For decades, low-calorie, low-fat diets have been the go-to way to lose weight. Walk the aisles of almost any supermarket, and you’ll find no shortage of brightly labeled products touting their low- or no-fat status.
But the plethora of low-calorie, “reduced guilt” foods out there has done little to slim down Americans. In fact, while the sales of these products have soared, so too have obesity rates. Clearly something isn’t working here, and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has noticed. Their most recent set of recommendations take the blame off of dietary fat.
This departure from conventional thinking is a big deal, particularly since the same committee has been recommending Americans limit their fat intake since 1977. Until now, the government guidelines suggested getting no more than 25 to 30 percent of your daily calories from fat.
While the general principle behind the low-fat recommendation has been that avoiding fats will naturally cut down your caloric intake, and help you lose weight, experts say these claims can be severely misleading. In reality, many foods advertised as “low fat” actually contain sky-high levels of sugar to make up for the loss of flavor from fat.
Instead of banning fats altogether, the committee emphasized the distinction between healthy fats—like the kind in eggs, avocado, fish, and olive oil—and unhealthy trans fats found in processed foods. In other words, binging on french fries and deep-fried Twinkies is still out, but go ahead and whip up some guacamole with your lunch.
Of course, not everyone has gone along with the low-fat trend this whole time. The low-carb, high-fat Atkins diet became hugely popular in the early 2000s, and followers of Paleo and ketogenic diets consume large amounts of fat—sometimes up to 65 percent of their daily calories.
What’s the bottom line here? Low-fat is out, and healthy fat is in. As Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston, wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “We really need to sing it from the rooftops that the low-fat diet concept is dead. There are no health benefits to it.”
Photo credit: Premshree Pillai via Flickr
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