Fats and Oils Made Simple

Written by: Jon Barron

Someone recently sent me an article published in Food Navigator about low fat foods and diets. The article, based on an interview with Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Alice Lichtenstein, espoused the idea that ‘low fat’ is too simplistic a message from a nutritional perspective — and that the way high fat foods are being reformulated is not always appropriate. At first I was excited. After all, I’ve been promoting variations of this concept for several decades now. Unfortunately, barely a paragraph into the article, I could see that the world’s establishment nutrition experts still don’t get it when it comes to fat — and, dare I say, despite the title of the article, still subscribe to a “simplistic” understanding of fat despite their protestations to the contrary.

First, let’s examine a little more closely the positions the article and the professor stake out.

According to the article, recommendations to reduce saturated fat intake are largely based on the notion that high levels of saturated fat increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. But then the article goes on to say that unless saturated fat is replaced with other, healthy fats, many studies have suggested that fat reduction could increase the risk of heart disease.

According to the professor, part of the confusion stems from the fact that many people now seem to think that “low fat”‘ and “low calorie” are the same thing. She goes on to explain, “I think in some cases it’s appropriate. For things like meat products and dairy, it is appropriate because you are focusing specifically on taking out saturated fat. But for other products such as cookies and brownies, it’s not that useful.” Her specific concern is that in baked goods fat is often replaced with refined carbohydrates, including sugar, which may actually make an already unhealthy product even less healthy than the original. >

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