Study: Low-Fat Diet Does Not Lower Health Risk

Posted on February 7, 2006

A large study on fat and diet has found that a low-fat diet has no added health benefit. The New York Times reports that the study followed nearly 49,000 women and found that women on low-fat diets had similar cancer and heart problems as people who did not follow a low-fat diet.

The $415 million federal study involved nearly 49,000 women ages 50 to 79 who were followed for eight years. In the end, those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes as those who ate whatever they pleased, researchers are reporting today.

"These studies are revolutionary," said Dr. Jules Hirsch, physician in chief emeritus at Rockefeller University in New York City, who has spent a lifetime studying the effects of diets on weight and health. "They should put a stop to this era of thinking that we have all the information we need to change the whole national diet and make everybody healthy."

The study, published in today's issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, was not just an ordinary study, said Dr. Michael Thun, who directs epidemiological research for the American Cancer Society. It was so large and so expensive, Dr. Thun said, that it was "the Rolls-Royce of studies." As such, he added, it is likely to be the final word.

A doctor cited in the Times article would like to see a large study and trial conducated on the Mediterranean diet.
Of course, Dr. Libby acknowledged, the latest advice, to follow a Mediterranean diet and get regular exercise, has never been tested in a large randomized clinical trial. "If they did a study like that and it was negative," he said, "then I'd have to give up my cherished hypotheses for data."
That would be an interesting study. It would be interesting to find out whether the type of fat people eat matters -- an olive oil versus animal fat type of scenario. Most health experts believe limiting animal fats and eating more plant fats (nuts, olive oil) is better for you.

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