Fat in the diet

Based on advice from advisory committees, the Department of Health has for sometime recommended that average fat intake should fall to 35% of food energy or less and saturates to 11% of food energy or less. These figures are intended as population averages (goals for the population to attain on average), not specifically as targets for individuals. There are also recommendations about the percentage of food energy provided by the various types of fatty acids (see Table 1).

Table 1 Recommendations regarding the average contribution of different fatty acids in the UK diet


Dietary Reference Value (population average unless otherwise indicated) Current average intake in adults*
Total fat 35% of food energy (i.e. excluding alcohol) 35% in men

34.4% in women

Saturated fatty acids 11% of food energy 12.8% in men

12.6% in women

Trans fatty acids Below 2% of food energy 0.7% in men and women
Total Cispolyunsaturates 6.5% of food energy 6.1% in men

6.2% in women

Cis n-3 polyunsaturates Minimum intake for individuals, 0.2% of food energy 1% in men

1.1% in women

Cis n-6 polyunsaturates Minimum intake for individuals, 1% of food energy; 5.1% in men and women
Monounsaturates 13% of food energy 12.8% in men

12.3% in women

* Data from NDNS (2008-2011)

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey of adults shows that in 2008/09-2010/11, the average daily intake of fat was 78.8g and 60.1g for men and women respectively (providing around 35% and 34.4% of the food energy in the diet, i.e. excluding alcohol intake), having fallen from 40% of food energy intake in 1986/7. This indicates that fat now contributes a significantly lower proportion of energy in the UK diet than when the previous survey was carried out in 1986/87 and that on average men and women are meeting the recommended population target for dietary fat of 35% of food energy. The survey also showed that intake of saturated fatty acids (SFA, saturates) had fallen from 17% (in 1986/7) to 12.8% and 12.6% of food energy for men and women respectively, although this still exceeds the recommended 11%.


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