Do Low-Fat Diets Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease?
Eating foods that contain saturated fat is thought to increase blood cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease. As a result, health professionals recommend following a diet low in saturated fat to reduce this risk. It explains why health organizations started discouraging people from eating foods high in saturated fat, such as eggs, fatty meat, and full-fat dairy. But a leading US cardiovascular scientist says that adopting such a diet does not curb heart disease or prolong life.
Today, high-quality research suggests that saturated fat is not the villain it was made out to be. Several recent studies indicate there is no significant link between saturated fat and heart disease.
However, replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats may have benefits for heart health, probably because of their anti-inflammatory effects.
But the standard low-fat diet doesn’t only recommend reduced saturated fat intake. The guidelines also advise people to restrict their fat intake to less than 30% of their total calorie intake.
A number of studies show that lowering overall fat intake doesn’t improve heart health. Eating too little fat may even adversely affect risk factors for heart disease.
LDL cholesterol is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol. However, this is only half true. The size of the LDL particles is also important. The more small particles you have, the greater your risk of heart disease. If the particles are mostly large, then your heart disease risk is low.
The thing with low-fat diets is that they can actually change the LDL from the harmless large particles to the harmful, artery-clogging small, dense LDL.
Some studies also show that low-fat diets can reduce HDL “the good” cholesterol and raise blood triglycerides, another important risk factor.
Low-fat diets may adversely affect levels of blood lipids, LDL pattern, HDL, and triglycerides, potentially raising the risk of heart disease.
One thing is clear. Eating less fat is not always the best way to lose weight. Low-carb diets tend to be more effective for most people. The association of fat with heart disease is more controversial and complex. Overall, cutting your fat intake is not likely to reduce your risk of heart disease. Rather than worrying about your total fat intake, focus on improving the quality of your diet. Eating more whole foods and healthy fats is a good way to start.
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