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Low Fat No Good? Don’t Miss All the Caveats in that Story

The main stream media is predictably telling the sensational side of the story, with people like Dan Abrams “celebrating” by eating a candy bar on air. Go ahead, Dan, eat all you want – will they still you want you as an anchor when you are a big fatty?

Anyway, it seems many are not even considering the many SIGNIFICANT caveats in the story:

1. It is not clear if changing the diet earlier in life would produce a different outcome. The gold standard for these types of studies is typically 20 years – not 8 years.

2. The study clearly does not say load up on saturated fats found in cheese and meat – there is more than one type of fat, and that distinction is important in this type of study.

3. “Although the study found no significant benefits from a low-fat diet, it also found no harm from the accompanying increased consumption of carbohydrates — grains, starches and sugars.” LA Times. The study showed that Atkins proponents who claim carbs increase a risk of diabetes are wrong.

4. The biggest caveat – most of the women didn’t really follow a low fat diet. Huh? Doesn’t that undermine any suggestion that the study accurately depicted the results of a low fat diet? Many were eat 35% of their calories from fat! The average was 24% by the time they “got it under control” – that is not a low fat diet. By the 6th year they were back up to 29% of their diet from fat. How can this possibly be considered a study on the value of low fat diets? Isn’t the basic supposition destroyed? Wouldn’t a study on low fat diets actually need to involve people ON low fat diets?

5.The women didn’t disciminate between good and bad fats (saturated fats), they didn’t exercise, and didn’t focus on overall lifestyle issues (blood pressure etc).

6. Here’s a great response from the study folks: Prentice cautioned that the subjects were all “very healthy women who were already following most of the [government’s] dietary guidelines,” so their ability to cut risk by lowering fat may have been low. “Unhealthy women may gain more benefit.” OK. So they were eating okay anyway – they hadn’t set themselves up already for diabetes, heart disease, stroke…later they say the average weight was 170 pounds though – were these a select group of Amazon women?

7. The results indicate the women did not keep accurate food intake records. Hmm. Maybe they were eating 50% of their calories of fat, we aren’t sure. We do know that what they claimed they ate should have resulted in weight loss but they didn’t lose weight generally – so they probably left a few tidbits off those food diaries (hey, it’s embarrassing to say you had an extra large sundae with whip cream while you had agreed to follow a low fat diet).

8. A similar study on women with breast cancer where they reduced fat SIGNIFICANTLY did show a substantial reduction in reoccurrence. I think if you thought – if I eat too much fat my breast cancer might come back – it would definitely result in better compliance than a simple request to eat low fat for 8 years for a study.

    My issue is with the media misrepresenting the value of this study. As someone who has battled weight for most of my life, I’m sick and tired of everyone capitalizing on this issue with little regard for the validity of the science. But then again, we are living in an era that chooses to ignore science when it doesn’t fit with the corporate/political agenda.

    What’s refreshing in weight loss is when someone says: hey, it’s hard, it’s a real physical challenge, but you can do it if you create a valid plan and change your attitudes and behaviors. Otherwise, it’s just the “diet of the week” – or the month, or the year, or the decade…welcome to the rollercoaster ride that is obesity.

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