Background: Preliminary data from the baseline Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study in South Africa indicated a higher prevalence of dyslipidemia than previous South African studies. The intake of specific individual dietary fatty acids may affect blood lipids differently than sub-groups of fat (i.e. polyunsaturated
fatty acids). We investigated the dietary intake of different individual fatty acids and their associations with blood lipids, in relation to urbanization and gender.
Methods: Cross-sectional data analysis within the PURE baseline study of healthy subjects (n = 1950, 35–70 years) from rural and urban areas. Dietary data were collected and blood lipid analysis performed. Results: Intake of individual fatty acids was significantly higher in urban than rural dwellers. However, the intake of n-3 PUFAs was below recommendations in all groups. Total cholesterol and LDL were higher in females than in males, with no rural urban differences. Intake of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) was positively associated with total
cholesterol (β= 0.143) and triglycerides (β= 0.256) in males. The risk for having elevated LDL also increased with increased intake of ALA (OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.04, 2.14) in males. In females, arachidonic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were positively associated with total cholesterol and arachidonic acid was also positively associated with LDL, whereas docosahexaenoic acid was negatively associated with total cholesterol and LDL. Conclusions: These results suggest that specific individual dietary fatty acids may affect blood lipids in males differently than in females irrespective of rural or urban dwelling. The positive association between ALA and total cholesterol and triglycerides in males is a concern, because current advice aims to improve the dietary linoleic acid to ALA
ratio by increasing ALA intake.