Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Low fat diets could increase heart disease risk, say nutrition experts

Low fat diets could increase heart disease risk, say nutrition experts

Low fat diets could increase heart disease risk, say nutrition experts

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 16-Nov-2010

Many Americans aim to eat low-fat foods but there is strong evidence that replacing fat with carbohydrates could be harmful to health, according to nutrition experts at the ADA conference in Boston last week.

Recommendations to reduce saturated fat intake are largely based on the notion that high levels increase risk of cardiovascular disease, but unless saturated fat is replaced with other fats, many studies have suggested that fat reduction could increase risk of heart disease.

During a symposium called “The Great Fat Debate: Is There Validity In the Age-Old Dietary Guidance?” at the American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, four leading experts presented evidence suggesting that low fat diets may be less healthy than those containing at least a moderate amount of fat. In particular, all four agreed that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates – as has been widely recommended in the United States – is likely to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The low fat message

Director of the cardiovascular health laboratory at Tufts University Dr. Alice Lichtenstein said dietary advice to adhere to a low fat diet is based on an oversimplification of recommendations.


“If anything, the literature shows a slight advantage of the high fat diet,” he said. “The focus on fat in dietary guidelines has been a massive distraction…We should remove total fat from nutrition facts panels on the back of packs.”

He added that while the pervasive dietary guidance given to consumers has been to eat fats sparingly, to load up on starch and eat non-fat products, “the food industry quickly realized sugar was cheaper than fat and laughed all the way to the bank.”

“It was really the type of fat that was important,” he said. “If you replaced saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat there was a reduction of risk.”

American eating behavior


Assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School Dr. Mozaffarian agreed with the other speakers about a lack of evidence linking total fat consumption and cardiovascular disease risk.

High levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) and high triglyceride levels have both been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but Mozaffarian said there has often been overreliance on single biomarkers in drawing conclusions about fats’ impact on heart health, “even one as hallowed as LDL cholesterol”.

“Overall dietary quality is very important for cardiovascular risk,” he said. “Saturated fats may raise LDL cholesterol but increasing levels of all fats lowers triglycerides…You can’t look at data across countries and draw conclusions. Nor can you look at animal studies or a single biomarker and draw conclusions from that.”

Concluding the discussion, Dr. Lichtenstein warned against focusing on single nutrients for disease risk reduction.

She said: “We need to stop focusing on individual dietary components because when one goes down, another goes up.”

Wow, this is unbelievable. The American Dietetic Association is the bastion of Low Fat dogma. The fact that they are allowing dissenting voices is laudable and surprising. As positive evidence for low carb diets continues to mount, dietary advice is beginning to change as well. There is still much we don't know, but the biggest thing is to drop the dogma, do more research, and keep an open mind. Very good news here.

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