Report compares dietary fat intake among countries


April 17, 2014—Harvard School of Public Health researchers and colleagues have compiled the first global data on dietary intakes of specific fats worldwide. The report compares the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats, omega 3s, and other fats and oils among 187 countries.

The report, written on behalf of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group, was published online April 15, 2014 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Poor diet is believed to be the single leading modifiable cause of poor health in the world. By 2020, it likely will contribute to about 75% of all deaths from such chronic diseases as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

The analysis of dietary assessments across the world provides estimates of the global consumption of major dietary fats and oils by region, country, age, and sex. The study was led by Renata Micha, research associate in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH and research director, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece, and senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH.

Among the findings:

  • Between 1990 and 2010, global saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and trans fat intakes remained stable, while omega 6, seafood omega 3, and plant omega 3 fat intakes each increased.
  • In 2010, global saturated fat consumption averaged 9.4%; country-specific intakes varied dramatically from 2.3 to 27.5%. The world’s highest consumption of saturated fat in adults in 2010 was in Samoa, Kiribati, and similar palm oil producing island nations, as well as Sri Lanka, Romania, and Malaysia. The lowest intake was in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bolivia, Bhutan, and Pakistan.
  • Country-specific consumption of trans fat ranged from 0.2 to 6.5% (global mean: 1.4%) for trans fat; and for dietary cholesterol, from 97 to 440 mg/day (global mean: 228 mg/day).
  • Globally, the average intake of seafood omega-3’s was 163 mg/d, but with tremendous national variation from 5 to 3,886 mg/d.  Highest intakes were identified in island nations including Maldives, Barbados, the Seychelles, and Iceland; as well as in Malaysia, Thailand, Denmark, South Korea, and Japan.  100 nations had very low consumption (<100 mg/d), generally in Sub-Saharan African and Asian regions as well as North Africa and the Middle East, representing 3 billion adults and 66.8% of the world’s adult population.

Within regions and countries, consumption of fats and oils were generally similar for men and women. For instance, women generally consumed only slightly more saturated fat and plant omega-3s than men. Trans fat intakes were generally higher at younger ages; and dietary cholesterol and seafood omega-3 fats generally higher at older ages.

Global, regional, and national consumption levels of dietary fats and oils in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis including 266 country-specific nutrition surveys,” Renata Micha, Shahab Khatibzadeh, Peilin Shi, Saman Fahimi, Stephen Lim, Kathryn G. Andrews, Rebecca E. Engell, John Powles, Majid Ezzati, Dariush Mozaffarian on behalf of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group (NutriCoDE), British Medical Journal, online April 14, 2014; print April 19, 2014

— Marge Dwyer