Eating a Low-Fat Diet?

You’re Following Outdated RecommendationsEven nutritionists and other healthcare professionals may be feeling a little dizzy by the emerging science related to saturated fats and heart disease. USC School of Pharmacy Research Professor Roger Clemens, DrPH, CFS, CNS, FIFT, FACN, FIAFST, discussed the confusion this has created during the recent Palm International Nutra-Cosmeceutical Conference.

“An epidemiological link between dietary fats, serum cholesterol and heart disease was announced back in the 1960s,” Clemens told the gathering of international researchers, educators, pharmacists and nutraceutical formulators.

Fast forward to 2015, when the USDA’s Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, said: “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.” The most recent evidence indicates you can consume a reasonable level of saturated fats and it may not negatively impact your cholesterol levels,” said Clemens.

Why It Took So Long To Unravel the Inaccurate Conclusions

Much of the current evidence relies on meta-analyses and systematic reviews of the clinical research, which can take years to develop. That’s the evidence that is now emerging related to the fats in our diets. And it’s changing our thinking about saturated fats, serum cholesterol and heart health.

He said there’s now strong evidence that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates, a hallmark of low-fat diets, does not necessarily lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. “Replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates reduces total and LDL-C cholesterol, but they may significantly increase triglycerides and reduce the good cholesterol, HDL-C,” he cautioned.

“Further, a meta-analysis published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”

Low-fat diets don’t even produce weight loss. Clemens pointed out that, “The Women’s Health Initiative followed more than 20,000 women on low-fat diet for an average of seven years. They weighed only one pound less than the controls, and they had no improvements in heart health.”

So, How Should We Be Eating?  

Clemens says even single foods often contain a complex nutrient mix: “The emphasis should be on optimizing the types of dietary fat we’re eating, not on reducing total fat. As we look forward to food and health, the real emphasis should be on the dietary patterns that are culturally appropriate.”

He reminded the professional gathering that, “As recently as 2010, it has been acknowledged that the stearic acid found in Malaysian certified sustainable palm fruit oil is not known to raise LDL cholesterol. In fact, evidence suggests stearic acid should not even be categorized with known cholesterol-raising fats.”

Clemens concluded that, “Variations in your genetics, lifestyle and life stage can all influence how your body responds to your diet.”

Concentrate on eating a variety of foods, instead of getting your nutrients from a minimal number of sources. And weigh news about diet and health carefully, understanding that it can take years for the strongest evidence to emerge.

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Dr. Clemens is adjunct Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences within the USC School of Pharmacy, International Center for Regulatory Science. He served on the USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee with primary responsibilities in food safety, and dietary lipids and health. He has been cited and interviewed by more than 500 domestic and international health journalists’ discussions on contemporary health, nutrition and food safety issues.

He is a professional member of and a Fellow in the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). He has served on several IFT expert panels, including Functional Foods, and Making Decisions about the Risks of Chemicals in Foods with Limited Scientific Information. He established and contributes to a Food, Medicine and Health column published monthly in Food Technology. He completed a 3-year term on the IFT Board of Directors. He is a fellow in the American College of Nutrition, a fellow in the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, and an active member in the American Society for Nutrition (ASN). He serves as a spokesperson for the ASN, and chairs the ASN Public Information Committee. Currently he is an appointed member of the U.S. Pharmacopeia expert committees on Food Ingredients. He served as the Scientific Advisor for Nestlé USA for more than 21 years. He received a BA in Bacteriology, an MPH in Nutrition, and a DrPH in Public Health Nutrition and Biological Chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles.

NOTE: The statements presented in this blog should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Dietary supplements do not treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before adding a dietary supplement to (or removing one from) your daily regimen. WholeFoods Magazine does not endorse any specific brand or product.

Posted on 12/29/2015