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Moderate Fat Diet Better For Heart Health

A moderate fat diet that contains plenty healthy, plant-based fats may be a better choice for boosting cardiovascular health than a low-fat diet, researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In a study, people on low-fat and moderate-fat diets both lost weight, but those on the moderate-fat diet experienced a greater reduction in cardiovascular risk.

Pelkman and her colleagues compared the effects of low-fat and moderate-fat diets in 53 overweight and obese men and women.

For 6 weeks, people in the low-fat group consumed a diet in which 18 percent of total calories came from fat, while for those in the moderate-fat group 33 percent of calories came from fat. The diets were designed to help people lose about 2 pounds per week.

After that, participants were put on a 4-week weight-maintenance plan. Both the low- and moderate-fat diets led to weight loss, but the moderate-fat diet had a more positive influence on markers of cardiovascular health.

Even though both groups of dieters experienced a drop in LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, the low- fat group also experienced a drop in levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol after losing weight. HDL levels did not return to normal even after the 4-week weight- maintenance program.

In contrast, HDL levels remained steady in people who consumed a moderate-fat diet. They also experienced other improvements in cardiovascular health, including a decrease in triglycerides, a fatty substance linked to heart disease.

"A heart-healthy weight-loss diet should include mono-unsaturated fats like those found in nuts, seeds, peanut and olive oils," lead author Dr. Christine L. Pelkman of the State University of New York at Buffalo reports.

But people should not go overboard on fats and expect to lose weight, Pelkman cautioned. "This doesn't mean you can plop down on the couch with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon," Pelkman said. "Calories still count."

The Buffalo researcher also advised people not to "chow down on bacon and double-cheese hamburgers." Pelkman pointed out that these foods contain lots of saturated fats that are known to increase the risk of heart disease.

"These results show there are alternatives to a low-fat diet when it comes to losing weight and reducing your risk for heart disease," Pelkman said.

The researchers also point out that a moderate-fat diet may be easier to stick to in the long run than a low-fat plan.

To incorporate healthy mono-unsaturated fats into the diet, Pelkman recommended using olive or peanut oils to stir-fry vegetables and adding nuts and seeds to salads. She also noted that avocados and olives are rich sources of mono-unsaturated fats.

SOURCE American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2004.


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