Objective: To assess the intake of trans fatty acids (TFA) and other fatty acids in 14 Western European countries.
Design and subjects: A maximum of 100 foods per country were sampled and centrally analysed. Each country calculated the intake of individual trans and other fatty acids, clusters of fatty acids and total fat in adults and/or the total population using the best available national food consumption data set.
Results: A wide variation was observed in the intake of total fat and (clusters) of fatty acids in absolute amounts. The variation in proportion of energy derived from total fat and from clusters of fatty acids was less. Only in Finland, Italy, Norway and Portugal total fat did provide on average less than 35% of energy intake. Saturated fatty acids (SFA) provided on average between 10% and 19% of total energy intake, with the lowest contribution in most Mediterranean countries. TFA intake ranged from 0.5% (Greece, Italy) to 2.1% (Iceland) of energy intake among men and from 0.8% (Greece) to 1.9% among women (Iceland) (1.2-6.7 g/d and 1.7-4.1 g/d, respectively). The TFA intake was lowest in Mediterranean countries (0.5-0.8 en%) but was also below 1% of energy in Finland and Germany. Moderate intakes were seen in Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway and UK and highest intake in Iceland. Trans isomers of C-18:1 were the most TFA in the diet. Monounsaturated fatty acids contributed 9-12% of mean daily energy intake (except for Greece, nearly 18%) and polyunsaturated fatty acids 3-7%.
Conclusion: The current intake of TFA in most Western European countries does not appear to be a reason for major concern. In several countries a considerable proportion of energy was derived from SFA. It would therefore be prudent to reduce intake of all cholesterol-raising fatty acids, TFA included.
Sponsorship: Commission of the European Communities (AIR 2421); National Funds; European Industries supported the chemical analyses.