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Dietary intakes and food sources of fat and fatty acids in Guatemalan schoolchildren: A cross-sectional study

Odilia I Bermudez1, Claire Toher2, Gabriela Montenegro-Bethancourt3, Marieke Vossenaar3, Paul Mathias2, Colleen Doak4 and Noel W Solomons3*

Author Affiliations

1 Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA, USA

2 Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street, Dublin 8, Ireland

3 Center for Studies of Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism (CeSSIAM), 17 Avenida #16-89, Zona 11, Guatemala City, 01011, Guatemala

4 Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, PO Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:20  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-20

Published: 23 April 2010



Consumption of healthy diets that contribute with adequate amounts of fat and fatty acids is needed for children. Among Guatemalan children, there is little information about fat intakes. Therefore, the present study sought to assess intakes of dietary fats and examine food sources of those fats in Guatemalan children.


The study subjects consisted of a convenience sample of 449 third- and fourth-grade schoolchildren (8-10 y), attending public or private schools in Quetzaltenango City, Guatemala. Dietary data was obtained by means of a single pictorial 24-h record.


The percentages of total energy (%E) from total fat, saturated fat (SFA) and monounsaturated fat (MUFA) reached 29%E for total fat and 10%E for each SFA and MUFA, without gender differences. %E from fats in high vs. low-socio economic status (SES) children were significantly higher for boys, but not for girls, for total fat (p = 0.002) and SFA (p < 0.001). Large proportions of the children had low levels of intakes of some fatty acids (FA), particularly for n-3 FA, with >97% of all groups consuming less than 1%E from this fats. Fried eggs, sweet rolls, whole milk and cheese were main sources of total fat and, SFA. Whole milk and sweet bread were important sources of n-3 FA for high- and low-SES boys and girls, respectively. Fried plantain was the main source of n-3 FA for girls in the high-SES group. Fried fish, seafood soup, and shrimp, consumed only by boys in low amounts, were sources of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids, which may explain the low intakes of these nutrients.


α-linolenic acid, EPA and DHA were the most limiting fatty acids in diets of Guatemalan schoolchildren, which could be partially explained by the low consumption of sources of these nutrients, particularly fish and seafood (for EPA and DHA). This population will benefit from a higher consumption of culturally acceptable foods that are rich in these limiting nutrients.