Fat intake, diet variety and health promotion

I Elmadfa, H Freisling
Forum of Nutrition 2005, (57): 1-10
Different epidemiological studies indicated that the optimization of diet and nutrition combined with healthy life style can decrease the risk and even lead to amelioration of various noncommunicable diseases. Promising food-based dietary guidelines have been recommended in order to improve the nutritional and health status. One of the most popular recommendations is related to the amount (less fat and fat-rich foods) and type of the dietary fat component (less saturated, more polyunsaturated fatty acids, lower n-6:n-3 ratio). An overview on the nutrient intake among different age groups in Austria shows that the general consumption of some food groups--especially those rich in carbohydrates--is too low and that the intake of fat is far beyond the recommended amount of 30% of total energy (E%). The results of the 24-hour recall made among Austrian adults (n = 2,585) showed that about 18% of this population group had a fat intake of 30-35 E%, whereas 60% had an intake higher than 35 E%. Only 24% of the female and male adults had a fat intake lower than 30 E%. A result of this high proportion of fat--in the form of foods rich in fat--in the average total energy consumption is a too low intake of carbohydrates, and foods rich in carbohydrates, respectively. An increasing fat intake is associated with an increasing intake of some nutrients such as vitamin A, E, calcium and zinc, but a decreasing intake of other nutrients like vitamin C, folate, carotenoids and others. The diversity of foods consumed during a day increases with decreasing amount of fat in the diet of adults. People with a high amount of fat in their daily diet show a lower intake of vegetables and fruit, cereal products, carotenoids, folates and dietary fibers, but a higher intake of meat and meat products, milk and milk products, sweets and flummeries as well as saturated fatty acids (SFA) and cholesterol. Of course, a higher variety of food items in the daily diet should not be associated with a higher energy intake. Thus, foods with a high nutrient density (vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk products, whole grain cereals, legumes etc.) are recommended. Finally, it has to be annotated that a high diversity in the daily diet with reduced fat and SFA intake allows a sufficient nutrient intake and is an important approach for health promotion.

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