History of the Fats of Life Newsletter

The PUFA Newsletter was established in 1996 by F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Ltd. Its first editor and writer was James Magee from MeDev Medical Service, Nyon, Switzerland. In the early 90s the Vitamins and Fine Chemicals Division of Roche, based on its conviction that PUFA were quasi-essential, vitamin-like nutrients, decided to develop and add PUFA to its portfolio of nutritional vitamins. In 1994, Reto Muggli became the director of the project “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids,” and was responsible for R&D, product development and global marketing. At that time PUFA were poorly known, the science of PUFA was still in its infancy, and PUFA supplements were marketed with unsubstantiated claims. Dr. Muggli decided to launch a generic marketing campaign. One of the tools was the PUFA Newsletter.

The newsletter was distributed in print free of charge to health practitioners, nutritionists, supplement and food manufacturers, health authorities, medical and science writers and others. It was also posted on the (former) website www.medev.ch.

The first editions of the PUFA Newsletter carried a logo in the form of an oil droplet with the wording “Fats of Life” (see right for an early PUFA Newsletter: Carlson, Neuringer & Reisbick, “Assessment of infant visual and cognitive function in relation to long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids”, Editiones Roche, Basel, Switzerland, 1996, ISBN:3907770692). The suggestion to use the phrase “Fats of Life” and the oil drop logo for marketing purposes came from Reto Muggli, but the origin of the logo design is unclear. However, the newsletter was called “PUFA Newsletter.”

“Fats of Life” was used for the first time in 1994 as the title of an article on polyunsaturated fatty acids in the Roche employer magazine Nr. 49. The German title was “Nette Fette,” which translates as “Nice Fats” in English, and was changed to “Fats of Life” in the English version.

The newsletter received support from F. Hoffmann-La Roche but was editorially independent. From the outset a science advisory board assured the scientific quality and credibility. The board members were all renowned academics in the field of PUFA and served terms of about three years. Efforts were made to have the board geographically balanced and with an expertise on major PUFA-related health issues such as cardiovascular health, infant nutrition, inflammation, eye health, and mental health. Reto Muggli’s role was to propose and nominate board members, screen and propose new science reports and suggest invited opinions and guest articles.

The PUFA Newsletter was launched in electronic format in Spring 2003, with Joyce Nettleton as editor and author. Nettleton is a nutrition scientist and communications professional specializing in seafood nutrition and omega-3 fatty acids, with a doctorate in nutrition science from Harvard University’s School of Public Health. Under her guidance, quarterly issues of the PUFA Newsletter contained detailed summaries of recent research on EPA and DHA, and occasional guest articles by prominent researchers and specialists.

In December 2003, DSM Nutritional Products, Inc. took over the support of the PUFA Newsletter following its acquisition of Roche Vitamins. Fats of Life continued to be distributed as the PUFA Newsletter to more than 2000 subscribers worldwide and was published on the new Fats of Life website. A consumer-oriented Fats of Life newsletter, based on its more technical sibling, was launched in 2006 with information on EPA and DHA written in a simpler language. Newsletters were published three times a year from 2010 onward. Fats of Life was discontinued at the end of 2012.

In 2014, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) assumed support of the renamed Fats of Life newsletter and website. The PUFA Newsletter was published as a quarterly, and later trimestral, publication. The consumer-oriented Fats of Life was discontinued, and the PUFA newsletter was rebranded as the Fats of Life newsletter containing summaries of recent studies on omega-3 LCPUFA for healthcare professionals and other people interested in omega-3 science. Dr. Gerard Bannenberg became the new editor and writer. His background involved research on PUFA and their bioactive derivatives in inflammation and its resolution. He holds a doctorate in molecular toxicology (Karolinska Institute), and bachelor degree in bio-pharmaceutical sciences (Leiden University).

By this time, the clinical, nutritional and basic research on EPA and DHA was growing at an enormous rate and few platforms were able to distill the new scientific information on omega-3s into a summarized format. In 2018, GOED refocused Fats of Life towards a platform for information on omega-3s for health care practitioners. All past Fats of Life issues and guest articles can be found on the current Fats of Life website. Consumer-oriented information on omega-3 LCPUFA can be found on another GOED-supported platform, AlwaysOmega3s.