What’s the current thinking on fat restriction?

Almost 50,000 women in the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial from Harvard Medical School were given dietary counseling to reduce their fat intake to less than 20 percent of their daily calories (Clinical Diabetes, July 2006). This intense dietary counseling did not reduce the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, or cancers even though the women reduced their intake of fat by 8.2 percent.

Their data from the eight-year follow up show that it is difficult to reduce total fat intake, and that dietary counseling to reduce total fat intake does not reduce the risk of heart attacks or cancers. It lowered weight only an average of three pounds and diastolic blood pressure only slightly. However, other studies have shown that reducing total fat intake does lower risk for certain cancers.

The probable reason for these dismal results is that food contains both good fats and bad fats. Most doctor agree that we should restrict saturated fats found in meat, chicken and whole milk diary products, and partially hydrogenated fats found in many prepared foods. However, the monounsaturated fats found in seeds and nuts and the omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood and seeds are healthful fats that should not be restricted.

September 15, 2006

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