Dietary Recommendations

No Dietary Reference Intakes has been set for total fat in our diets except for infants. (The AI for infants is 31 grams fat per day for age 1 to 6 months and 30 grams fat per day for age 7 to 12 months). There is not enough scientific data to determine the level at which inadequacy or disease prevention occurs. However, Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDRs) were set for total fat as follows.


1 to 3 years old 30-40 percent of kcalories

4 to 18 years old 25-35 percent of kcalories

Over 18 years old 20-35 percent of kcalories

This range of intake is associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease while providing an adequate intake.

Neither an AI nor an RDA was set for saturated fat or cholesterol because these substances are all made in the body and have no known role in preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Likewise, no AI or RDA was determined for trans fatty acids because they are not essential and provide no known benefit to health. The Food and Nutrition Board does recommend keeping one's intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fatty acids as low as possible while eating a nutritionally adequate diet.

In 2002, an AI was set for the essential fatty acids: linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid (Figure 4-10). There is insufficient evidence to set a Tolerable Upper Intake Level for either essential fatty acid.

Fat intake in the United States as a proportion of total kcalories is lower than it was many years ago (dropping from 45 to 34 percent), but most people still eat too much saturated fat. Although the percentage of kcalories from fat has decreased, the number of kcalories eaten has increased, and so we are actually eating more grams of fat.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2005) and the American Heart Association's Dietary Guidelines both recommend a diet for healthy Americans that:

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