Study Shows US Fatty Acid Dietary Recommendations Are Not Being Met

Current dietary recommendations for trans and saturated fatty acid intake may be higher than recommended levels, providing an opportunity to “implement health strategies aimed at improving the American diet for cardiovascular disease prevention,” according to a study published Oct. 22 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Over the past several years the rates of cardiovascular disease mortality have decreased with a combination of prevention and treatment efforts, including lifestyle recommendations and meeting standard metrics of cardiovascular health. Among these proposals are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 dietary guidelines for Americans, which suggest a daily total fat intake of 20-35 percent of energy intake, with saturated fatty acid intake of less than 10 percent of energy and trans fatty acid intake as low as possible. Meanwhile the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the intake of saturated fatty acid be restricted to 5 – 6 percent of the total energy intake and trans fatty acid intake to less than one percent.

A new investigation, led by principal author Mary Honors, PhD, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, examined trends in fatty acid intake from 1980-1982 through 2007-2009 and compared them to the recommended levels. Collecting 24-hour dietary recalls from 12,526 participants enrolled in the Minnesota Heart Survey – a series of six independent cross-sectional surveys designed to monitor cardiovascular risk factors in non-institutionalized adults residing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN metropolitan area – mean intake estimates were generated for each survey.

While results showed that in both men and women, mean intake of total fat as a percent of energy was within recommended levels as of the 2007-2009 survey, mean intakes of trans and saturated fatty acids were higher than recommended levels. According to Honors, et al. “Trans fatty acid consumption in the most recent survey period (2007-2009) averaged close to 2 percent of total energy, which is above the less than 1 percent of total energy recommended by the AHA.”

They explain that, “in an effort to reduce trans fatty acid intake, in 2006 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that manufacturers report trans fatty acid content as part of the nutrition facts panel of packaged food products. While this action appears to have spurred a decrease in the trans fatty acid content of many food products through the elimination or reduction of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHOs), a number of foods have exhibited only a small decline in trans fatty acid content. In November 2013, the FDA began additional steps to rid the U.S. food market of trans fatty acids, by tentatively declaring PHOs as not generally recognized as safe for use in food products.” They add that, “If finalized, this action by the FDA would prevent the use of PHOs by food manufacturers and could lead to a further decline in trans fatty acid intake by the U.S. population.”

The authors note that their study is the longest cross-sectional survey study allowing for the examination of fatty acid intake patterns over nearly 30 years, and represents an important analysis of trends in fatty acid intake. They ultimately conclude that moving forward, further research is needed to determine public health strategies to further reduce trans and saturated fatty acid intake.

Clinical Topics: Dyslipidemia, Prevention, Lipid Metabolism, Diet

Keywords: Public Health, Life Style, United States Food and Drug Administration, Minnesota, Plant Oils, Nutrition Policy, Cardiovascular Diseases, Energy Intake, Food, American Heart Association, Risk Factors, Diet, Trans Fatty Acids

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