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Katan studied chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Amsterdam. He graduated with a degree in molecular biology in 1977 from the same university. Since 1976, Katan has worked at Wageningen University where he has researched "Nutrition and risk factors for cardiovascular disease." In 1998, he was personally appointed professor of human nutrition. He was also the "Nutrition Foundation Professor" at the University of Nijmegen from 1985 to 1998. Between 1998 and 2003 he was scientific director of the Nutrition and Health program of the Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences.
In 2005 he moved from Wageningen University to the Free University of Amsterdam where he was appointed professor of nutrition. Since 2003 Katan has been a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW). He is also a member of the Dutch Health Council.
He took up emeritus status in 2011.
Katan's research focuses on the relationship between nutrients and their effects on the heart. Katan gained notoriety for his research on cholesterol and trans-fats. He demonstrated, among other things, that boiled coffee creates a cholesterol burden that filtered coffee does not. His research on the harmful effects of trans-fatty acids has encouraged the European food industry to minimize the use of trans-fats in the European food supply.
Honors and awards
- 2001: The Epstein Award; American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology
- 2003: European Nutrition Award; Federation of European Nutrition Sciences.
- 2004: European Lipid Science Award; European Federation for the Science and Technology of Lipids.
- 2005:, named by the Thomson Society (formerly the Institute for Scientific Information) as a Highly Cited Researcher "in the art of Agricultural Science," which means that he is among the 250 most cited scientists in that field
What is Healthy?: Myths and Facts About Nutrition (2008). Uitgeverij Bert Bakker. ISBN 978-90-351-3133-0 (Edition 1) & ISBN 978-90-351-3351-8 (Edition 2) Voedingsmythes. Over valse hoop en nodeloze vrees. (2016). Uitgeverij Bert Bakker.