A study of more than 135,000 people, across five continents, over seven years is challenging long-held beliefs about healthy eating and offering further evidence against a low-fat diet.
Two reports published in The Lancet come from a major global study led by researchers at the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences. They suggest that consuming a higher amount of fat (around 35 per cent of your energy intake) is associated with a lower risk of death compared to lower consumption.
Contrary to popular thinking over the last couple of decades, researchers found no significant link between eating more than the currently recommended amount of fat and developing heart disease or having a stroke. On the other hand, people who ate lots of carbohydrates (more than 60 per cent of their total calorie intake) had a higher risk of death overall.
"Our findings do not support the current recommendation to limit total fat intake to less than 30 per cent of energy," said the paper. "Individuals with high carbohydrate intake might benefit from a reduction in carbohydrate intake and increase in the consumption of fats."
Lead author Mahshid Dehghan said that dietary guidelines have tended to recommend a fat intake of below 30 per cent of caloric consumption and saturated fat to below 10 per cent. However, she says this method did not account for how fat is then replaced in the diet.
"When you recommend lowering fat, by default, people increase their carbohydrate consumption," Dehghan told CBC News. "And increasing consumption of carbohydrates results in higher risk of mortality."
"Relaxing current restrictions on fat and emphasising on carbohydrate intake ... is more likely to be beneficial."
The lowest risk of death was in participants who consumed three to four servings of fruits, vegetables and legumes per day, with little additional benefit from more. Yep, this goes against the recommended two and five rule we’re familiar with.
Lisa Miller, co-author of the study, says that those guidelines are based on evidence from Western countries and that five servings of fruit and veg may be too expensive to achieve in other parts of the world.
“We don’t want to tell people who are eating more than the recommendation to eat less,” co-author Lisa Miller told Reuters Health. “That’s not the message.”
She says that if recommendations were adjusted to reflect the smaller, necessary amount people may be more inclined to meet that goal.
But overall, moderation is ALWAYS key.
“What we are suggesting is moderation as opposed to very low and very high intakes of fats and carbohydrates,” said Mahshid Dehghan