Low Fat and Very Low Fat Diets

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

The Low fat Diet movement began to take root in the early 1980’s after some researchers linked fat to heart disease and obesity.

fat free

For the next 20 years, health authorities said that a low fat diet was best. However, newer research conducted over the last 10 years has shown that this isn’t necessarily true.

Indeed many people have been able to gain some control over their weight by lowering their fat consumption. But, there is much argument as to whether low fat is best.

More modern research is beginning to show that fat in our diet may not be the sole culprit for obesity problems in society, and that it is very important to differentiate between types of fat.

Types of Low Fat Diets

Low Fat – 20-30% of calories come from fats.

Very Low Fat – 0-19% of calories come from fats.

Low fat diets generally recommend using low fat or non-fat products and say to restrict most of your fat to coming from plant sources. They advise dieters to refrain from adding oils to cooking or to recipes.

Reasons Low Fat Diets Aren’t Best

As we have learned more about how our bodies work and metabolize the food we eat, we have discovered that fat in the diet is needed for healthy bodily functions as well as for healthy weight loss.

  1. Fat is needed cell growth and healthy brain function.
  2. Fat aids in the feeling of fullness or satisfaction.
  3. Fat isn’t readily stored as fat in the body as excess carbs are.
  4. Fat is needed for hormone production.
  5. Healthy fats actually lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.

However, it is important to eat the right fats and limit the wrong fats that promote inflammation and heart disease.

According to HealthyEater.com we should eat fats accordingly:

Fats should be consumed in this order:

  • First consume mostly monounsaturated (olive oil, avocados)
  • Then plant saturated (coconut oil, nuts, palm oil)
  • Then animal saturated (chicken, fish, lean beef)
  • Then omega 6 dominant polyunsaturated fat. (soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil)

Trans fat should always be avoided, which usually shows up as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated plant oils.

Some Popular Low Fat Diets

80 10 10 DietSimilar to the Ornish diet, this plan promotes eating a diet of 10% fat.
Abs DietSyetem for increasing muscle mass and definition by eating a high protein low fat diet.
Diet-to-GoMeal delivery based diet that offers both low fat regular and low fat vegetarian options.
F-PlanAgain, popular in the late 1980s – this plan emphasized high fiber.
Hip and Thigh DietRosemary Conley’s very low fat diet was very popular during the early 1990s.
Jenny CraigBased on premade frozen meals; 60% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 20% fat and are supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables and low fat dairy products.
No-Fad DietLow fat diet from the American Heart association.
Ornish DietVery low fat diet from Dr Dean Ornish.
Pritikin Diet Very low fat, high carb diet.
Weight WatchersDieters are discouraged from eating high fat foods as they are high in daily points.

See Also: The importance of fats (fatty acids, saturated/unsaturated fats) in the body and in the diet.

The Bottom Line

Instead of a low fat diet, most people experience better long-term results with a balanced diet consisting of adequate protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats.

This is similar to the Mediterranean Diet.

Not only does this diet satisfy and allow dieters to eat more normally, it promotes good health. Any diet that promotes the use of fake-fat type products is missing the point. Diets should promote health as well as weight loss.

    References:

  • Vallurupalli, S., & Mehta, J. L. (2014). Our obsession with saturated fats: is it time to rethink their role in the coronary artery disease?. Clinical Lipidology, 9(3), 287-290. link
  • Martin, C. K., Rosenbaum, D., Han, H., Geiselman, P. J., Wyatt, H. R., Hill, J. O., … & Foster, G. D. (2011). Change in Food Cravings, Food Preferences, and Appetite During a Low‐Carbohydrate and Low‐Fat Diet. Obesity, 19(10), 1963-1970. link
  • Nordmann, A. J., Suter-Zimmermann, K., Bucher, H. C., Shai, I., Tuttle, K. R., Estruch, R., & Briel, M. (2011). Meta-analysis comparing Mediterranean to low-fat diets for modification of cardiovascular risk factors. The American journal of medicine, 124(9), 841-851. link
  • Hu, T., Mills, K. T., Yao, L., Demanelis, K., Eloustaz, M., Yancy, W. S., … & Bazzano, L. A. (2012). Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. American journal of epidemiology, 176(suppl 7), S44-S54. link
 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
Last Reviewed: January 7, 2015. Disclaimer
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