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  • Publication
    Patterns and determinants of dietary fat intake in Irish children
    (University College Dublin. School of Agriculture and Food Science, 2020) ;
    Background Dietary fat plays an important role in the growth and development of school-aged children. In many adult populations, imbalances in dietary fat, in particular saturated fatty acids (SFA), have been associated with a number of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, evidence suggests that early manifestation of such diseases can begin in childhood, and furthermore, children’s dietary habits can progress into adulthood. Therefore, early dietary intervention is essential to prevent the onset of these diseases. Objective To examine the current dietary fat intakes in a national sample of Irish children and to identify the key dietary sources and determinants. Associations between SFA and polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intakes and overall diet quality will also be investigated. In addition, modelling techniques will be explored to improve inadequate intakes of the same and compliance with national recommendations. Methods All analyses was conducted using the cross-sectional National Children’s Food Survey II (NCFS II), which collected data on habitual food and beverage consumption in a representative sample of 600 Irish children (300 boys; 300 girls) aged 5 – 12 years. Results Dietary fat intakes in Irish children have improved since 2005. High compliance with national recommendations for total fat, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and trans fat intakes (100 %) were observed. However, compliance remains poor for SFA, PUFA, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). High SFA consumers had significantly higher energy % contributions from dairy foods, whereas high PUFA consumers had significantly higher % energy contribution from ‘meat products’, ‘potato products’ and ‘eggs and egg dishes’ when compared to low consumers. Lower SFA intakes were associated with higher quality diets but still exceeded the recommended threshold of less than 10 %, irrespective of diet quality. In addition, participants with a higher quality score failed to attain the recommended PUFA intakes (= 6 %). A food-exchange model focused on dairy and meat substitutions and successfully improved adherence to SFA and PUFA recommendations by 263 and 26 %, respectively. While compliance with PUFA intakes achieved 100 %, SFA compliance remained inadequate (63 %). Conclusion The results from this thesis show that despite improvements to the dietary fat profile in Irish children, deviations from the recommendations remain, in particular for SFA and total PUFA intakes. Although dairy foods were identified as a key contributor of SFA intakes, caution is needed when implementing strategies to improve intakes, ensuring additional nutrients are not compromised. Modest food exchanges can contribute to SFA and PUFA intakes without changing children’s habitual diets. These findings support future developments and strategies to improve the dietary fat profile in Irish children.