Less fat 'easy way' to lose weight

Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012
Kath Fouhy
FAT CHANCE: Kath Fouhy, a dietitian, with 19 teaspoons of cooking spread, representing the average daily fat intake for New Zealand men.

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Cutting back fat in your diet means you can lose weight and keep it off, even if you are not trying to slim down, according to research that will shape new global nutrition guidelines.

The international research, which included a Kiwi professor, was commissioned by the World Health Organisation.

Findings will be used to set recommendations on fat consumption. The ideal proportion of total fat in the human diet is currently unclear.

Calorie-dense diets are contributing to the growing obesity epidemic in western countries. People are not necessarily eating more, but they are eating foods that have higher calories.

Although "it may be difficult for populations to reduce total fat intake, attempts should be made to do so, to help control weight", researchers said.

New Zealand is the third fattest country in the OECD and two-thirds of the population are either overweight or obese.

These people are at a higher risk of many cancers, coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The research involved reviewing dozens of studies and trials, which compared people who ate low-fat diets and those who stuck to their normal eating regime.

People who ate less fat lost about 1.6 kilograms in six months.

They also saw their waistlines shrink, blood pressure drop and levels of bad cholesterol decrease.

Otago University human nutrition Professor Murray Skeaff co-authored the report, which was published in the British Medical Journal yesterday.

"It's reinforcing the message that cutting down on fat is actually a good thing."

Prof Skeaff said people should be aware that many "low-fat" foods were laden with sugar, which counteracted any gains made by reducing fat intake.

Prof Skeaff said cutting back on saturated fats would also reduce the risk of heart disease.

Researchers reviewed data from 10 cohort studies and 33 randomised controlled trials, involving 73,589 adults and children from New Zealand, America and Europe. Those taking part had varying states of health.

Measurements taken at six months found that people who ate less fat lost 1.6kg, reduced their waist circumference by 0.5 centimetres and decreased their body mass index.

The weight loss happened quickly and was maintained over at least seven years.

All these effects were in trials in which weight loss was not the intended outcome, suggesting that they occur in people with normal diets.

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Additional trials were needed to examine the effect of reducing fat intake on body weight in developing countries as well as in children, researchers said.

- The Dominion Post

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