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Dietary Fats: Total Fat and Fatty Acids

Fat is a major source of fuel energy for the body and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids. Neither an Adequate Intake (AI) nor Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)is set for total fat because there are insufficient data to determine a defined level of fat intake at which risk of inadequacy or prevention of chronic disease occurs. An Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR), however, has been estimated for total fat—it is 20 to 35 percent of energy (see Chapter 11). A Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is not set for total fat because there is no defined intake level of fat at which an adverse effect occurs.

Saturated fatty acids are synthesized by the body to provide an adequate level needed for their physiological and structural functions; they have no known role in preventing chronic diseases. Therefore, neither an AI nor RDA is set for saturated fatty acids. There is a positive linear trend between total saturated fatty acid intake and total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
concentration and increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). A UL is not set for saturated fatty acids because any incremental increase in saturated fatty acid intake increases CHD risk. It is neither possible nor advisable to achieve 0 percent of energy from saturated fatty acids in typical whole-food diets.

This is because all fat and oil sources are mixtures of fatty acids, and consuming 0 percent of energy would require extraordinary changes in patterns of dietary intake. Such extraordinary adjustments may introduce undesirable effects (e.g., inadequate intakes of protein and certain micronutrients) and unknown and unquantifiable health risks. The AMDR for total fat is set at 20 to 35 percent of energy. It is possible to have a diet low in saturated fatty acids by following the dietary guidance provided in Chapter 11.

Dietary Fats: Total Fat and Fatty Acids