Trans and Saturated Fat Intake Declining, Still Room for Improvement

Mary Ann Honors, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Research Fellow Division of Epidemiology and Community Health University of Interview with:
Mary Ann Honors, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health
University of Minnesota

Medical Research:
What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Honors: The American Heart Association and USDA have made recommendations on what we should and should not eat in order in reduce our cardiovascular disease risk. We wanted to know whether Americans are currently meeting these recommendations, as well as how our diets have changed over time. In particular, we were interested in several specific nutrients, including trans fats, saturated fats, and the omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. We examined trends in fatty acid intake in participants from the Minnesota Heart Survey. The Minnesota Heart Survey is a an ongoing, cross-sectional study of adults in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area that was designed to monitor cardiovascular disease risk factors, including diet.

We found that intake of trans fats and saturated fats has declined substantially over the last 30 years. However, intake levels are still above current recommendations. With DHA and EPA, we found that levels of intake were pretty steady over time and below what is recommended. Overall, while we saw some encourage trends, there is still some room for improvement in our diets.

Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?

Dr. Honors: The results of the study were not particularly surprising, but they were encouraging. Other studies have previously shown a decline in trans fat intake over time, but our study is the first to look at such a long period of time (nearly 30 years). Trans fat intake declined by over one third, which is a significant change in people’s intake patterns.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Honors: Our results demonstrate that current levels of consumption are not in line with what is recommended by the USDA and the American Heart Association. People should be aware of this, and work to improve their diets to meet these recommendations. For example, people can use the Nutrition Facts Panel on foods and choose foods with no or little trans fats. Given that diet is an important component of cardiovascular disease prevention, clinicians may want to speak with their patients about their diet and encourage patients to eat a diet that is consistent with recommendations.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Honors: While our study showed that trans fat consumption has decline over time, it is important that we continue to monitor progress in this area through future research. In addition, we did not see any change in consumption of DHA and EPA over time and levels of intake for these fats was lower than recommended. Future research should continue to monitor intake patterns, and to examine ways to encourage the intake of EPA and DHA, as well as discourage the intake of trans fats.


Mary Ann Honors, Lisa J. Harnack, Xia Zhou, and Lyn M. Steffen

J Am Heart Assoc. 2014;3:e001023, originally published October 22, 2014, doi:10.1161/JAHA.114.001023


Last Updated on October 24, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD