The Drawbacks of Following a Low Fat Diet

The low-fat diet has been the cornerstone of the national strategy to prevent heart disease since the late 1970s. It has spawned the proliferation of prepared low-fat foods on our supermarket shelves; caused the percentage of fat in the American diet to drop by 15%; and elevated several diet books to the bestseller list. Yet statistics show that Americans have only continued to get fatter--fatter by 30%. They make a compelling case for ignoring the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program who advise keeping fat intake to no more than 30% of calories, an arbitrary threshold.

Some diets say to eat like the Mediterranean people do and enjoy your food. The idea is gaining momentum with studies that compare the health and diets of people living in different countries. Many diets on the market say to stop trying to reduce the total fat intake as long as it is low in saturated fat (found in meat and dairy products) and switch to "nature's healthiest oil," olive oil. This is the key element in a lot of diets today. Some diets emphasize on foods which are rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, but contains only modest portions of meat and fish.

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health noted that Mediterranean countries have a lower rate of heart disease, certain cancers, and even osteoporosis, despite a total fat intake that is as high or higher than that of the U.S.

America's low-fat dictum has brought us diet foods that make up for the lost fat calories with excessive sugar. Worse, most contain an unhealthy, man-made fat that was virtually unknown to humans until 1911 when Procter & Gamble, makers of Crisco, discovered that adding hydrogen to polyunsaturated cottonseed oils made it more saturated and turned it into a solid fat at room temperature. Trans fats are as bad for your blood cholesterol as saturated fats, perhaps even worse. Check the food label for the words partially hydrogenated, the buzz words for trans fat which is also in most fast foods.

Low-fat diets not only fail many people but they can also cause some bad biochemical side effects like raising triglycerides to dangerous levels and lowering the levels of HDL, or "good cholesterol." (Olive oil, on the other hand, will lower your triglyceride levels and maintain or even raise HDL levels.) Even the Department of Agriculture's food pyramid, which hangs on the walls of classrooms and doctors' offices comes in for some scathing criticisms. It was developed under the influence of the meat lobby and consequently gives the mistaken impression that meat is just as healthy as beans, nuts, eggs, and fish.

When attempts at lowering fat intake fail, many people go to the other extreme of the Atkins, Zone, and/or Sugar Buster Diets all with best-selling books to preach the word that a diet very high in fat and protein but low in carbohydrates is the way to lose weight. However, too much protein is bad for anyone trying to avoid osteoporosis, and too much meat (where most Americans will get their protein) displaces fruits and vegetables which can be bad in the long run.

In the search for the right diet, people often lose sight of the need for regular exercise, an intrinsic part of the Mediterranean way of life.

So now you may be asking yourself what type of diet is best for you? Since all people are different, a diet that is designed to match your current physical condition, body-type, lifestyle, and specific goals is the best approach to take the weight off and most importantly keep it off in the long run.

If your goal is to lose weight and get healthier in the process, I can help you!