Research published in the Journal of Lipid Research highlights a new blood test that is able to monitor an individual’s fat intake. The study was carried out by researchers from McMaster University and measures specific non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs). The researchers hope that this tool could be used to inform public health policy on healthier eating.
NEFAs are a type of circulating free fatty acid that can be measured with only a small volume of blood. Watch the video below to learn more about NEFAs.
"Epidemiologists need better ways to reliably assess dietary intake when developing nutritional recommendations," says lead author of the study Philip Britz-McKibbin, who is a professor in the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology at McMaster University.
"The food we consume is highly complex and difficult to measure when relying on self-reporting or memory recall, particularly in the case of dietary fats. There are thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to in foods, both processed and natural," he says.
Most nutritional guidelines have been set as a result of findings from studies that depend on participants recording their own consumption. This methodology is error-prone and often results in selective reporting, making accurate monitoring particularly challenging. The hope is that this blood test will help address the lack of accuracy within nutritional studies.
"Fat intake is among the most controversial aspects of nutritional public health policies given previously flawed low-fat diet recommendations, and the growing popularity of low-carb/high-fat ketogenic based diets," says Britz-McKibbin. "If we can measure it reliably, we can begin to study such questions as: Should pregnant women take fish oil? Are women deficient in certain dietary fats? Does a certain diet or supplement lead to better health outcomes for their babies?"
In a study of pregnant women, the researchers identified that women taking certain supplements (like omega-3 fish oil) and following certain diets showed specific NEFAs in their blood, which suggests that these could be used as biomarkers to monitor fat consumption.
In their future investigations, the researchers hope to continue exploring metabolites associated with dietary exposures during pregnancy.