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Most U.S. diners cut back on fat.

Most U.S. diners cut back on fat

"Market basket" studies surveying what foods people buy in the United States suggest dietary-fat consumption "has changed little since the 1960s," and perhaps has increased, note Alison M. Stephen of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and Nicholas J. Wald of the Medical College of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London, England. However, their new review of U.S. food-consumption studies portrays quite another picture -- that fat intake has dropped steadily and significantly over that period. If confirmed, they said, this trend might help explain the 46.3 percent decline in U.S. coronary heart disease deaths since 1968.

Stephen and Wald analyzed 171 studies published since 1920, each involving from eight to 20,000 U.S. subjects. The pair weighted observed dietary patterns on the basis of how many people participated in each study.

U.S. fat consumption increased from an average of about 34 percent of calories in the 1930s to a high of between 40 and 42 percent in the late 1950s for men, and mid-1960s for women and children, they report in the September AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION. Since the 1960s, however, fat consumption appears to have fallen "steadily," to about 36 percent in 1984.

Their review also identifies a major evolution in the consumer's choice of fats. Where saturated and monounsaturated fats accounted for 18 to 20 percent of calories in the early 1950s, they totaled just 12 to 13 percent in 1984. Over that same period, polyunsaturated fats increased from between 2 and 4 percent of calories to 7.5 percent.

If the trend toward declining fat consumption has continued since 1984, Stephen and Wald say, the average U.S. diet may already derive less than 35 percent of its calories from fat. This suggets a drop in average U.S. fat intake during the 1990s to 30 percent of calories is possible, they say -- noting that even a few years ago most nutritionists considered this goal "desirable yet unrealistic for Western countries."
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Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 13, 1990
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