UK fat consumption continues to grow


London: Research released by low-fat spread Flora has revealed that the UK’s saturated fat consumption is a third (33.5%) higher than the average Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) for a typical UK adult*

Fat forecast: Based on the current rates of decline, it will take until the year 2048, another 41 years, for average saturated fat intake to fall to the recommended level in the UK. In the meantime, these fats can raise cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of developing heart disease – the UK’s biggest killer.

Better in the eighties: The rate at which levels of saturated fat intake are falling has slowed to almost a standstill in the 2000s (-0.7%): our diets are now only improving at just over half the rate at which they did in the 1990s (-1.3%), and only a quarter of the rate of improvement seen in the 1980s (-2.7%).

Fooling ourselves: Although 79 per cent of the population claim to be concerned about staying fit and healthy, the proportion of those concerned about saturated fat has in fact fallen between 2003 and 2006 (from 53 to 46 per cent).

Saturated society: The total annual saturated fat consumption of UK adults stands at a colossal 489,000 tonnes, which is enough fat to fill the Big Ben clock tower 157 times, or 1,220 Boeing 747s. The average UK adult eats 9.86 kilograms of saturated fat a year – that’s the same amount as in 146 packs of butter!

Fat facts: When asked to identify the best and worst fats, 72 per cent of UK adults were either wildly wrong or simply did not know that it is important to eat good polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, while cutting down on bad saturated and trans fat to help maintain a healthy heart.

Good vs. bad: The South West eats more saturated fat than any other region, with an average daily consumption of 28.3g, 3g more than people living in London who consume the least. The report also found that cheese and chocolate top Britain’s ‘guilty foods’ league with (36%) and (34%) respectively of UK adults saying they definitely eat too much of both. Surprisingly, the fourth biggest contributor to sat fat in the UK diet is butter and this wasn’t even listed.

Ethical living: A quarter of UK adults (25%) have recently been more concerned with making sure they buy organic and fair trade food than checking the nutritional value of food. Additionally, 49% of adults stated that eating more locally grown and fair trade food was a motivation for recent dietary change.

Sugar rush: People are three times more likely to be aware of the levels of sugar in their diet than the levels of saturated fat.

Dr Chris Steele says: “This report goes some way to highlighting the high levels of saturated fat in the diets of the UK population, which needs a prompt response if any reversal of the situation is to be expected. We need to make the necessary dietary changes to bring down the incidences of problems including high cholesterol and heart disease.”

The increasing frequency and complexity of nutritional messages, along with ethical and environmental concerns, appears to have created a ‘fatigue’ with health messages during the 2000s. Although 68 per cent of UK adults believe they should be eating less fatty foods, disappointingly few appear to be making the necessary changes to their diet.

It is important to replace ‘bad’ saturated fat (found in fatty meats, butter, cheese and whole milk) and trans fats (found in processed foods, such as cakes, pastries and also present in butter) with ‘good’ fats, which include monounsaturates and polyunsaturates, (such as Omega 3 and 6) found in vegetable seed oils and spreads, nuts and oily fish. A good way to do this is to make a small change like switching from butter to a healthier alternative like Flora spreads, which can help lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy heart.

The research programme was designed and carried out by the Future Foundation, a think-tank specialising in the analysis of consumer trends. Original survey research was carried out with a nationally representative online sample of 1012 UK adults aged 16+ by Research Now between the 14th and 18th of June 2007. Other sources of data drawn on in the report included The National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the Expenditure and Food survey, Food Standards Agency research, and Future Foundation proprietary ‘Changing Lives’ research data

*GDA reference for an average adult is 20g (based on the female GDA): Source IGD