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Saturated Fat May Not Be As Unhealthy As Previously Thought

For half a century, dietary fat and particularly saturated fat have been presented as being unhealthy for most people. However, a recent study suggests that it’s not saturated fat that’s bad for people’s health, but rather the quality of the food they eat.

Participants in the study included 46 men between the ages of 30 and 50 with a body mass index (BMI) that was greater than 29 and a waist circumference that was greater than 38.5 inches. Over the course of 12 weeks they consumed either a very high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet (73% fat, 10% carbohydrate) or a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet (30% fat, 53% carbohydrate).

The two diets were equal in calories (2091 calories per day), protein (17% of energy), and food profile. Intake of carbohydrates and total and saturated fat were 51% and 11% respectively in the low-fat group and 29% and 71% respectively in the high fat group. The diets emphasized low-processed, lower-glycemic foods. Fat mass in the abdominal region, heart and liver was measured with computed tomography imaging.

At the conclusion of the study, mean caloric intake decreased 22% in the low-fat group and 14% in the high-fat group. Both groups had similar reductions in waist circumference (11-13 cm), abdominal subcutaneous fat mass (1650-1850 cm3), visceral fat mass (1350-1650 cm3), and total body weight (24.2 - 26.4 lbs).

Both groups had lower levels of circulating triglycerides, but only the low-fat group had reductions in LDL cholesterol. The two groups had similar reductions in insulin, insulin C-peptide, glycated hemoglobin, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance. Improvements in circulating metabolic markers were observed after eight weeks in the high-fat group, whereas the low-fat group had more acute and gradual effects.

Researchers from Haukeland University Hospital and the University of Bergen, both in Norway, conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on November 30, 2016, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

This study found that the quality of food, meaning lower processed foods with a focus on vegetables and rice instead of flour products, is important for health. Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet is essential for good health. If you’re struggling to meet the fruits and vegetables requirements, consider substituting at least one meat-based meal per week with a vegetarian meal. You can also carry fruits with you throughout the day to snack on or make sure to include at least one green food item with every meal.

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