Dietary fatty acid intake, its food sources and determinants in European adolescents: the HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) Study

Br J Nutr. 2012 Dec 28;108(12):2261-73. doi: 10.1017/S000711451200030X. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


Dietary fatty acids (FA) play a role in several (patho)physiological processes at any age, and different FA have different effects on lipid status and health outcome. The present study aims to describe the FA intake and its main food sources in a population of healthy European adolescents and to assess the variation in intake as a function of non-dietary factors. FA intake was assessed with 24 h recall interviews in 1804 adolescents aged 12·5-17·5 years. Usual intakes were calculated using the multiple source method. Multilevel analyses, adjusting for study centre, were used to investigate the influence of non-dietary factors. The mean total fat intake was 33·3 (sd 1·2) % of total energy intake (%E). The mean SFA intake was 13·8 (sd 1·2) %E, with 99·8 % of the population exceeding the recommendations. SFA was mainly delivered by meat and cake, pies and biscuits. In most adolescents, the PUFA intake was too low, and 35·5 % of the population did not achieve the minimum recommended intake for α-linolenic acid (ALA). The main determinants of FA intake in the present study population were age and sex, as well as physical activity in the male subgroup. No contributions of body composition, socio-economic status or sexual maturation to the variance in FA intake were observed. In conclusion, the most important public health concerns regarding FA intake in this adolescent population were the low intake of ALA and the high intake of SFA, mainly seen in the younger-aged boys. In this group the major contributor to SFA was meat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Intake
  • Europe
  • Exercise
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Sex Factors
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / administration & dosage


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid