensive summary reviews. Having said that it is best for anyone making key decisions to scrutinize the source literature instead of relying on writers who can introduce their own biases. The good thing about this handbook is that most of the work reported is brand-new and takes quite a different perspective than traditional and classical nutritional publications.

I really enjoyed working my way albeit slowly through the book; although it is so detailed, it will be some time before I have explored all the chapters. The wide multidisciplinary approach taken by all the authors in the book offer invaluable information about where to start reflecting on new knowledge in this field about lipids in human function.

It is mildly amusing that a number of the chapters regularly conclude with a sentence about “” more research is needed to verify the hypotheses. Nutrition is a constantly changing and evolving science.

The index is reasonable and there are many references in each chapter. I found the book to be well written and did not spot any glaring errors.

Chowdhury, Rajiv; et al. (March 18, 2014).“Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”Ann Intern Med.



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