Could Full-Fat Foods Protect Against Weight Gain?

Some recent science says yes, but experts still disagree.

Low-fat, no-fat, reduced-fat labels have become a staple of food packaging marketed towards those trying to get in better shape. But according to one outspoken health organization, following a low fat diet could lead to "disastrous health consequences."

A new report by the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration in Britain calls for a "major overhaul" of current dietary guidelines, and accuses major public health bodies of conspiring with big food companies and being "corrupted by commercial influences," as The Independent reports.

"The change in dietary advice to promote low-fat foods is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history," says Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a senior adviser to the National Obesity Forum. "We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes. Eat fat to get slim, don't fear fat, fat is your friend. It's now truly time to bring back the fat."

Some of the report's long list of arguments include the assertions that eating fat doesn't make you fat, saturated fat doesn't cause heart disease, processed foods labeled "low fat" or "low cholesterol" should be avoided, starchy and refined carbohydrates should be limited, optimum sugar consumption for health is zero, and people should stop counting calories altogether.

There's little doubt that nutrition science has begun to lean, if not so emphatically, in this general direction. However, many health experts—including Public Health England's chief nutritionist, Dr. Alison Tedstone—are criticizing the group's comments, saying that advice to eat more fat is irresponsible and potentially deadly. According to BBC News, Tedstone responded to the report saying, "The calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs, and ignore calories is irresponsible." She also notes that while the National Obesity Forum's report cited only 43 studies, the official nutritional guidelines adopted throughout the U.K. drew upon thousands of scientific studies.

"It's a risk to the nation's health when potentially influential voices suggest people should eat a high fat diet, especially saturated fat," Tedstone says. Beyond Tedstone, backlash from the scientific community has been broad; the Royal Society for Public Health also criticized the report, describing it as a "muddled manifesto of sweeping statements, generalizations, and speculation."

So, perhaps it's not time to totally ditch calorie counts and indulge in all the high-fat foods your body can handle. But here's something pretty much everyone agrees on: Eating a moderate amount of any food probably won't kill you.

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