February 11, 2006
One of the know-it-all expert councils has turned out to be wrong – again! A diet without fat does not benefit health.
When it comes to nutrition, the word from on high should be reconsidered. There are many who preach old advice with enthusiasm, sometimes without spouting a glimmer of truth. Nutrition is a question of religion. But it has been ten years since margarine was pushed off its pedestal, two years since sugar fell, and now the end is near for light products.
For years we have been brainwashed to believe that we must eat lean foods in order to be healthy and thin. Even though it seems obvious, this dogma has received some criticism in recent years; including from the results of multitudes of studies where fatty foods replaced easily absorbable carbohydrates. Despite these results, supporters of the old dogma recently had wind in their sails when a well known American nutrition expert misinterpreted a study and claimed that there was proof that when one eats pasta, potatoes and bread, one becomes thin.
Nobody noticed that the study had proven the opposite. Even when one eats lean foods for seven years, there is only a 400 g weight loss. Pasta and bread were not what it took to achieve this miniscule weight loss. In the study more fruit and vegetables made the food light, whereas intake of pasta and corn products was reduced by 20%.
We are used to being led astray, but now we can set the fact that in practice one does not become thinner by avoiding fat in stone. But that isn’t all; three other parts of the same study (Women’s Health Initiative) have now shown that one does not become healthier by avoiding fat.
In any event, a healthy woman between the ages 50 and 79 years cannot count on avoiding breast cancer, colon cancer, stroke, or coronary disease by reducing fat intake by 25% for eight years. Nor does it play a role for her to simultaneously increase fruit and vegetable intake from four to five portions daily.
A large and very thorough interventions study has shown this. It has been called the “Rolls Royce” of studies and it has been so expensive (three billion dollars) that it probably will never be repeated. The conclusions that we must make must therefore be taken from this study.
48,836 American women have participated. Of these 40% were placed on a diet while the rest were used as controls. Typically the women were slightly overweight but, even though they set their fat intake down from 38% to 29% of their caloric intake, they lost very little weight (waist measurement was reduced by an average of 0.8 cm). Blood pressure and cholesterol fell just as little, and the risks of falling ill with the aforementioned diseases did not change.
What was not studied
“The results for all three studies is a complete nothing,” declared leading researcher Michael Thun of the American Caner Society.
“The results must be taken seriously. Diet does not protect at all,” stated statistician David Freedman of Berkeley University. He added: “We in the scientific community often give conclusive advice based on weak groundwork. There we must do experiments.”
But does all this mean that what we eat is not important. Not even close – of course not! One must consider everything that the study did not take into account.
In the first place, there was no focus placed on the use of fish. The Italian intervention study, GISSI, which included 12,000 participants, showed a few years ago that just three grams fish oil daily reduced cardiac death in a high risk group by 30%. It is not the amount, but the kind of fat that is important.
Neither was there focus put on antioxidants. But according to a large American randomised study from 1996, supplements of the antioxidant selenium (200 microgram per day) reduce the risk of many forms of cancer by up to 50%.
That antioxidants are interesting was also seen in the seven year French SUVIMAX study form 2004. Here a fall in mortality was seen in men who received a number of antioxidants (selenium, zinc, vitamins C and E, zinc, and beta carotene) in moderate doses.
Nor was there focus on vitamin D, which is believed to have a future in the prevention of prostate cancer, enlarged prostate, breast cancer, arthritis, among others. Folic acid, which is believed to prevent breast cancer, osteoporosis, and more, was also lacking from the study.
The list could easily be longer. The important find of the study is that the dietary advice that experts have given out for years, without any doubts at all, has been disproved! It has only benefited the lucrative industry of light products.
This should be a wake up call in all camps. When is one an expert?
A study involving an increased fat intake has actually not been made. Therefore results of eating in this way are as yet unknown. Maybe we should just concentrate on eating fat of a higher quality that we are used to. Let us enjoy good butter and healthy olive oil.
By: Vitality Council
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