Do Low Fat Diets Kill?

Do Low Fat Diets Kill?

For decades, the intake of dietary fat has been blamed for everything from obesity to cardiovascular disease and even increased risk of death. Low-fat diets have been preached by nutritionists, personal trainers, and even members of the medical community as the key to weight loss and optimal health.

But, new research indicates that eating a low-fat diet could increase your risk of death by up to 28%.

Related - How to Lose Belly Fat

A massive prospective study titled PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) analyzed the food intake of 135,000 adults 18 countries including all levels of income. [1] Researchers amassed their data through the use of questionnaires with median follow-up of 7.4 years.

The team of researchers, led by Dr. Mahshid Dehghan of McMaster University in Ontario primarily focused on the link between fat and carbohydrate intake and cardiovascular disease and mortality.

In a rather surprising turn of events, researchers observed it wasn't high fat intake that was associated with an increased risk of death, but rather a high carbohydrate intake. In fact, both total fat and saturated fats were associated with a decreased risk of death. On top of that, intake of saturated fat was linked with reduced risk of stroke as well.

Other key findings from the study noted by the researchers were that the benefits from the consumption of legumes, fruits, and vegetables maxes out around three to four servings per day, significantly lower than the currently recommended 5-9 servings per day.

Researchers concluded:

"Reducing saturated fatty acids and replacing them with carbohydrates might have an adverse effect on cardiovascular disease risk. Current recommendations to reduce total fat and saturated fatty acids in all populations, which de facto increases carbohydrate intake, are not supported by our data."

The results of the large-scale study are particularly relevant for those living in lower-income areas, where low quality carbohydrates account for up to 75% of daily energy intake.

Dr. Dehghan, lead researcher of the study, stated in a press release:

"For the first time, our study provides a global look at the realities of people's diets in many countries and gives a clearer picture of people's fat and carbohydrate intake. The current focus on promoting low-fat diets ignores the fact that most people's diets in low and middle income countries are very high in carbohydrates, which seem to be linked to worse health outcomes. In low- and middle-income countries, where diets sometimes consist of more than 65% of energy from carbohydrates, guidelines should refocus their attention towards reducing carbohydrate intake, instead of focusing on reducing fats. The best diets will include a balance of carbohydrates and fats - approximately 50-55% carbohydrates and around 35% total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated fats."

While this may seem like a death knell for low-fat diets, it's important to understand some of the limitations of the PURE study.

First, the researchers amassed their diet data from questionnaires, which is notoriously unreliable as test subjects are inclined to not be 100% forthcoming about the true nature of their diets. Second, the findings found correlations between low fat diets and increased mortality, but, correlation does not prove causation. Finally, while the study found trends among large groups of people, it fails to account for effects at an individual's level, which could potentially be much less dramatic.

What do you think of the newest diet research? Does this entice you to take up a lower carb, higher fat diet, or do you subscribe to the "everything in moderation" philosophy?

Leave us a comment down below with your thoughts.
1) Dehghan M, Mente A, Zhang X, et al. Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. Lancet. August 2017. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32252-3.
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John Best - October 10, 2017

It’s amazing people are still taking the bait and believing fats are so bad.

Aliya Tudor - October 3, 2017

It’s the sorry *ss, empty carbs that are the worst. Nobody ever died from a sweet potato (allergies aside). Quality carbs are ok and delish!

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