Fatty Acids and Fat Substitutes in the Food Supply


, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp S287-S291

First online:

Fats in indian diets and their nutritional and health implications

  • GhafoorunissaAffiliated withNational Institute of Nutrition, Indian Council of Medical Research

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To arrive at fat requirements for Indians; the contribution of invisible fat should be determined. Total lipids were extracted from common Indian foods, and their fatty acid compositions were determined. This data and information on intake of various foods were used to estimate the contents of “invisible” fat and fatty acids in Indian diets. Taking into account World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and the invisible-fat intake of Indians, recommendations were made for lower and upper limits of visible fats. In the rural poor, the “visible”-fat intakes are much lower than estimated minimum requirements. Therefore, to meet the energy needs of low-income groups, particularly young children, visible-fat intakes must be increased to recommended levels. The urban high-income group, however, should reduce dietary fat. Data on intake of various fatty acids in total diet shows that even the recommended lower limit of oil can meet linoleic acid requirements. Intake of α-linolenic acid is low, however. Increase in dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) produces hypolipidemic, anti-inflammatory, and antithrombotic effects. Effects of n-3 PUFA on blood lipids, platelet fatty acid composition, and platelet aggregation were therefore investigated in Indian subjects consuming cereal-based diets. Supplementation of fish oils (long-chain n-3 PUFA) as well as the use of rapeseed oil (α-linolenic acid) produced beneficial effects. Since the requirements of α-linolenic acid and/or long-chain n-3 PUFA are related to linoleic acid intake, use of more than one oil (correct choice) is recommended for providing a balanced intake of various fatty acids. Analysis of Indian food showed that some foods are good sources of α-linolenic acid. Regular consumption of these foods can also improve the quality of fat in Indian diets. Nonvegetarians, however, have the choice of eating fish to accomplish this.