Basic facts

  • Fat is the main and most concentrated source of energy in our diet as it provides 9kcal per gram.
  • Fat should provide about 30% of our daily energy intake.
  • Fat is an important source of vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Eating a lot of fat results in excessive energy intake and may lead to obesity.
  • It is also associated with raised risks of coronary heart disease.
  • The British diet tends to be too high in fat and particularly high in saturated fatty acids.
Sources of fat
Fat consists of fatty acids. These are divided into saturated and unsaturated fatty acids according to their molecular structure.

The body can manufacture a variety of fatty acids from your general fat intake but there are some fatty acids that can only be obtained directly from certain foods in your diet and cannot be made by your body. These are called essential fatty acids and are important for the development of some tissues in the body.

In general saturated fatty acids come from animal sources (meat, butter, milk products and eggs) and unsaturated fatty acids tend to come from vegetable sources (olive and sunflower oil) and some types of fish (herring and mackerel).

Cakes, biscuits and confectionery can contain large amounts of fat composed of saturated fatty acids. It is the high intake of saturated fatty acids that is thought to be particularly associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Diet recommendations
  • Women with average energy intake and output should not eat more than 70-80g of fat per day.
  • Men should not exceed 100g of fat per day in their diet.
  • Eat small portions of meat. Choose lean cuts or chicken (without skin) and fish.
  • Use low fat milk products and reduce the amount of cheese you eat.
  • Use low fat spreads instead of butter or margarine.
  • Use as little fat in cooking as possible - grill and bake instead of fry - and use unsaturated oils (olive, sunflower, corn oil) whenever possible.
  • Limit cakes, biscuits and confectionery to a minimum or just occasional use.

Further information

This article published on
28 November 2005

Next review date 11/1/2013


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