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5. Population nutrient intake goals for preventing diet-related chronic diseases: Previous page | 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27

5.4.5 Disease-specific recommendations

Measures aimed at reducing the risk of CVD are outlined below. The strength of evidence on lifestyle factors is summarized in Table 10.


Dietary intake of fats strongly influences the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke, through effects on blood lipids, thrombosis, blood pressure, arterial (endothelial) function, arrythmogenesis and inflammation. However, the qualitative composition of fats in the diet has a significant role to play in modifying this risk.

Table 10. Summary of strength of evidence on lifestyle factors and risk of developing cardiovascular diseases


Decreased risk

No relationship

Increased risk


Regular physical activity
Linoleic acid
Fish and fish oils (EHA and DHA)
Vegetables and fruits (including berries)
Low to moderate alcohol intake(for coronary heart disease)

Vitamin E supplements

Myristic and palmitic acids
Trans fatty acids
High sodium intake
High alcohol intake (for stroke)


a-Linolenic acid
Oleic acid
Wholegrain cereals
Nuts (unsalted)
Plant sterols/stanols

Stearic acid

Dietary cholesterol
Unfiltered boiled coffee


Soy products

Fats rich in lauric acid
Impaired fetal nutrition
Beta-carotene supplements


Vitamin C


EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid; DHA, docosahexaenoic acid; NSP, non-starch polysaccharides.

The evidence shows that intake of saturated fatty acids is directly related to cardiovascular risk. The traditional target is to restrict the intake of saturated fatty acids to less than 10%, of daily energy intake and less than 7% for high-risk groups. If populations are consuming less than 10%, they should not increase that level of intake. Within these limits, intake of foods rich in myristic and palmitic acids should be replaced by fats with a lower content of these particular fatty acids. In developing countries, however, where energy intake for some population groups may be inadequate, energy expenditure is high and body fat stores are low (BMI <18.5 kg/m2). The amount and quality of fat supply has to be considered keeping in mind the need to meet energy requirements. Specific sources of saturated fat, such as coconut and palm oil, provide low-cost energy and may be an important source of energy for the poor.

Not all saturated fats have similar metabolic effects; those with 12-16 carbons in the fatty acid chain have a greater effect on raising LDL cholesterol. This implies that the fatty acid composition of the fat source should be examined. As populations progress in the nutrition transition and energy excess becomes a potential problem, restricting certain fatty acids becomes progressively more relevant to ensuring cardiovascular health.

To promote cardiovascular health, diets should provide a very low intake of trans fatty acids (hydrogenated oils and fats). In practice, this implies an intake of less than 1% of daily energy intake. This recommendation is especially relevant in developing countries where low-cost hydrogenated fat is frequently consumed. The potential effect of human consumption of hydrogenated oils of unknown physiological effects (e.g. marine oils) is of great concern.

Diets should provide an adequate intake of PUFAs, i.e. in the range 6-10% of daily energy intake. There should also be an optimal balance between intake of n-6 PUFAs and n-3 PUFAs, i.e. 5-8% and 1-2% of daily energy intake, respectively.

Intake of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, should make up the rest of the daily energy intake from fats, to give a daily total fat intake ranging from15%up to30%of daily energy intake. Recommendations for total fat intake may be based on current levels of population consumption in different regions and modified to take account of age, activity and ideal body weight. Where obesity is prevalent, for example, an intake in the lower part of the range is preferable in order to achieve a lower energy intake. While there is no evidence to directly link the quantity of daily fat intake to an increased risk of CVD, total fat consumption should be limited to enable the goals of reduced intake of saturated and trans fatty acids to be met easily in most populations and to avoid the potential problems of undesirable weight gain that may arise from unrestricted fat intake. It should be noted that highly active groups with diets rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits and wholegrain cereals will limit the risk of unhealthy weight gain on a diet comprising a total fat intake of up to 35%.

These dietary goals can be met by limiting the intake of fat from dairy and meat sources, avoiding the use of hydrogenated oils and fats in cooking and manufacture of food products, using appropriate edible vegetable oils in small amounts, and ensuring a regular intake of fish (one to two times per week) or plant sources of a-linolenic acid. Preference should be given to food preparation practices that employ non-frying methods.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contribute to cardiovascular health through the variety of phytonutrients, potassium and fibre that they contain. Daily intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (including berries, green leafy and cruciferous vegetables and legumes), in an adequate quantity (400-500 g per day), is recommended to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.


Dietary intake of sodium, from all sources, influences blood pressure levels in populations and should be limited so as to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and both forms of stroke. Current evidence suggests that an intake of no more than 70 mmol or 1.7 g of sodium per day is beneficial in reducing blood pressure. The special situation of individuals (i.e. pregnant women and non-acclimated people who perform strenuous physical activity in hot environments) who may be adversely affected by sodium reduction needs to be kept in mind.

Limitation of dietary sodium intake to meet these goals should be achieved by restricting daily salt (sodium chloride) intake to less than 5 g per day. This should take into account total sodium intake from all dietary sources, for example additives such as monosodium glutamate and preservatives. Use of potassium-enriched low-sodium substitutes is one way to reduce sodium intake. The need to adjust salt iodization, depending on observed sodium intake and surveillance of iodine status of the population, should be recognized.


Adequate dietary intake of potassium lowers blood pressure and is protective against stroke and cardiac arrythmias. Potassium intake should be at a level which will keep the sodium to potassium ratio close to 1.0, i.e. a daily potassium intake level of 70-80 mmol per day. This may be achieved through adequate daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.

NSP (dietary fibre)1

Fibre is protective against coronary heart disease and has also been used in diets to lower blood pressure. Adequate intake may be achieved through fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals.

1 Specific amounts will depend on the analytical methodologies used to measure fibre.

5. Population nutrient intake goals for preventing diet-related chronic diseases: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27 | Next page

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