4364.0.55.012 - Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011-12  
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UNSATURATED SPREADS AND OILS

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that Australians limit consumption of foods containing saturated fats because of the evidence linking their consumption with poorer blood lipid profiles and cardiovascular disease.1 Previous results2 from the 2011-12 NNPAS showed Australians derived an estimated 12.4% of their dietary energy from saturated and trans-fats, exceeding the 10% limit recommended to reduce chronic disease risk.3

In contrast to saturated fats, consumption of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is an important part of a healthy dietary pattern, supplying essential fatty acids and carrying fat soluble vitamins.1 These fats may be readily sourced from many foods within the five food groups such as nuts, legumes/beans, avocado, oats, fish, lean meats and eggs.1 In addition to the health benefits of unsaturated fats, the Guidelines acknowledge the palatability role played by additional fat with certain foods. Therefore, the Guidelines recommend small allowances of unsaturated spreads and oils which keep the extra energy from these foods within the total energy constraints of the diet.

What is a serve of unsaturated spreads and oils?1

A standard serve is (250 kJ):

  • 10 g polyunsaturated spread
  • 10 g monounsaturated spread
  • 7 g monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oil (e.g. olive, canola or sunflower oil)
  • 10 g tree nuts or peanuts or nut pastes/butters *

*Nuts/seeds also contribute to serves within the Lean meats and alternatives group, see Glossary and Appendix 2 for more information

The following analysis is based on the measurement of unsaturated spreads and oils in the 2011-12 NNPAS. The foods contributing to this group include margarines and oils made from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils, nuts and nut pastes and products containing any of these ingredients.4


HOW MANY SERVES OF UNSATURATED SPREADS AND OILS WERE CONSUMED FROM NON-DISCRETIONARY SOURCES?

In 2011-12, Australians aged two years and over consumed an average 2 serves of unsaturated spreads and oils from non-discretionary sources per day. The average serves consumed increased with age; children consumed an average of 1.3 serves and adults 19 years and older had 2.2 serves. Males had a higher consumption of unsaturated spreads and oils than females (2.2 serves and 1.8 serves respectively).


HOW MANY EXCEEDED THE RECOMMENDED ALLOWANCE FOR UNSATURATED SPREADS AND OILS FROM NON-DISCRETIONARY FOODS?

While the average consumption of unsaturated spreads and oils increased from childhood to adulthood in line with the greater volume of food consumed, the proportion of people who exceeded their allowance of unsaturated fats tended to decrease with age, reflecting the more generous allowance in adulthood and particularly for males aged 19-70 years where the allowance was up to 4 serves per day.

This graph shows the mean serves consumed per day of unsaturated fats and oils from non-discretionary sources for Australians aged 2 years and over. Data is based on Day 1 of 24 hour dietary recall from 2011-12 NNPAS.
    (a) Based on Day 1. See Glossary for definition.
    (b) From non-discretionary sources,
    Source: National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 2011-12.

Overall, one third (34%) of the population exceeded their allowance for unsaturated spreads and oils on a usual basis from non-discretionary foods with females were more likely to exceed their allowance compared to males (43% compared with 25%). Children were also more likely to exceed the allowance than adults, in particular 86% of children aged 2-3 years exceeded their allowance.

Unsaturated spreads and oils: recommended allowance, median usual serves consumed and proportion meeting/exceeding allowance


Age group (years)
Recommended minimum (a)
Median (b)
Proportion meeting recommendation (b)
Serves
Serves
%

Males
Females
Males
Females
Males
Females
2-3
0.9
0.8
89.1
82.0
4-8
1
1
1.2
1.0
61.8
49.4
9-11
1
1
1.5
1.1
73.1
57.7
12-13
1
1
1.4
1.4
44.8
46.1
14-18
2
2*
1.7
1.4
37.5
22.6
19-50
4
2*
2.2
1.8
11.5
41.7
51-70
4
2
2.2
1.9
11.6
47.8
71 +
2
2
1.9
1.5
45.4
25.7

(a) National Health and Medical Research Council, 2013, Australian Dietary Guidelines https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines_130530.pdf
(b) From non-discretionary sources.
Source: National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 2011-12.
*For pregnant and breastfeeding women, the recommended allowance for unsaturated fats is 2 serves. However, both the pregnant and breastfeeding populations have been excluded from this analysis


SOURCES OF UNSATURATED SPREADS AND OILS

Unsaturated spreads and oils come from a wide range of ‘non-discretionary’ food sources, although main food sources can be categorised into five groups:
  • One quarter of unsaturated spreads and oils consumption came from seeds and nuts, with adults more likely than children to consume food from this group (26% and 15% respectively).
  • Mixed dishes where meat or poultry is a major component made up 21%.
  • Fats and oils (mostly margarine and table spreads) contributed 17% of unsaturated spreads and oils consumption.
  • Mixed dishes where cereal is a major ingredient (e.g. non-discretionary pasta, pizzas and burgers) contributed 13%.
  • 12% from dishes where vegetables are the main component and potato foods.

Discretionary sources

Consistent with the advice within the Guidelines around which foods are considered part of healthy dietary pattern, the above comparisons against the recommendations were limited to those foods classed as ‘non-discretionary’. However, previous analysis5 has shown that around one-third of dietary energy comes from the discretionary foods which are characterised as nutrient poor and energy dense and often high in saturated fat, salt or added sugars.

When the ‘discretionary’ food sources are included, the average consumption of unsaturated spreads and oils increased by 61% (1.2 serves) from 2 to 3.2 across the population.

For children 2-18 years, when discretionary sources are included, the consumption of unsaturated spreads and oils increased by 108% (1.4 serves, from 1.3 to 2.8).6 In particular, the average consumption of unsaturated fats for children aged 2-3 years was around three times higher than their daily allowance.

Adults over 19 years consumed less serves of unsaturated spreads and oils from discretionary sources than children 2-18 years on average.

When discretionary sources are included, the average consumption for males aged 19-50 years increased to 4 serves, reaching their allowance. Males 51-70 years were the only age group that did not exceed their allowance on average when discretionary foods were included.

Females aged 19 years and over have a daily allowance of 2 serves of unsaturated spreads and oils. On average, women 19-70 years exceeded the allowance with the consumption of unsaturated fats from non-discretionary sources only. When discretionary sources are included these contributed around an additional 1 serve.

This graph shows the mean serves consumed per day of unsaturated fats and oils from discretionary and non-discretionary sources for males 2 years and over by age group. Data is based on Day 1 of 24 hour dietary recall from 2011-12 NNPAS.
    (a) Based on Day 1. See Glossary for definition.
    (-) The black bar indicates daily allowance of unsaturated fats and oils for the respective age group according to the ADG.
    Source: National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 2011-12.

This graph shows the mean serves consumed per day of unsaturated fats and oils from discretionary and non-discretionary sources for females 2 years and over by age group. Data is based on Day 1 of 24 hour dietary recall from 2011-12 NNPAS.
    (a) Based on Day 1. See Glossary for definition.
    (-) The black bar indicates daily allowance of unsaturated fats and oils for the respective age group according to the ADG.
    Source: National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 2011-12.

Cereal based products (such as high saturated fat pizzas and burgers) were the most common source of discretionary unsaturated fats and oils, contributing 29%. This was followed by 19% from snack foods and a further 17% from vegetable products and dishes (such as potato chips). Savoury sauces and condiments contributed 11% and seafood products 10% of discretionary unsaturated fats and oils.

ENDNOTES