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Mind “The Low Fat” Labels…

The idea that eating less fat can keep you healthy, a notion very popular with the medical establishment in the mid 1980s, seemed to make sense. Experts were working with the data available at the time – they saw saturated fat had more calories and raised the bad (LDL) cholesterol. Today fat is still often the diet bad guy and you’re still likely to see “low fat” and “fat free” on many of food labels.

While our cholesterol levels, and total intake of saturated fats has gone down, the numbers of obese people in this country has continued to rise. How can we be eating less fat but getting fatter? One potential reason is the unintended effect when you eat something labeled “low fat”; people tend to eat more of it – up to 50% more according to Cornell researchers.

Those who are overweight are particularly at risk to falling for the deceptive “low fat” and “fat free” labels. These people tended to take in 60 more calories than do those who are thinner.

More recent work in this area has found that if you take saturated fat from the diet it needs to be replaced with something that’s better for you. Now we understand that polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are actually good for you. Also, nutritionists know that fat satisfies appetite longer, so you end up eating less. Most people don’t make the healthy switch when it comes to fats.

In 2010 an important meta-analysis looked at the association between saturated fat and the risk of heart disease, stroke and cardiovascular disease. The analysis included 21 different studies. The conclusion was that there is not enough evidence to say that saturated fat raises the risk for stroke, heart and cardiovascular disease. More research needs to be done to tell us about the risks for specific age and sex groups.

The findings may stem from the fact that people replaced the saturated fat with carbs. When you up the carbs in your diet it can cause other problems and raise your risk for cardiovascular disease. This research points out the mistake it was to try and lower saturated fats by replacing them with processed carbs – this didn’t do any of us any favors. It would be better to replace saturated fats with healthier polyunsaturated ones, but there’s still a lot to learn before we have a complete picture of how fats operate in the body.

Continues below…


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Mind “The Low Fat” Labels… Continued…

In 2013 another study, known as the Sydney Diet Heart Study, found that the benefits of polyunsaturated fatty acids have not been established. The work found that in those with higher amounts of omega-3 compared to omega-6 got beneficial results, where research that had the omega-6 content higher didn’t show any benefit. You can see the challenge this message is to deliver to people.

Total fat intake isn’t a good reflection of your health. Your best bet is to stay away from refined grains, too many sugars, starches, sugar laden drinks, processed meats and foods that have lots of trans fats or are loaded with salt. Replace these foods with healthy vegetable fats, oils, fruits and veggies, nuts, whole grains, fish, yogurt and modest amounts of cheese. Eat healthy and forget keeping track of fat.

To your good health,