Fat consumption contributes to the most prevalent chronic diseases in the world—cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, overweight and obesity and others. Recognition that the type of fats (dietary fat quality) is more important than the total quantity consumed has encouraged health authorities around the world to examine the amounts and types of fat consumed in their respective countries.
Simple information on the different types of fats can be found in the FAQ section
of this website.
The contribution of fats
to daily energy consumption varies among countries. In most countries, total fat intake is within recommendations (20-35% energy) or slightly above
. Only a few countries show extreme fat intake: either very low in Tanzania and some provinces in China, or very high as in Nigeria, Cameroon or Greece.
Saturated fatty acids (SFA)
SFA consumption exceeds recommendations in most Western countries
: Europe, North America and Australia. African countries with high total fat intake also show high SFA intake. In Asia, SFA intake is within recommendations with the notable exception of India, which has excessive SFA consumption.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA)
In most countries, total PUFA intake is below the recommended range
of 6-11% daily energy. The majority of these PUFA are omega-6 PUFA. Data regarding omega-3 PUFA intake are more scarce, especially for long-chain omega-3. However available data suggest that populations with low PUFA intake are even more likely to have suboptimal intakes of omega-3 PUFA
, especially the long-chain omega-3 PUFA.
Trans fatty acids (TFA)
fatty acids, which are formed during the partial hydrogenation of unsaturated oils in the manufacture of solid fats markedly increase the risk of CVD by raising total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels, reducing high-density lipoprotein concentrations and adversely affecting the physical characteristics of cell membranes. Trans fatty acids also occur naturally in the in the rumen of ruminants. Efforts to reduce industrially produced TFA in the food supply in the U.S.A., European Union and Latin America have made some progress, but intakes remain significantly above recommended levels in many lower income countries. Consuming low fat meat and dairy products can help limiting both SFA intake and TFA intake from natural origin.
Fatty acid intake in children and adolescents
Patterns of fatty acid intake data in children and adolescents are similar to those for adults. Data from thirty countries were reviewed in 2011:
in 28 countries, mean saturated fat intakes were higher than the recommended maximum of 10% energy, whereas in 21 out of 30 countries mean PUFA intakes were below recommendations. More and better intake data are needed, in particular for developing regions of the world. Additional research is needed to determine whether improved fatty acid intakes in childhood reduce the risk of heart disease later in life. Despite these limitations, the available data indicate that in the majority of the countries providing data on fatty acid intake, less than half of the children and adolescents meet the recommendations for healthy intakes of SFA and PUFA.