Harvard says time to end the low-fat myth

Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good

“Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet” was the mantra for healthful eating for decades. Touted as a way to lose weight and prevent or control heart disease and other chronic conditions, millions of people have followed (or, more likely, tried to follow) this advice. Seeing a tremendous marketing opportunity, food companies re-engineered thousands of foods to be lower in fat or fat free, often increasing the salt, sugar, or refined grains in these foods to make up for lost flavor and texture.

Well it’s time to end the low-fat myth. The low-fat approach to eating may have made a difference for the occasional individual, but as a nation it hasn’t helped us control weight or become healthier. In the 1960s, fats and oils supplied Americans with about 45 percent of calories; (1) about 13 percent of adults were obese and under 1 percent had type 2 diabetes, a serious weight-related condition. (2,3) Today, Americans take in less fat, getting about 33 percent of calories from fats and oils; (4) yet 34 percent of adults are obese and 11 percent have diabetes, most with type 2 diabetes. (5,6)

Why hasn’t cutting fat from the diet paid off as expected? Detailed research—much of it done at Harvard—shows that the total amount of fat in the diet isn’t really linked with weight or disease. What really matters is the type of fat and the total calories in the diet. (7-15) Bad fats, meaning trans and saturated fats, increase the risk for certain diseases. Good fats, meaning monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, do just the opposite. They are good for the heart and most other parts of the body.

Much more at the link. This is pretty remarkable, I think, as Harvard has been in the lead in propagating the “low-fat myth”. Truth is busting out all over, and just like the fall of Communism, we could see the low-fat myth collapse in short order.


Leave a Comment:

Steve Johnson says October 29, 2013

Don’t worry – the substitute lie is already there:

Bad fats, meaning trans and saturated fats, increase the risk for certain diseases. Good fats, meaning monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, do just the opposite.

How long will it take for the “saturated fat bad, polyunsaturated fat good” lie to die?

At least that one won’t cause an entire country to become obese.

Johnny Caustic says November 1, 2013

Steve Johnson’s got it mostly right…polyunsaturated fats play a major role in heart attacks; pockets of oxidized polyunsaturated fat can form in artery walls, then when they pop, a bolus of the stuff comes out and causes blood clotting, which can jam a narrow artery and cause a heart attack. This is believed to be one of the most common causes. And saturated fats are actually very good for you and your skin.

However, polyunsaturated fats probably do play a role in the current obesity epidemic. Not as big a role as carbs, and not as big a role as trans fats, but they contribute. (See the Hyperlipid blog for details.)

Anonymous says November 1, 2013

Andrew Kim has an interesting post up about high saturated fat consumption disrupting gut bacteria and causing various health problems through endotoxin absorption.


    Bob Johnston says November 4, 2013

    I fail to see how taking mice studies and applying them to humans is conclusive in any way.

BC says March 24, 2014

a very interesting read: “Why almost everything you’ve been told about unhealthy foods is wrong” (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/23/everything-you-know-about-unhealthy-foods-is-wrong)

Happy me! (5 egg yolks a day): “Eggs: We were once told to eat no more than two a week. Now eggs look like the most all-round nutritious food you can eat, so there’s no need to limit them.”

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