March 05, 2006
Food fads have come and gone but for several decades we have been allured by the low fat label. The FDA even certifies low fat labeling, an indication of its permanence. But new studies now show that the right type of fats may be more important than the amount.
A study of 48,835 women by the women's Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health compared one group who followed a low-fat dietary plan with another who followed their normal dietary patterns. They found that "reducing total fat intake may have a small effect on risk of breast cancer, but no effect on risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease, or stroke".
“This study shows that just reducing total fat intake does not go far enough to have an impact on heart disease risk. While the participants’ overall change in LDL “bad” cholesterol was small, we saw trends towards greater reductions in cholesterol and heart disease risk in women eating less saturated and trans fat,” said Jacques Rossouw, M.D., WHI project officer.
The study also found that following a high-carbohydrate, low-fat eating pattern does not increase body weight, triglycerides or indicators of increased risk of diabetes such as blood glucose or insulin levels in women.
Kraft and ConAgra are paying attention, stressing good fats over bad. Olive oil, omega 3's and monounsaturated oils like canola and peanut are considered good, trans fat and saturated animal fats the bad.
ConAgra is stressing "a holistic approach" after finding that low fat labels are losing their appeal. The tagline for Kraft Foods South Beach Diet line reads "Forget low carb or low fat. Think right carbs and right fats."
The NIH advises consumers to "Limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated and/or trans fatty acids, and choose products low in such fats and oils" while allowing up to 35% of calories to come from healthy fats.