Objective: To evaluate dietary habits and lifestyle of Italian subjects, to provide current data on adequacy of the nutritional guidelines and recommendations especially in relation to primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases and to assess the influence of dietary habits on lipid profile and homocysteine levels.
Setting: Population-based study.
Subjects: A sample of 520 clinically healthy subjects (211 males, 309 females) with a mean age of 46 y, living in Florence area, Italy.
Interventions: Dietary pattern was assessed by trained dietitians through a semiquantitative food questionnaire. Fasting blood samples were drawn for assessment of lipid profile, homocysteine and circulating vitamins.
Results: Contribution from total fats was over 30% in about 70% of subjects and intake of saturated fatty acids (SFA) was above the recommended values in at least 40% of the study population. Furthermore, almost the whole (99.6%) population reported low intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). High levels of total cholesterol were present in over 40% of the study population, whereas abnormal values of LDL-cholesterol were observed in about 30%. High levels of homocysteine were found in 11.7% of the study population. An extremely high percentage of subjects reported low intake of vitamins, especially with regard to folic acid (89%), vitamin B(6) (70.1%) and vitamin E (99.6%). In a multiple linear regression model, circulating levels of vitamin B(12) and folic acid, and intake of alcohol and vitamin C resulted in being independently associated with homocysteine plasma levels.
Conclusions: In a typical Mediterranean country, general outlines of Mediterranean diet are not completely followed, especially concerning total fats, SFA, PUFA and vitamins' intake.
Sponsorship: Ministero della Salute (Italy) - 'Progetto per la Salute e la Prevenzione di Malattia' 2001-2003.