According to the USDA, a low-fat diet – as the name implies – is a diet that consists of little fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol, which are thought to lead to increased blood cholesterol levels and heart attack. It is important to know that dietary fat is needed for good health, as fats supply energy and fatty acids, in addition to supplying fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
In recent years the exact health benefits of a low-fat diet have been debated. A 2006 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that a low-fat diet did not result in weight gain and did not reduce risk of colorectal or breast cancer among postmenopausal women. However, this study was criticized by several epidemiologists for its lack of validity (see "Criticisms" in the Women's Health Initiative article). Recently, the Nurses' Health Study from the Harvard School of Public Health reported from a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and found that a diet "with high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, moderate intake of legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy products, and low intake of red and processed meats and sodium, was significantly associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke in women." A 2002 Cochrane Review found low-fat diets to be no more effective than other weight loss diets in achieving lasting weight loss, but this review has since been withdrawn. Two newer studies concluded the same, published 2008.
- "MyPyramid". USDA. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
- USDA, Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, Retrieved on July 2007
- Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Weight Change Over 7 Years
- Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Risk of Invasive Breast Cancer
- Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Risk of Colorectal Cancer
- Adherence to a DASH-Style Diet and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke in Women
- Pirozzo S, Summerbell C, Cameron C, Glasziou P. Advice on low-fat diets for obesity. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003640. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003640
- Hession M, Rolland C, Kulkarni U, Wise A, Broom J (August 2008). "Systematic review of randomized controlled trials of low-carbohydrate vs. low-fat/low-calorie diets in the management of obesity and its comorbidities". Obes Rev 10 (1): 36–50. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00518.x. PMID 18700873. "There was a higher attrition rate in the low-fat compared with the low-carbohydrate groups suggesting a patient preference for a low-carbohydrate/high-protein approach as opposed to the Public Health preference of a low-fat/high-carbohydrate diet. Evidence from this systematic review demonstrates that low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets are more effective at 6 months and are as effective, if not more, as low-fat diets in reducing weight and cardiovascular disease risk up to 1 year."
- Shai, I. et al. (2008-07-17). "Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet". New England Journal of Medicine 359 (3): 229–241. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0708681. PMID 18635428. Retrieved 2011-02-28. "Conclusions: Mediterranean and low-carbohydrate diets may be effective alternatives to low-fat diets."