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ZOE Science And Nutrition Summary : Are low-fat diets bad for your health?

Podcast: ZOE Science And Nutrition
5 min. read

— Description —

Each day this week, we’re examining one of the world’s most popular diets. Putting the latest scientific evidence under the microscope, we’ll find out these diets' true impact on your health. Today we’re talking about the low-fat diet, popularised in the 1970s and fueled by the belief that fat was the culprit behind heart disease and weight gain. However, the aftermath saw a surge in low-quality carbs. Food manufacturers, in the quest for low-fat options, replaced fats with sugar and refined grains, resulting in us opting for low-quality carbs over whole foods and whole grains. In this special episode of ZOE Science & Nutrition, Jonathan is joined by Christopher Gardner, a professor of Medicine at Stanford University and the Director of Nutrition Studies at Stanford Prevention Research Center. Together, they unravel the complexities of the low-fat diet, addressing its potential and pitfalls. If you want to uncover the right foods for your body, head to https://zoe.com/podcast and get 10% off your personalized nutrition program. Top tips for better gut health from ZOE Science and Nutrition — Download our FREE gut guide Follow ZOE on Instagram

Are low-fat diets bad for your health?

Key Takeaways

  • The low-fat diet has been criticized in recent years due to a shift in understanding about the role of fat in a healthy diet
  • The demonization of fat by the American Heart Association in the 1960s led to a strong public health message promoting low-fat eating, which many people still adhere to
  • However, it has been found that not all fat is bad, and the Mediterranean group had low heart disease despite consuming high fat, as long as it was unsaturated and low in saturated fat
  • Following a low-fat, high-carb diet may not necessarily lead to better health, as high added sugars and refined grains are quickly absorbed in the body, leading to fat storage
  • This can also contribute to non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • It is important to carefully choose carbohydrates with low fat, such as natural foods like beans or vegetables, rather than relying on packaged low-fat products, which are often artificial and ultra-processed
  • It is advised to choose healthy carbs for a low-fat diet, and to aim for a diet with plenty of unsaturated fat
  • Most cultures have a diet with 30-40% fat, while the low-fat group aims for 20-25% fat
  • The vegan low-fat group aims for

1. Exploring the Health Effects of Low-Fat Diets

  • The low-fat diet has been tarnished over the last couple decades in a backlash
  • Fat was demonized by the American Heart Association starting in the 1960s
  • Not all fat is bad and there has been a big shift in this understanding
  • Many people, including the speaker's mother-in-law, still adhere to the strong public health messaging of eating low fat
  • The Mediterranean group had low heart disease when they had high fat, but unsaturated and low saturated
  • Cutting out fat leads to eating more unhealthy carbs, and in the US, people eat a lot of unhealthy carbs
  • The food industry made low-fat, high-carb products which were very low in fat but very high in refined grains and added sugars

2. Understanding the Impact of Carbohydrates on Health and Fat Storage

  • Following a shift to a low-fat and high-carb diet may not make a person healthier
  • High added sugars and refined grains are absorbed very quickly in the body, creating an insulin spike
  • When carbohydrates hit the bloodstream, the body puts away glucose, which is the blood sugar, into fat storage
  • Consuming low-fat products can still lead to fat storage due to the excess carbohydrates being turned into fat
  • NAFLD, non-alcohol fatty liver disease, is related to the accumulation of fat in the liver due to the intake of carbohydrates
  • Refined grains are not good for diabetes, insulin, and the liver
  • Whole grains have a similar glycemic index to white bread because they both use flour ground to a fine particle
  • A wheat berry is the whole wheat kernel, not like flour, and takes a long time to digest
  • What you want is a slow drip of glucose from your stomach and intestine into your blood
  • Wheat berry and beans provide a slow drip of glucose into the blood
  • Millet, barley, and quinoa appear more slowly in the blood compared to wheat

3. Incorporating Healthy Fats and Carbohydrates into a Low-Fat Diet

  • When switching to carbohydrates, it's important to carefully choose the ones with low fat
  • Carbohydrates with low fat won't have 'low fat' printed on the label, they are likely to be natural foods like beans or vegetables
  • It's advised to avoid packaged foods labeled as 'low fat' as they are often artificial and ultra-processed
  • Choosing healthy carbs for a low-fat diet can be better than a diet with more fat
  • If you choose healthy carbs and follow a low saturated fat, high carb diet of whole foods with plenty of unsaturated fat, it would be fine
  • Most cultures have a diet with 30-40% fat, while the low-fat group aims for 20-25% fat
  • The vegan low-fat group aims for 5-10% fat, which is hard to make palatable
  • Some successful low-fat individuals resorted to more refined grains and added sugar to meet their calorie needs
  • You need some unsaturated fat in your diet
  • I'm not a very big fan of low-fat diets because of the way people tend to follow them
  • I would be sad if they left out the avocados, the olive oil, the nuts, and the seeds