Fat Diets & Popular Diets
Popular diets range in nutrition
composition from low fat, low carbohydrate to high fat, high protein
and a whole range in-between. The question is, what works and what
is the association of health and nutrition on these diets? In response
to the growing epidemic of obesity worldwide, The U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) has begun a research program to attempt to answer
In the April 2001 issue of The
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the first two parts of
the first phase of this project were reported.
This report includes the analysis of the existing information
about popular diets and a review of the literature on the subject.
Body mass index (an indication of body fatness)
tended to be lower for men and women on high carbohydrate, lower
fat diets, and highest for those on low carbohydrate diets.
Energy intake (calories consumed) was lowest for
people following a vegetarian diet.
Diet quality, as measured by the healthy eating
index (HEI) was highest for people eating high carbohydrate diets,
and lowest for people eating low carbohydrate diets.
The study analyzed the food intake
of 10,014 adults in the United States over three years – 1994, 1995,
and 1996, and included people who were on weight reduction diets and
those who were not.
What is a low carbohydrate diet?
These are diets that have 20% or less of the calories coming from
carbohydrate sources. So, if you were eating 2000 Calories a day, only
400 of those calories (about 100 grams) could come from carbohydrates.
Low carbohydrate diets include the Atkins diet, and other high protein
or high fat diets. While weight loss occurs on these types of diets
when the calories are reduced, this type of eating (low carbohydrate)
is associated with the highest body fat in men and women.
Very low fat diets are those that
have 10% of less of the calories from fat. The most popular diets of
this type are the Ornish diet and the Pritikin diet. Although these
diets are not necessarily vegetarian, you really can’t eat too many
animal foods and still have a very low fat diet, so animal foods are
quite limited on these diets.
Moderate fat, high carbohydrate
diets are those in which the fat is below 30% of calories, and the
carbohydrate is 55% or more. Many popular weight reduction plans are
of this type, and your personal diet plan fitsbest into this category.
good news is that this is the type of diet that is associated
with a lower body mass index, which is the goal for weight loss.
For good nutrition and good health,
eating a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet is not enough. The USDA
study looked at high carbohydrate eating patterns that consisted of
“Pyramid” versus “non-Pyramid” types of eating. The difference
is that a Pyramid style of eating attempts to include at least one
serving of each food group in the Food Guide Pyramid (fruits,
vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy, low-fat meats and meat
When compared to a non-Pyramid diet,
the Pyramid type of higher carbohydrate diet was higher in nutritional
quality and lower in sugar. Of course, this makes sense. When you eat
more carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, vegetables, and
fruits, your diet will be of higher quality.
In reviewing the literature on diet,
the USDA researchers found a lot of erroneous information, no
- One of the things they found was that there was no evidence to
suggest that low-carbohydrate diets have any metabolic advantage
for weight loss.
- The other
conclusion, which makes sense, is that the composition of the diet
is not really an important factor in weight loss, only the
reduction in calories is important.
- Lastly, the results of their extensive research so far
indicate that the optimal diet for weight maintenance is one that
controls fat intake – your personal diet is designed to do just
There are many limitations to what
is known about diets at this time. Most studies have very small groups
of subjects, and there are very few studies that show the long-term
effects of different diets. However, current evidence suggests that a
healthy, lower fat way of eating, one that includes a variety of
vegetables, grains, fruits, low fat animal foods or meat alternatives
is the way to go for long term weight maintenance and for good health.
Low fat diets really do work!