Friday, July 3, 2015

The debate on low fat

Low-fat foods may not be the ticket to health that we've been told they are.

New reports are starting to show that low-fat is not any healthier, and may actually be contributing to more weight gain.

Farewell, Low-Fat: Why Scientists Applaud Lifting A Ban On Fat

The article is about how our obsession with avoiding fats has caused us to also avoid fats that are good for us:
When and why did fat become such a big villain? As Allison Aubrey has reported, it started back in the 1970s, and with the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans in 1980. The message was: Decrease fat and you'll decrease saturated fat.

Back then, scientists were mostly concerned with saturated fat. And indeed, the latest evidence shows that saturated fats can raise levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol. But demonizing all fat set off the fat-free boom, and a big increase in carbohydrate and sugar intake followed, which led to Americans becoming even fatter.

And, as Mozaffarian and Ludwig point out, another problem with telling people to limit total fat is that people end up eating fewer monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – the kind found in nuts, vegetable oils and fish – which are really healthful.
I think the article fails to address, though, how low-fat foods -- at least, processed foods that are marketed as low-fat -- are also more processed than "regular fat" foods.  I think that has to do with it as well.  Plus the fact that until very recently, a lot of low-fat foods ended up including a lot of hydrogenated oils and trans fats, neither of which are very good for you.

With the portion sizes in America, though, I think all of this fat-bad, fat-good debate is barking up the wrong tree.  I don't think it's necessarily the fat content of what we're eating, but how damn much we are eating (and probably our increasingly sedentary culture) that's causing high percentages of overweight and obese people.

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