Medical Myths

Over the next few days I will be publishing what I find are Medical Myths that have been lingering for years that I would like to put to rest.

Fat

Myth #1: People who eat less fat, live longer

Facts: After over 50 years and hundreds of studies, researchers remain unable to prove that a low-fat diet is good for your health. A few years ago, researchers at the Cochrane Collaboration decided to review the medical literature and see what it said. They looked at the results of the 26 best studies and found that low-fat diets didn’t help people live longer. The researchers found that people on low-fat diets were 2% more likely to die than those in the comparison groups.1

More recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association published their results of three huge studies attempting to show the benefits of a low-fat diet on breast cancer, colorectal cancer and coronary heart disease. Again, the studies failed to show significant benefit.2 In light of such findings, the British Medical Journal editorialized:

“Despite decades of effort and many thousands of people…there is still only…inconclusive evidence of the effects of modification of total, saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fats on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.”3

My opinion: The low-fat diet has never been proven to be good for your health, and it probably doesn’t provide much benefit for most people. In fact, low-fat diets may be the main cause for skyrocketing obesity and diabetes over the last 30 years. The increase in obesity rates began in the 1970s, about the same time that the original food pyramid was introduced. This starch-based pyramid was designed to help Americans avoid animal fats. Unfortunately, high intake of starch and other carbohydrates increases blood sugar and insulin levels. These increases can, in turn, lead to the production of more body fat. So, a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet could actually make you fatter and less healthy.

  1. Reduced or modified dietary fat for preventing cardiovascular disease.
    Hooper L, Summerbell CD, Higgins JPT, Thompson RL, Clements G,
    Capps N, Davey Smith G, Riemersma RA, Ebrahim S.
    The Cochrane Library 2004, Issue 1. p9.
  2. JAMA. 2006 Feb 8; 295 (6): 629-642, 643-654, 655-666.
  3. http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/322/7289/757?ck=nck