Leap in added fat consumption spells reformulation potential

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Us

American consumption of added fats and oils has increased
dramatically over the past 35 years, exceeding government
recommendations and affording a need for healthier processed foods.

The findings form part of Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in the US Food Consumption, 1970-2005 -​ a report by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that shows Americans are failing to meet the Federal dietary recommendations. ​According to the National Center for Health Statistics, two-thirds of US adults were either overweight or obese between 2003-2004, compared with 47 percent between 1976 and 1980. The report shows this correlates with a swell in added fats consumption of 63 percent between 1970 and 2005 and a 19 percent increase in added sugar and sweeteners. Although recently there have increasing attempts from the food industry to provide healthy alternatives to respond to the growing health and wellness trend, reflected in a slight decline in added fats consumption between 2002 and 2005, the indication is that there is still plenty scope and demand for better-for-you products. The report also shows the average intake of added sugars and sweeteners is over the recommended levels, and consumption of refined grains is too high while Americans fall short on whole grains. Increase in added fats and oils ​Added fats and oils are found in processed food and are used for cooking. A high intake, particularly of saturated fats, is associated with high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. According to the food availability data, consumption of added fats and oils reached about 86 pounds per person in 2005, up 33 pounds from 1970. Of this total, nearly 86 percent consisted of vegetable fats and related products such as margarine. Animal fat made up the remaining 14 per cent. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that fats and oil, both added and naturally occurring, contribute 20 to 35 percent of daily energy intake depending on calorie level. However, current consumption levels see Americans getting about 32 percent of total calories from added fats alone. The data was not broken down into saturated and unsaturated fats. However, the report says: "Not only do Americans need to decrease their total intake of fat, they also need to substantially lower their intake of saturated fat in order to adhere to the 2005 Guidelines." Need for whole grains ​Grain consumption has increased 41 percent, from 137 pounds per person in 1970 to 192 pounds in 2005. Researchers estimated that Americans are currently consuming 8.1 ounce equivalents (oz-eq) of grains per person per day, of which 7.2 oz-eq are refined grains and 0.9 oz-eq are whole grains. Guidelines recommend consumption of 6 oz-eq of grains per day, with whole grains accounting for at least half of this amount. Whole grains have received considerable attention in the last year, especially since the FDA began to allow foods that contain at least 51 percent whole grains by weight and are low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to carry a health claim linking them to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. As the report found the American diet to be lacking in whole grains, this shows an opportunity for manufacturers to develop new products that are high in whole grains. Many companies have already responded to the demand, such as Kellogg's, which has recently introduced whole grain versions of its popular cereal brands. Added sugars and sweeteners ​In 2005, consumption of added sugars and sweeteners totaled 142 pounds per person, up 19 percent since 1970. ​The report says: "This amount suggests that Americans, on average, are consuming more than triple the amount recommended."​ This shows another area for food manufacturers to focus on in providing healthier products. ​The increase in corn sweeteners was driven mostly by increase use of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which grew from 3 to 76 percent between 1970 and 2005. Today, the largest used of HFCS is the US soft drink industry, followed by the processed food and baking industries.

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