Fatty acid intakes do not meet recommendations in many countries

December 27, 2013

A review of data from national dietary surveys shows that in many countries more than 50% of the population have higher intakes of saturated fatty acids and lower intakes of polyunsaturated fatty acids than recommended for preventing coronary heart disease.

In the review, the fatty acid intake data of adult populations from 40 countries worldwide were analyzed and compared with the recent intake recommendations to prevent coronary heart disease (CHD) from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/the World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) (1). The an- alysis showed that total fat intake ranged from 11.1 to 46.2% of energy intake (% E), saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake from 2.9 to 20.9% E, and polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake from 2.8 to 11.3% E. The mean intakes met the recommendation for total fat (20–35% E), SFA (below 10% E) and PUFA (6–11% E) in only 25, 11 and 20 countries, respectively. Twenty-seven countries provided data on the distribution of fatty acid intake. In 18 of 27 countries, more than 50% of the population had SFA intakes higher than 10% E and in 13 of 27 countries, the majority of the population had PUFA intakes below 6% E.

The researchers commented that this data reinforces the need to focus public health campaigns on the re- placement of foods rich in SFA with those rich in PUFA, especially in countries with high SFA intakes. For developing countries with low total fat and SFA intakes, an increase in total fat intake should be in the form of PUFA rather than SFA. Reducing SFA intake is a major focus of most dietary recommendations aiming to prevent chronic diseases including CHD, as suggested by the FAO/WHO (2), Dietary Guidelines for Americans (3) and the European Society of Cardiology (4).

Several studies indicated that SFA reduction alone is not enough to reduce the risk of CHD (5).There is con- sistent evidence from randomized clinical trials and prospective cohort studies that reducing dietary SFA and trans fatty acids (TFA) and replacing them with PUFA – particularly the long-chain PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from marine sources – reduces the risk of CHD (6, 7).
Therefore, most guidelines on dietary fats indicate that TFA intake should be minimized, consumption of fatty fish should be increased, and SFA should be replaced by (vegetable) PUFA.


  1. Harika R. K. et al. Intake of Fatty Acids in General Populations Worldwide Does Not Meet Dietary Recommendations to Prevent Coronary Heart Disease: A Systematic Review of Data from 40 Countries. Ann Nutr Metab. 2013; 63:229–238.
  2. FAO/WHO: WHO: Fats and fatty acids in human nutrition. Report of an expert consultation. Food and Nutrition Paper. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, 2010.
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.
  4. Perk J. et al. European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical Practice. Eur Heart J. 2012; 33:1635–1701.
  5. Siri-Tarino P. W. et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 91:535–546.
  6. Jakobsen M. U. et al. Major types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of 11 cohort studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009; 89:1425–1432.
  7. Skeaff C. M. and Miller J. Dietary fat and coronary heart disease: summary of evidence from prospective cohort and randomised controlled trials. Ann Nutr Metab. 2009; 55:173–201.