The findings of research that was conducted nearly 60 years ago became accepted as truth and led to the widespread promotion of a low-fat diet for weight control and overall health.
Unfortunately, that trend backfired in a disastrous way.
It has caused significant damage to the health of countless people over the last few decades.
Despite being based on flawed studies, industry influence, bias, and deceptive marketing, many people still believe that low-fat diets are ideal. For so many years, we were told that dietary fat would make us physically fat and would damage our health that fat-phobia (understandably) persists.
But more and more studies have found that the low-fat diet trend has been devastating to health and is a likely cause of startlingly high rates of overweight and obesity.
The latest evidence comes from the international Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, with two papers published in The Lancet on August 29, 2017. Its research team recorded the eating habits of 135,000 adults between 35 and 70 years of age in 18 countries (including high-income, medium-income, and low-income nations) and followed the participants’ health for more than seven years on average.
The study was led by researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Canada.
The team found that people eating high quantities of carbohydrates had a nearly 30% higher risk of dying during the study than people eating a low-carb diet. And, people eating high-fat diets had a 23% lower chance of dying during the study’s seven years of follow-up compared to people who ate less fat.
The research also found that eating fruits, vegetables, and legumes can lower your risk of dying prematurely. But three or four servings a day seemed to be adequate: additional servings didn’t appear to provide more benefit.
Here’s more on that, from the press release:
“Our study found the lowest risk of death in those who consumed three to four servings or the equivalent to 375 to 500 grams of fruits, vegetables and legumes per day, with little additional benefit for intake beyond that range,” said Victoria Miller, a McMaster doctoral student and lead author of the paper. “Additionally, fruit intake was more strongly associated with benefit than vegetables.
“Raw vegetable intake was more strongly associated with a lower risk of death compared to cooked vegetable intake, but raw vegetables are rarely eaten in South Asia, Africa and Southeast Asia,” Miller said. “Dietary guidelines do not differentiate between the benefits of raw versus cooked vegetables — our results indicate that recommendations should emphasize raw vegetable intake over cooked.”
The researchers also noted that a very low intake of saturated fats (below 3 percent of daily diet) was associated with a higher risk of death in the study, compared to diets containing up to 13 percent daily.
At the same time, high-carb diets – consisting of an average 77 percent carbohydrates – were associated with a 28 percent increased risk of death versus low-carb diets.
Lead author Mahshid Dehghan said of the findings:
“The study showed that contrary to popular belief, increased consumption of dietary fats is associated with a lower risk of death.
We found no evidence that below 10 percent of energy by saturated fat is beneficial, and going below 7 percent may even be harmful. Moderate amounts, particularly when accompanied with lower carbohydrate intake, are probably optimal.”
The researchers point out that, while the findings may appear surprising to some, these new results are consistent with several observational studies and randomized controlled trials conducted in Western countries during the last two decades.
The large new study, when viewed in the context of most previous studies, questions the conventional beliefs about dietary fats and clinical outcomes, Dehghan explained.
“A decrease in fat intake automatically led to an increase in carbohydrate consumption and our findings may explain why certain populations such as South Asians, who do not consume much fat but consume a lot of carbohydrates, have higher mortality rates.”
The Interpretation section of the published study sums up the findings nicely:
High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, whereas saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke. Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings.
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