The fatty acid compositions of serum lipid fractions are believed to reflect the quality of dietary fat, but only a few cross-sectional studies have examined these relationships in a representative free-living population. We related the composition of dietary fat obtained by 7-day food records from 84 free-living middle-aged married couples, on their habitual diets, to gas chromatographic analyses of the percentage compositions of fatty acids in three lipid fractions of fasting sera. Dietary polyunsaturated fat had Pearson's correlation coefficients of 0.63, 0.73 and 0.44 with n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in serum cholesteryl esters, triglycerides and phospholipids, respectively. Intake of fish showed correlations of 0.60, 0.36 and 0.52 with the percentage of eicosapentaenoate in the respective fractions. Dietary saturated fat had correlations of 0.57 and 0.54 with saturated fatty acids in serum cholesteryl esters and triglycerides, respectively. Dietary monounsaturated fat did not correlate positively with monounsaturated fatty acids in any serum lipid fraction. There were some small but significant gender differences in the serum fatty acid compositions.
Conclusions: of the three serum lipid fractions, triglycerides appear to be the best reflectors of dietary polyunsaturated and saturated fat, but the intake of monounsaturated fat is poorly reflected in all serum lipid fractions. Intake of fish is mirrored in all serum lipid fractions, best in cholesteryl esters and phospholipids.