People are advised to avoid fatty foods to lower their risk of heart disease and obesity. But a new study suggests that a diet full of fat can be healthy, but as long as it's the right kind of fat.
Low-fat diets have been recommended for decades to prevent heart diseases. Studies have shown that saturated fat consumption is much more of a concern than a diet high in total fat.
‘A high-fat Mediterranean diet that includes foods rich in unsaturated fats offer far more benefits than a low-fat diet.’
In the las 10 years, health experts have recommended Mediterranean diet as a way of eating that's full of fresh produce, grains, fats and oils, moderate amounts of red wine and dairy products and low in red meat.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Veterans Affairs Health Care System reviewed papers on Mediterranean diets as compared with Western diets to study which diet increases life expectancy.
The researchers did not find an effect on mortality overall. But they did find some of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is linked to a reduced risk of heart attack, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer. Those benefits appeared even when the Mediterranean diet included unrestricted amounts of fat.
However, the type of fat consumed is important, said Hanna Bloomfield, lead author on the study. A Mediterranean diet has a high ratio of unsaturated to saturated fats. The sources of unsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
"Diet is a pattern of eating. The health benefits come from changing habits - like replacing foods high in saturated fats like cheese and bacon," said Bloomfield.
Despite numerous studies suggesting that fat might more of a help than harm, the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture still recommend that people limit the fat they eat.
A trial in 2013 found that "a Mediterranean diet in which total fat comprises of 40 percent of energy intake results in fewer cardiovascular events than a low-fat diet."
The study is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.