- The U.S. Nutritional Guidelines Committee has proposed the removal of restrictions on total fat intake based on a growing body of research.
- Low-fat diets have potentially contributed to increasing rates of obesity and diabetes by pushing individuals towards foods high in sugar and processed grains.
- Committee recommendations do away with the current guideline that only 35 percent of daily calories should come from fat.
- Removal of restrictions on healthy fats could facilitate healthier eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, which includes high-fat items but is beneficial for heart health.
- Dietary fats should primarily come from plant-based unsaturated fats, which can improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Nutrition aficionados are praising a federal move to eliminate advised limitations on total fat intake in the forthcoming U.S. nutrient guidance.
In recent years, studies have demonstrated that a diet abundant in healthy fats can be more advantageous for individuals, especially if these fats help to balance out the consumption of foods high in salt, sugar, and processed grains, stated Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.
This critical analysis on federal response was published in the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association.
Inspiration from these findings led independent scientists on the 2015 U.S. Nutritional Guidelines Committee to silently renounce the existing recommended restrictions on dietary fat.
For the first time since 1980, the panel did not propose limiting total fat consumption in its detailed report released earlier this year.
Low-fat diets have led to unforeseen consequences, pushing people away from healthy high-fat foods towards foods rich in added sugars and refined grains. This has contributed to the dual epidemics of obesity and diabetes in America, stated Mozaffarian.
“We really need to make it loud and clear that the low-fat diet concept has lost its relevance,”, Mozaffarian continued, “It doesn’t carry any health benefits.”
Current dietary guidelines state that only 35 percent of daily calories should come from fat. The committee’s recommendation completely discards this concept.
“What grabs attention is not their explicit announcement to drop the total fat limit, but their silent disregard of the matter,”, he continued, “There’s no single mention of fat.”
Following the committee’s advice, it is expected that later this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will release an updated set of dietary guidelines that excludes any limits on total fat consumption.
Registered Dietician Sotiria Everett from the Katz Institute for Women’s Health stated, “This seems to follow increasing scientific evidence that reducing total fat intake may not benefit heart health and cholesterol levels.”
She believes that removing restrictions on healthy fats will enable Americans to adopt healthier eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet, which despite including high-fat items, is known to support heart health.
Everett also suggests that most dietary fats should still come from plant-based unsaturated fats, which have proven to help improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Even small quantities of saturated fats are acceptable, especially if they originate from plant sources like nuts or avocados, according to Mozaffarian.
He added that these new rules should provide more clarity rather than confusion, as individuals can now choose food based on its overall quality rather than the separate nutrients they contain.
He cautioned, however, that this does not mean that all fatty foods such as butter or fatty meat products are beneficial, but rather that consideration needs to be given to the overall quality of our diet.
“High-fat foods like vegetable oil, nuts, and whole-milk dairy products can be very healthy, while low-fat foods like bagels, white rice, crackers, and low-fat potato chips are terrible,” Mozaffarian says.
Advocates hope that the new guidelines which stress on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats will help to tackle the obesity crisis.
Dr. Mozaffarian also hopes that other federal initiatives will adopt these guidelines. For instance, the Nutritional Facts label on food products currently uses a 30 percent dietary limit to calculate average daily fat intake, whereas the National School Lunch Program has recently banned whole milk.
Both Mozaffarian and his viewpoint co-author, Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, were supported in part by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Explore the Mediterranean diet on the Mayo Clinic website.