In short, the previously promised benefits of a low –fat diet have been exhaustively disproven, time and time again. Studies have shown that it does not cause significant weight-loss over an extended period of time and it has no notable effect on cancer or heart disease.
So where did this idea come from? Well, it all started with the 1977 publication of Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. For starters, it should be acknowledged that this publication is approaching thirty and it ‘s safe to say that we have learned a lot since its inception. Second, even in 1977 these guideline were highly debated by scientific and health communities and were by no means considered definitive. As a matter of fact, these same guidelines recommended that Americans increase their carbohydrate intake to make up for 55 to 60 percent of their daily calories.
Unfortunately, while there is virtually no scientific data truly supporting a low-fat diet, there are plenty of studies suggesting that low-fat diets can be harmful to your overall health. Some studies have discovered that the low fat diet can actually decrease HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and increase your overall blood triglycerides; both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
So now what? I, and the nutritionists that I work with, have always been a strong proponent of balance and moderation. Drastic reductions and eliminations always seem to carry more negative results than positive. Your genetics, family history, exercise regimen, goals and health all play a roll in how your personal nutrition should be structured; so there is no blanked recommendation that would work for everyone. However, I encourage you to take a look in your cabinets and refrigerator and eliminate the highly processed items where fats have been manually removed or reduced. These products almost always contain chemicals or refined sugars that are proven to cause the exact problems you are trying to avoid.
1. Howard BV, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and weight change over 7 years: the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2006.
2. Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial: Risk Factor Changes and Mortality Results. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1982.
3. Howard BV, et al. Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2006.
4. n-6 fatty acid-specific and mixed polyunsaturate dietary interventions have different effects on CHD risk: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Ramsden CE, Hibbeln JR, Majchrzak SF, Davis JM. Br J Nutr. 2010 Dec;104(11):1586-600. doi: 10.1017/S0007114510004010.
5. Effect of the Anti-Coronary Club Program on Coronary Heart Disease Risk-Factor Status. George Christakis, MD; Seymour H. Rinzler, MD; Morton Archer, MBA, MPH; Arthur Kraus, ScD. JAMA. 1966;198(6):597-604. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110190079022.