The three main types of fats are called saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Excessive consumption of saturated fats is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Substituting either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats may help lower the blood cholesterol level and has been shown to have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. This investigation compared the quality and quantity of dietary fat intake of the Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health (LSAH) participants (astronauts and a group of comparison participants) with the U.S. general population.
According to the NHANES data, the average adult consumes approximately 33.6% of total calories from dietary fats, 11.6% from saturated fat, 12.5% from monounsaturated fat, and 6.9% from polyunsaturated fat. These data show that Americans are consuming an excessive amount of the most harmful fats and a deficient amount of the most beneficial fats. On average, comparison participants (N=512) consumed the same percentage of dietary fats as the general population, while astronauts (N=134) reported a slightly lower figure (33.6% and 31.9% respectively). Both groups showed lower saturated fat consumption as compared to the general population, but neither group consumed enough of the beneficial fats. LSAH participants also reported more frequent use of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and oils.
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