Young Indians should cut down on fats, says study

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Thursday 31 August 2006

to avoid cardiovascular diseases, young Indians should ensure their daily intake of saturated fats is below seven per cent of total calories consumed, claims a study by researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.

The study was carried out on 359 school and college students with an average age of 18 years. The researchers found a high prevalence of obesity among the students and checked the levels of C-reactive protein (crp), which is considered a marker for cardiovascular risk, in their blood. The students' dietary nutrient intake values were noted down for two periods -- past 24 hours and the past month -- before serum samples were taken to measure their crp levels.

The researchers found that the crp levels varied between 0.02 and 17.5 milligramme/litre (mg/l).The protein level in nine per cent of the students was above 3 mg/l -- a figure considered risky. Saturated fat emerged as the most important reason for the increase in crp. The results showed that for every one per cent decrease in energy intake from saturated fat, the crp level decreased by 0.14 mg/l. Suggesting that crp levels less than 1 mg/l would be safe for the heart, the group said that young Indians should take only seven per cent of their calories from saturated fats and people in the high risk category should reduce it further. The findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Nutrition.

High crp levels are also linked to metabolic syndrome, carotid artery atherosclerosis and stroke. Besides fats, other dietary parameters like low intake of vitamin c also affect crp levels.

The fat percentage recommended by the study is lower than that suggested by the World Health Organization, which says that saturated fat intake should not exceed 10 per cent of total energy and for high-risk groups, it should be less than seven per cent.

Studies have shown that saturated fat in the diet of Indians belonging to a low socio-economic stratum was 6.5 per cent. People who expend more energy but have low body fat stores could use saturated fats as an energy source.

The research suggests that the government should come up with dietary guidelines, such as recommendations limiting the consumption of fried foods and junk food, and the industry should produce healthier oils. There is a need to increase public awareness about what they are eating, says Anoop Misra, who was part of the study. Every box and packet of food should provide full information about the ingredients, he suggests. This kind of awareness is important considering that even in developed countries like the uk, only 2 to 4 per cent of the adult population complies with national dietary guidelines on consumption of saturated fat.

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