"Moderate fat" may be better than "low fat" for heart

February 18, 2004 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

"Moderate fat" may be better than "low fat" for heart

A low-fat diet can help dieters lose weight, but a moderate-fat diet that contains plenty of healthy, plant-based fats may be a better choice for boosting cardiovascular health while shedding pounds, new research from State University of New York at Buffalo suggests.

In this new study, people on both low-fat and moderate-fat diets lost weight, but those on the moderate-fat diet experienced a greater reduction in cardiovascular risk. A heart-healthy weight-loss diet should include monounsaturated fats like those found in nuts, seeds, peanut and olive oils. But people should not go overboard on fats and expect to lose weight. Fat calories are the same, regardless of the type of fat they come from.

The researchers compared the effects of low-fat and moderate-fat diets in 53 overweight and obese men and women. For 6 weeks, people in the low-fat group consumed a diet in which 18% of total calories came from fat, while for those in the moderate-fat group 33% of calories came from fat.

For the first 6 weeks, the diets were designed to help people lose about 2 pounds per week. After that, participants were put on a 4-week weight-maintenance plan.  Both the low- and moderate-fat diets led to weight loss, but the moderate-fat diet had a more positive influence on markers of cardiovascular health.

Even though both groups of dieters experienced a drop in LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, the low-fat group also experienced a drop in levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol after losing weight. HDL levels did not return to normal even after the 4-week weight-maintenance program.

In contrast, HDL levels remained steady in people who consumed a moderate-fat diet. They also experienced other improvements in cardiovascular health, including a decrease in triglycerides, a fatty substance in the blood linked to heart disease.

The researchers also point out that a moderate-fat diet may be easier to stick to in the long run than a low-fat plan.

To incorporate healthy monounsaturated fats into the diet, use olive or peanut oils to stir-fry vegetables, or add nuts or seeds to salads. Avocados and olives are rich sources of monounsaturated fats.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.