A new large study claims low-fat diets may not be good for us after all.
Dr. Sonia Anand, professor of medicine at McMaster University and one of the co-authors of the study, says this new research counters what the majority of us have been taught about eating fat for years — too much of it is bad for our health.
“In our study, we actually found that a moderate to high consumption of fat is OK. It’s really when you’re not consuming much fat at all where you show an increased risk of dying,” she tells Global News. “Individuals who consumed very low amount of fat had a higher mortality. High amount of fat had a lower mortality.”
The study, which was recently published in The Lancet, looked at data of 153,000 people from 18 countries in five continents. Participants were also followed to see which types of health problems they developed over time.
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The research also showed a lot of participants consumed more than 60 per cent of their total calories from carbohydrates. These participants increased their risk of death in the range of 28 per cent, she adds.
Confusion over carbs and fat
And while this one study does pin fats against carbohydrates, Jane-Diane Fraser of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, says it is important for Canadians to remember carbs are in everything.
“Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses. These are whole foods Canadians are encouraged to eat,” she tells Global News. “Carbohydrates, such as free sugars, are also found in highly processed foods and these are foods Canadians should avoid.”
And instead of focusing on just carbs and fats, it is important, overall, to eat healthy balanced diets, she adds.
Anar Allidina, a registered dietitian based in Richmond Hill, Ont., says the study’s findings don’t surprise her at all.
“Low-fat does not necessarily mean healthy,” she tells Global News. “When we cut fat out we usually add in other foods, which tend to be higher in carbohydrates. However, carbs do turn to sugar once digested, especially processed carbohydrates such as snack foods like granola bars, fruit flavoured yogurt, and chips.”
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She says when we choose fat-free products or go on low-fat diets, we are eating foods with fillers and other additives. “We need fat, not only to help our body function optimally but for us to have satiety. Fats have more calories so it keeps us full and helps ward off cravings.”
The types of fat you should be eating
When it comes to fat consumption, try to add some in each meal and snack, Allidina says. “Have the whole egg and not just the egg whites, add some avocados to your salad and have some nuts with your fruit and hummus with your veggies. Fats don’t raise blood sugar and they keep you full.”
And in terms of the types of fats we want to be eating, introduce your diet to monounsaturated fats.
“This heart healthy fat is found in avocados, seeds, nuts and nut butters and olive oil and fatty fish. These are fats that are naturally found in many plant-based foods and have been shown to help with heart health and fight inflammation.”
With files from Veronica Tang and Allison Vuchnich