Fat Intake May Be on the Decline

Trans fatty acid intake was still higher than what dietary guidelines recommended, and beneficial fat consumption was too low

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) In at least one area of the US, people have reduced their intake of dietary fats during the past three decades, a new study found. But some could still be eating the wrong types of fat.

A study of Minneapolis-area residents found that trans fat consumption — which could increase the risk for heart problems — declined. But there’s still room for improvement, the authors said.

The authors recommended diners swap fattier pieces of meat for leaner cuts and opt for fruit instead of cookies or cake to limit trans fats. Reading nutrition information labels can also improve diet choices.

Mary Ann Honors, PhD, and colleagues recruited 12,526 residents of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in Minnesota. The team tracked how much and what type of fats participants ate from 1980 to 2009.

Researchers focused on levels of total daily fat intake, which included levels of harmful trans fatty acids and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Dr. Honors, of the University of Minnesota, and co-authors compared fat intake levels with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans published in 2010.

“Overall, the results of the present study demonstrate encouraging trends, but offer evidence that current dietary recommendations for fatty acid intake are not being met in this population,” the authors wrote.

Trans fatty acid can raise the risk for heart problems by contributing to the buildup of cholesterol in arteries. Trans fats are found in many processed foods as "partially hydrogenated oil."

The authors found that trans fat intake in men decreased by 32 percent from 1980 to 2009. In women, trans fat intake decreased by 35.9 percent during the same time period.

These levels of trans fat intake were still higher than what USDA guidelines recommend. The USDA recommends eating as little trans fat as possible. To limit trans fat, avoid processed and fast foods and read nutrition labels when shopping, the USDA recommends.

The authors also tracked intake of omega-3 fatty acids and found no significant change in consumption over the past 30 years among the participants.

Omega-3 fatty acids may improve heart health by improving blood pressure. Omega-3 is found in fatty fish like salmon or mackerel.

Total fat intake decreased from 38.7 percent of all food eaten in 1980 to 33.3 percent in 2009. The USDA recommends that total fat account for 20 to 35 percent of diet.

“This research could have implications for future dietary recommendations and public health strategies aimed at improving the American diet for cardiovascular disease prevention,” the authors concluded.

The study was published online Oct. 22 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.


Review Date: 
October 22, 2014
Last Updated:
October 22, 2014