a1 Nutrition and Metabolism Group, Centre for Clinical and Population Science, Queen's University, Belfast, Mulhouse Building, Grosvenor Road, Belfast BT12 6BJ, Northern Ireland
a2 Director Nutrition, Medicines and Consumer Safety Division – RIVM, PO Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands
a3 Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, PO Box 8129, 6700 EV Wageningen, The Netherlands
During the last century much evidence has accumulated to suggest that from a public health perspective the type of fat is more important than the amount of fat. Saturated and trans-fatty acids increase and both n-6 and n-3 PUFA decrease the risk of CHD. Most of the knowledge about the effects of dietary fatty acids on CHD risk is based on observational studies and controlled dietary experiments with intermediate end points (e.g. blood lipoprotein fractions). Information from high-quality randomised controlled trials on fatty acids and CHD is lacking. The Netherlands Institute for Public Health has calculated the potential health gain that can be achieved if the fatty acid composition of the current Dutch diet is replaced by the recommended fatty acid composition. The recommendations of The Netherlands Health Council are: saturated fatty acids <10% energy intake; trans-fatty acids <1% energy intake; fish consumption (an indicator of n-3 PUFA) once or twice weekly. Implementation of this recommendation could reduce the incidence of CHD in The Netherlands by about 25 000/year and the number of CHD-related deaths by about 6000/year and increase life expectancy from age 40 years onwards by 0.5 year. These projections indicate the public health potential of interventions that modify the fatty acid composition of the diet.