Low Fat Dieting

Low fat dietsEach fat gram contains more than twice as many calories as a gram of protein or carbohydrates. So for decades, diet experts advised cutting back on fat to lose weight.

But cold, hard evidence from years of nutrition studies doesn’t support low-fat diets as a superior strategy, a new review finds.

Low-Fat Dieters Fared Worse in the Long Run

Researchers pooled data from 53 studies involving more than 68,000 participants. In those studies, people lost nearly 12 pounds more on low-fat diets than when maintaining their previous eating habits, with no restrictions.

However, the story changed when low-fat diets went head-to-head with higher-fat plans that also cut calories. In fact, lower-carb, higher-fat diets worked slightly better, calorie for calorie, in the long term.

In studies lasting a year or longer, low-fat plans left people about 2.5 pounds heavier than plans where people ate the same number of calories but included more fat and fewer carbs. Results were published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Make Changes that Stick

The bottom line, experts say? Find an eating plan you can sustain over the long term. To get there, try focusing on habits instead of grams and percentages. For instance:

  • Slow down. Take time to observe feelings of fullness.
  • Eat when you’re hungry, not because you’re tired, anxious, or stressed.
  • Turn off the TV, put down your phone, and focus on your food.

Keep in mind that it’s still wise to be finicky about fats. Choosing foods high in “good” fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—may benefit your heart. But giving in to “bad” fats—trans and saturated fats—could do your heart harm.

For more information on healthy eating—including helpful tips on fighting sugar cravings—visit WCHN's “Eating Well” section