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Diet and Weight Loss

The Skinny on Fat

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Summary & Participants

Are low-fat diets of little help, as recent headlines say? The news is not so simple. Learn how some fats are still bad for you.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2012

Webcast Transcript

ANNOUNCER: Should you give up on a healthy, low-fat diet? A major study, known as the Women's Health Initiative, would seem to imply yes. Following 50,000 women for close to eight years, researchers found that those who reduced their total fat intake were no better off health-wise than women who stuck with a high-fat diet.

BONNIE TAUB-DIX, RD: This was sort of like the squeaky wheel theory where hundreds of studies have been done to show that low-fat diets and diets high in fruits and vegetables and whole grains can protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. But this, of course, is a study that made the big headlines.

ANNOUNCER: But the headlines are not so simple. Although the study is the largest of its kind, experts say that it raises more questions than answers. Some key problems:

  • The women limited their fat intake at first, but they were getting up to 28 percent of their calories from fat by the end of study, not all that far off from the women who followed a high-fat diet.
  • Some fats, like those found in vegetable oils, are clearly better than the fats found in french fries, but these were not singled out in the study.
  • And finally, the women studied were older, when eating habits are well established and harder to change.

BONNIE TAUB-DIX, RD: This is just one study of many and it is certainly not the definitive word.

ANNOUNCER: Indeed, experts recommend the same healthy diet as before. So-called saturated and trans fats, such as those found in potato chips and other junk foods, are still considered unhealthy.

BONNIE TAUB-DIX, RD: If fat is derived from something like a healthy oil, like olive oil or canola oil, or it's coming from nuts or from fatty fish, that fat actually can be healthier for you.

ANNOUNCER: You should still limit your total fat intake to about 30 percent a day, keeping saturated and trans fats to a minimum. It's calories that count most.

BONNIE TAUB-DIX, RD: Two-thirds of our population is either overweight or obese, so it's not about high or low protein, carbohydrate, or fat. It's always a balance between the nutrients. And, if you're trying to lose your weight, the bottom line on that is that you need to watch your portion size.

ANNOUNCER: In the end, it's about eating the right foods and eating in moderation that are the keys to a healthy diet.

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