Focus on low-fat diets and lack of differentiation between healthy and unhealthy fat has led to ‘paradoxical policies’ about healthy eating.

The Mediterranean diet has healthy fats with many health benefits

The study, published on 6 June in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal suggests that a low-fat, low-calorie diet creates unnecessary fear of healthy fats, present in a Mediterranean diet, which have known health benefits.

Accumulating scientific evidence suggests that total fat content is not a useful measure of harms or benefits of food, and that fats from olive oil, nuts, fish and phenolic-rich vegetable oils are healthier than fats from meat and processed foods.

Low-fat does not prevent obesity

“More than 40 years of nutritional policy has advocated for a low-fat diet but we’re seeing little impact on rising levels of obesity,” says lead author Dr Ramon Estruch, CIBER OBN-University of Barcelona, Spain.

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“Our study shows that a Mediterranean diet had little effect on increased bodyweight or waist circumference compared to people on a low-fat diet. The Mediterranean diet has well-known health benefits and includes healthy fats such as vegetable oils, fish and nuts.

Obesity risk factor for many diseases

Obesity is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and musculoskeletal disorders. Perceptions of all fat as unhealthy have resulted in decreased fat consumption in the US population, but the epidemics of obesity and diabetes have continued to grow.

Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Dariush Mozaffarian, Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA says: “We must abandon the myth that lower-fat, lower-calorie products lead to less weight gain.

“The fat content of foods and diets is simply not a useful metric to judge long-term harms or benefits. Energy density and total caloric contents can be similarly misleading.

Eat more calories from plant-based food

“Rather, modern scientific evidence supports an emphasis on eating more calories from fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans, fish, yoghurt, phenolic-rich vegetable oils, and minimally processed whole grains; and fewer calories from highly processed foods rich in starch, sugar, salt, or trans-fat.

“We ignore this evidence at our own peril,” concludes Professor Mozaffarian.

For complete article, please see: www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(16)30085-7/abstract