Cardiovascular disease rates are high in the U.K., particular in men, and are related to dietary fat intake. We conducted a pilot study to investigate relationships between saturated and unsaturated dietary fat intakes, body composition and blood lipid parameters in Caucasian men and women at university.

Volunteers (52 men and 52 women; age range 20-50 years) were recruited from staff and students of London Metropolitan University. Dietary intake, body composition, blood pressure and fasting blood glucose and lipids were assessed. Gender differences between the measured variables and their relationships were assessed by Mann-Whitney U-test, and by multi-linear (stepwise) regression, respectively.

Men consumed more saturated fat (29.5 vs. 20.5 g/day, p < 0.001), and had elevated levels of glucose (5.34 + 0.74 vs. 4.85 + 0.49 mmol/l, p < 0.001), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (2.99 + 1.5 vs. 2.62+ 0.74 mmol/l, p < 0.05), systolic blood pressure (126.4 + 11.0 vs. 112.6 + 17.2 mm/Hg, p < 0.001), and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (1.41 ± 0.34 vs. 1.83 ± 0.43, p < 0.001). Saturated fat was positively associated with total body fat ( p < 0.05), trunk fat ( p < 0.001), HDL cholesterol ( p < 0.05) and systolic blood pressure ( p < 0.001) in women, while in men docosahexaenoic acid and total cholesterol ( p < 0.05), total omega-3 fatty acids and LDL cholesterol ( p < 0.001), total omega-3 fatty acids and triglycerides ( p < 0.01) were positively related. Similar n-3 fatty acid intakes were reported in nutritionally aware students and other university subjects.

The data of this study indicate gender-related differences in response to dietary fat, and widespread low compliance with n-3 fatty acid recommendations. Although the men are highly health conscious and physically active, their blood lipid levels are indicative of a risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to enhanced nutritional education to increase seafood intakes in this age group of men and women, customised dietary and lifestyle advice may be required in the men.