Women who reduce the amount of fat in their diets may not receive enough essential nutrients
Women who reduce the amount of fat in their diets may not receive enough essential nutrients, according to a 27,000-person US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology study.
The report, based on analysis of two USDA-conducted studies, shows that more than half of the women who reduced their fat intake to less than 30% of calories, as suggested by the National Academy of Sciences, did not consume the recommended daily intake of vitamins A and E, folic acid, calcium, iron, and zinc.
A low-fat diet is recommended to help prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and possibly breast cancer. Researchers believe that women who do not eat a balanced diet or take vitamin supplements, however, may be at increased risks for pregnancy-related problems, osteoporosis, and possibly certain types of cancer.
"If we were to lower our fat intake, especially below 30% of calories, we would tend to reduce cardiovascular disease and, some people believe, certain types of cancer," said Richard Cotter, presenter of the study.
"The problem is when you do that, you really have to keep the cardinal rule of a 'balanced and varied diet' in mind. When you reduce caloric intake, you can reduce potential vitamins and minerals and that can lead to deficiencies," said Cotter. Cotter also mentioned that many low-fat foods people find on supermarket shelves are filled with carbohydrates, which is not necessarily a good trade-off. "People should turn labels over and be careful about carbohydrate intake," he said.
"Those foods have low fat levels, but the problem is that is compensated by increasing the carbohydrate load. If you take those in, your total calories will rise. That's why we see an increase in obesity in America." While he acknowledges that some people will view the study results as another example of researchers changing the rules about what people should and should not eat, Cotter related that people benefit most when they look at their total diet and stick to eating a variety and balance of foods.
To ensure that they are getting enough nutrients, people on low-fat diets should consume a greater variety of foods, recommended Cotter, and take a multivitamin/mineral supplement "when appropriate".
(From Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology)
Editor's comment: Most of Cotter's findings and comments are consistent with my book "Fat Won't Make You Fat".