The world is witnessing an epidemic obesity. This is likely to affect the metabolic health of people. Even in the UK, obesity has affected innumerable people and it is rising. Diet studies have shown that saturated fat intake has fallen, and omega 3 fatty acids consumption has come down in the last many years. But omega 6 fatty acids intake has shown a rise. These have caused an epidemic of obesity that one sees these days. UK NDNS-RP study reveals in depth on it.
Obesity and the UK
Obesity is on the rise worldwide. It has reached alarming proportions. Projections state that if the obesity continues to rise at the present rate, by 2030 there would be 2.16 billion overweight adults and 1.12 billion obese adults in the world. In the UK, in 2019, 28% of adults in England had obesity. Around 36% of the adults were overweight. This means that two thirds of the adults in England have high weight for age and height.
High weight is bad for health. It is a risk factors for metabolic chronic and inflammatory conditions of the body. It can cause blood vessel blockages, heart ailments, type 2 diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, cancer, musculoskeletal problems, skin issues etc. Genetic factors play a role in obesity. But diet and fats intake influence it deeply.
UK NDNS-RP study
UK researchers tried to find the link between fat intake, saturated fats intake, omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids intake and the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids to obesity. They collected data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme (2008/09-2018/19). They recruited 3733 people from it. The research team kept a four day record of the foods that the participants had at home or outside. The team supervised this record by visiting them three times a day.
The researchers estimated the amount of energy intake from saturated fats, omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids. They found that intake of saturated fats has dropped over the past decade or so. Intake of omega 6 fatty acids has risen due to vegetable oil intake. While amount of omega 3 fatty acids has fallen. The latter has been due to animal feeds changes that has led to decrease of this fatty acids in eggs, fish and animal meats.
The research team correlated the energy intake from saturated fats, omega 6 fatty acids, omega 3 fatty acids with BMI, two indicators of central obesity (waist circumference [WC], waist-to-height ratio [WHtR]), and with the relative fat mass (RFM) estimator of whole-body fat. The team found a positive association between ratio of omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids and BMI, WC, WHtR and RFM. In some diets, the ratio of omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids has reached as high as 20:1. On an average it is around 10:1. Both omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids are needed by the body. But the proportions matter.
Energy intake from saturated fats had a significant association with body mass index only. Energy intake from omega 3 fatty acids had a negative correlation with WC, WHtR and RFM. While the energy intake of omega 6 fatty acids had no significant association with central or general obesity.
Hence, higher intake of omega 3 fatty acids, lessening of the ratio of omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids in diet, and lowering of saturated fats intake can help decrease obesity of all types.