MAY 21, 2020 6:30 AM PDT

Taking the Guesswork out of Fat Consumption

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandes


When it comes to healthy eating, we often receive mixed messages. Low fat diets that have been popularized for decades have been swapped for ketogenic regimes, which dictate 70 to 80 percent of calories should be from fat. 


Just how much fat are you consuming on a daily basis? This is a difficult question to answer definitively when relying solely on memory and “guesstimates”. Instead of self-reporting, new technologies are being developed which will enable us to reliably and accurately track our fat intake in order to make data-driven nutritional decisions.


Research published in the Journal of Lipid Research describes a new test that can analyze specific levels of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) in small quantities of blood for the first time. 


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 McMaster’s Philip Britz-McKibbin, lead author of the study.


To validate their test, the researchers assessed the diet and NEFA levels in pregnant women during their second trimester. Levels of NEFAs in blood samples of women were measured, and they were made to self-report on their consumption of omega-3 fish oil supplements, oily fish and full-fat dairy. The team proved that circulating NEFAs lined up with the reported diets, suggesting that these dietary biomarkers could be objective tools for assessing fat intake.


Eating a diet high in fat can spike an individual’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancers and cardiovascular disease — two leading killers in the United States. Research indicates that people eat on average, about one-third more fat than they should on a daily basis.


Developing reliable tools for measuring consumed fat levels is the first step to answering important questions that linger around gestational nutrition, childhood obesity, metabolic syndromes and chronic diseases. Ultimately, this could help create a framework to guide public health policies around nutrition.



Sources: McMaster University, Journal of Lipid Research.


About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Interested in health technology and innovation.
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